Inishowen native receives Benemerenti Papal Award in County Mayo

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A packed congregation in St. Cronan’s Church, Balla, Co. Mayo, which included visitors from Co. Donegal, heard Fr. Denis Carney call upon Balla resident, Helen Clancy to come forward during 11am Mass on Sunday, July 23 to receive the Benemerenti Papal Award.

The award had been bestowed on her by Pope Francis and which he, Fr Carney was now going to present to her, on behalf of the Catholic Church.

The Benemerenti Medal is bestowed on an individual, including a member of the clergy or laity, who has merited special recognition by the Holy See.

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This Papal Award dates back to 1832, when it was instituted by Pope Gregory XVI. This significant honour is conferred only on those who have exhibited long and exceptional service to the Catholic Church.

Fr. Carney with Stephen Clancy, Helen Clancy and their daughters Bríd & Sharon.Fr. Carney with Stephen Clancy, Helen Clancy and their daughters Bríd & Sharon.
Fr. Carney with Stephen Clancy, Helen Clancy and their daughters Bríd & Sharon.

Helen Clancy, nee Trodden, is a native of Leophin in Desertegney, Buncrana, and one of the ‘Neighbour’ Clan. Helen attended the local school in Desertegney and as an adult, Helen

lived in a few locations within County Donegal with her husband Stephen Clancy, a Garda Sergeant. Their last home in the county was in Moville, where Stephen was stationed. In 1976, together with their baby daughter Bríd, they transferred to the Garda Station in Balla, Co. Mayo, where they set up their permanent home.

Following the birth of second daughter Sharon and with both children at school, Helen took on the role of Sacristan in the local chapel, St. Cronan’s, a role that developed to include

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office work, parish newsletter preparation, etc. Helen carried out this work for the next 35 years, said Fr. Carney, reminding the congregation that Helen gave 100% to her work for the Church, carrying it out with wholehearted dedication and commitment, every day of those 35 years.

Stephen & Helen Clancy.Stephen & Helen Clancy.
Stephen & Helen Clancy.

Helen’s departure from her work for the parish was forced upon her in 2022, when she experienced a protracted period of ill health, requiring her to call time on the job that she loved, to which she was ideally suited and in which she was very much appreciated by the clergy and the people of the parish.

Fr Carney said that Pope Francis, on becoming aware of Helen’s retirement from her role of service to the Balla Parish and its people awarded her the Benemerenti Papal Award.

Fr Carney, in thanking Helen for her 35 years of exceptional service to the parish and people of Balla and to the Catholic Church, wished her every good health and happiness in her


This was echoed by the congregation who responded with a standing ovation to Helen.