Pope Benedict XVI has awarded the Benemerenti medal for long and exceptional service to the Church to Graham Spellman, a parishioner of St Francis de Sales parish in Wash Common, Newbury.
Mr Spellman was for many years the chairman of governors of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Newbury, until his retirement from the role last summer.
The medal was presented to Mr Spellman by Fr Eamon Walsh at Mass at St Francis de Sales on Saturday April 2. The Mass was attended by Mr Spellman’s family and many friends in the parish and school communities.
An accountant by profession Mr Spellman, 64, came to live in Newbury with his wife Angela in 1974, raising two sons and two daughters in the area.
He soon became actively involved in parish life at St Francis de Sales, joining the parish council and serving as chairman in the 1980s. He also put his professional skills at the service of the parish and continues to serve on the parish finance committee, something he has done for more than 30 years.
The Spellmans sent their oldest child to St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Newbury, in 1978, and have been committed to the life of the school for 32 years.
Mrs Spellman joined the PTA in 1978 and was followed by Mr Spellman in 1982.
Mr Spellman was elected a parent governor in 1987, and was later appointed as a foundation governor by Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth. Mr Spellman was later elected as vice-chairman of governors in 1991-2, and in 1998 was elected as the chairman, a position he held for 12 years until August 2010 when he retired as a governor.
Mr Spellman has recently been appointed as the Diocese of Portsmouth’s education representative on West Berkshire Council.
As a part of the medal presentation Francis Connolly, a fellow parishioner at St Francis de Sales and Mr Spellman’s predecessor as chairman of governors, paid tribute to Mr Spellman’s work. Setting the Church’s mission in education in its historical context and emphasising its importance today, Mr Connolly thanked Mr Spellman for his many years of dedication and commitment to the school and for his loyal service to the local Catholic community.