Catholic stalwart honoured by Pope

PAPAL BLESSING -- Michael Hallam with the commendation from the Pope
PAPAL BLESSING -- Michael Hallam with the commendation from the Pope

A HUCKNALL man has received a blessing from the Pope after completing a remarkable 50 years as a Catholic altar-server.

Michael Hallam (59), of Edmond Grove, regularly takes part in Masses at St Barnabas’ Cathedral on Derby Road, Nottingham.

The apostolic blessing of Pope Benedict has been conferred on Michael in the form of a special certificate.

He has also received a medal from the Arch Confraternity Guild of St Stephen, which recognises the role of altar servers, to mark his outstanding achievement.

A memorable service of thanksgiving to mark Michael’s half-century milestone was held at the cathedral shortly before Christmas.

He and his wife, Carol, said they were very pleased that a number of their friends attended the service.

They were particularly delighted that Michael’s parents, Paddy and Margaret Hallam, of Beauvale Estate, Hucknall, were present. Paddy will be 90 in February and Margaret is 88.

Michael was only nine when he first became an altar server. In those days, he helped out at the Holy Cross Catholic Church on Watnall Road, Hucknall, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

“The services used to be very mystical and were entirely in Latin,” said Michael. “It was also a very lengthy procedure.”

At first, he found that he was on the outside of a hierarchy, with those on the inside doing most of the work. For two months, all he did was sit observing what was going on.

Michael said a key part of an altar-server’s duties was to make sure whatever the priest needed was always there, including books set for readings.

He added: “Being an altar server could be described as a calling and you certainly don’t get paid for it. You are there to make sure the services run as smoothly as possible.

“If nobody notices you during the service, you have done well. At the end of the service, no trace of anything can be left behind because it has all become part of the Lord.”

One of Michael’s duties last year was to guard the coffin of the French saint, Therese of Lisieux, when it was put on view at St Barnabas’ Cathedral. He said: “While I was standing near the coffin, I felt a strange, cold sensation which I do not have any explanation for.”

As well as being an altar server at the cathedral, Michael sometimes carries out a similar function at the Assumption Catholic Church in Beeston.

He formerly worked in the accountancy department of Ashfield District Council at Kirkby-in-Ashfield.