On 23 July 2023 Janice and Brian Austin, long-time members of CLC, both former National Presidents, and tireless workers for justice and peace, were presented with ‘Bene Merenti’ medals. We apologise for the delay in bringing this news to the website. Jenny Armstrong from the St Peter’s CLC in Leamington was there. She writes a brief account of the day and offers a tribute to their work:

From Leamington to Bristol

A small contingent from Leamington St Peter’s church went to Bristol to join Janice, Brian and their family  on 23 July at St Teresa and the Child Jesus Church in Filton, which is now Janice and Brian’s home parish.  They were to receive the Papal awards  Bene Merenti.

Three priests concelebrated Mass, the Parish Priest, Fr James Finan, the local Dean, Fr Eugene Campbell, and Fr Nicholas Austin SJ, Janice and Brian’s son.

It was just what we could see needed doing.

At the end of Mass the presentation of the Bene Merenti medals and certificates was made by the Dean on behalf of the Bishop.  Brian had the ‘right of reply’. He was modest as ever and made light of their work: ‘It was just what we could see needed doing.’ A very hearty round of applause followed! It was then lovely to have some refreshments and chat with the family to reminisce and share the moment which was so richly deserved.

Brian and Janice continue their ministry in Bristol, working with the CAFOD group.

A life founded on Ignatian spirituality with a passionate commitment to justice and peace

The Bene Merenti medals were awarded to Janice and Brian for their many and various ministries within the Church over many years.

This award is so richly deserved and many in the Christian Life Community as well as the Diocesan Justice and Peace Community will be very aware of their dedicated service. In putting together this information in Leamington we were astonished at the extent of their work.

From their marriage Brian and Janice belonged to the Christian Life Community and their inspiration came from Ignation spirituality, bringing their faith into the everyday and making their calling to serve Christ in the home, at work in the parish and local community and very much in their work for justice and peace.

As teachers they inspired their pupils in science and the natural world, in their family they led by example, bearing much fruit with their children, at church they were active in many roles, particularly music in the liturgies, the Baptism group and promoting and expanding the work of CLC. They started the first CLC in Leamington which rose to five groups at their peak. Nationally they served as President, Treasurer, Secretary and many supporting roles, attending many national and international events.  From that inspiration of ‘God in the everyday’ they went out and inspired others with their work.

In the Leamington community they were part of One World Link, which established links with Bo, in Sierra Leone, taking part in exchanges and work with schools to encourage understanding between countries and cultures. When they retired from teaching they upped a gear! They started a Justice and Peace group at St Peter’s, raising awareness of the many issues of concern through liturgies and events, sending  cards to prisoners of conscience, making the church a Fair Trade church, and promoting CAFOD. In 2014 St Peter’s became a ‘Live simply’ church, the first in the diocese through their efforts and Brian has become a champion for Laudato Si.

In 2009 they instigated a Poverty and Homelessness group from which sprung a partnership with the Salvation Army which has lasted until recently. The ‘Saturday Friendship Group’ supported with money and volunteers the work of the local drop-in for homeless and vulnerable people.

A heartfelt ‘thank you’

As Brian and Janice have moved to Bristol to be near their family we say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for inspiring us and enabling us to try to carry on the work they started.  Work continues in Bristol as they are working with the CAFOD group in their church. Brian is still working in CLC – on Literature and at the frontiers with his work as a ‘Laudato Si animator’.

As Brian and Janice say ‘ God has no hands but ours’. God bless you both. No-one deserves a Bene Merenti more.