Much-loved school staff member in Forest Gate awarded by the Pope

A retired staff member who was much-loved at a Forest Gate school has been given a special honour from the Pope.

Last summer, Therese Smith left her job as senior administrative officer at St Bonaventure’s RC School in Boleyn Road after 32 years of service.

As a special honour for her outstanding dedication to the school and her community work with the youth of Newham, Therese was invited back for a special mass held annually to mark the feast of St Bonaventure’s.

The whole school comprising students, staff and a congregation all gathered in St Antony’s Catholic Church in Forest Gate for the celebration.

Afterwards, Monsignor John Armitage, Vicar General of Brentwood, asked Therese to step forward, which came as a complete shock to the retired staff member, and he presented her with the Benemerenti Certificate and Medal from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for all of her exceptional work.

Therese said: “To say it came as a surprise is an understatement. To be honoured in this way doing something I love is very humbling and totally unexpected.

“I still miss the boys and the staff and it has been lovely seeing them all again today on St Bonaventure’s Feast Day.

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“I will remember this day forever.”

Paul Halliwell, St Bonaventure’s head teacher, said: “Therese was a valued member of staff and was loved by everyone.

“She deserves this recognition for all the years of hard work, support and dedication she has given to our boys and the school.”

Other special accolades were awarded at the St Bonaventure’s Feast Day including end of year prizes for high achieving students including the head boy Mark Kawesa and Abass Hemoah who is currently the fastest Under 15 sprinter in the UK.