by MICHAEL OTTO
AUCKLAND — More than six decades of playing the organ in Catholic Churches by Margaret Mary (Maree) McNaughten has been acknowledged with a papal honour.
Bishop Patrick Dunn conferred the papal award Benemerenti Medal on Mrs McNaughten during a Mass at St Joseph’s Church, Takapuna, on August 10.
As a teenager, she started playing the organ at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church in Epsom in 1952. Mrs McNaughten also played the organ at Takapuna from 1960 to 1985 and at St Thomas More Church, Glenfield, from 1985 to 1995 and at St Vincent de Paul Church in Milford from 1996 onwards.
She has also played at countless weddings, funerals, ordinations and school functions down the years and has sung in parish choirs and conducted them.
At the Takapuna Mass, special mention was also made of Mrs McNaughten’s service to the sick. For 32 years, she has played the organ at monthly Sunday Masses at North Shore Hospital. And since 2008, she has played the piano once a week for psychogeriatric patients at the hospital, as recreational therapy.

From left, Bishop Patrick Dunn and Maree and Alex McNaughten.

“Her beautiful music helps soothe and comfort the patients,” said Sr Bernadette Cheyne, OP, who presented Mrs McNaughten for conferment of the medal.
Sr Bernadette praised Mrs McNaughten’s generosity, dedication and faith. Sr Bernadette also noted that Mrs McNaughten’s husband, Alex, was “always there supporting her, carrying the music and seeing that everything is in order”.
Bishop Dunn said it was appropriate that the papal honour was given by Pope Benedict XVI, as the emeritus pope is such a great lover of music himself.
“Maree, we are all appreciative of your wonderful musical gifts, but also your own goodness and cheerfulness and reliability, and your faithfulness, such faith-filled service. And you have been an encourager to us for over 60 years,” Bishop Dunn said, adding that her service has “brought us joy and an insight into the beauty and goodness of God”.
Mrs McNaughten spoke at the end of the Mass, and said it is “lovely to receive a medal for something that I love doing”.
“I think it has been a privilege really, to be involved with so many lovely ceremonies over the years, people with their joys and their sorrows, and I just hope that perhaps I have been able to help a little here and there,” she said.
A member and past president of Mercy Associates, Mrs McNaughten also thanked the Sisters of Mercy for their role in nurturing the gift of music in her. She also thanked God for the gift of music.
On a lighter note, Mrs McNaughten said being at the ceremony “almost feels like being at my own requiem, but I’m here to enjoy it”, which raised many a laugh.

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