Having been described as a ‘saint’ by those nominating her, it is no surprise that Mary Holifield from Probus near Truro is one of 25 people who will receive the Cross of St Piran from the Bishop of Truro in March in recognition of her work in the church and community.

Mary has been a mainstay of life at Truro Cathedral for nearly 27 years with a wide range of commitments supporting many areas of cathedral life.

In nominating Mary for the award, the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Revd Roger Bush said: “When Paul talks about saints in his letters he surely had someone like Mary in his mind. Mary has a string of commitments and interests and all is done without any fuss or frills, just a quiet expectation that this is what a Christian should be doing. Mary has an innate sympathy for people, is never judgmental and through her warmth and obvious interest, can make anyone feel at ease.”

Mary certainly wasn’t expecting to be nominated for the award. “I can tell you nobody was more surprised than me at getting that letter!”

Mary and her husband John moved to Cornwall in 1989 when John was appointed as Bursar at the cathedral. Leaving their house in Cambridge and their grown up children behind, the couple arrived with just a suitcase and a dog, living in holiday lets for two years. Mary said: “The transition was very easy and we were immediately absorbed into a wonderful Christian community.”

Mary got involved with almost everything that went on from the Flower Guild to becoming a cathedral guide. “I liked to help in the refectory, volunteer in the shop, I just became totally involved in everything that went on. It was wonderful for me.”

She was encouraged to join the Mothers’ Union, an organisation now flourishing at the Cathedral and as branch leader then Mary introduced the idea of the cathedral Family Fun Day with the aim of providing free fun for families in the school holidays. The idea proved such a success that the fun day is now in its fifth year, run by the MU and the Cathedral education dept. Mary said: “I am not an organiser but I hope I can give people ideas about what we should do.”

With an interest in theatricals Verity, the manager at the cathedral shop, put on the first Cathedral pantomime and Dog Collar Productions was born. Mary was one of several who took up the fun (?) job of writing and directing for several years. Mary said: “They were terrific fun and the great thing about it was that we brought people together from different groups in the cathedral.”

Mary has been involved in so much that it is easier to say what she hasn’t done. “The only things that I haven’t done in the cathedral is ring the bells and sing in the choir!”

Apart from raising her family, Mary says it has been the last 26 years that have been the most fulfilling in many ways. “There has been so much to be involved with. The Cathedral needs to be an inspirational place to those with faith and those with none and we all try to convey its Christian ethos in what we do. It has been a wonderful time and I have met so many good people and made wonderful friends.”

And at the centre of it all for Mary is her faith. “There has to be some compulsion to become so involved and I don’t think I would have done it without faith.”