FIVE Benemerenti Medals at St Bernadette’s

Parish News, Press releases

(L-R) Sam and Agnes Morrison, Bishop Stephen, Elizabeth Philliben, Fr Mike Freyne, Anne Allen and Jim Tobin


James Tobin was born on 28, July 1939 in Bowhill, Fife. A twin with two older brothers. Unfortunately Jim’s mother died shortly after his birth. The children were brought up by their Irish granny Mary-Anne, their Aunt Mary and her brother Dick. They never married so as to bring up the boys. Jim went to the local Catholic Primary school and Secondary school and at fourteen began work down the coal mines.

Jim met and married Margaret on 16, September 1961. They had five children. Bernadette was still born but was always regarded as part of the family. Jim and Margaret throughout their life have nursed and looked after many dying friends and close family until they died. All of Jim’s brothers are now dead. Jim is looked up to by all the family and extended family as a kind of spiritual director. In the “Village” he is highly respected and non- Catholics turn to him for information and advice about the Church. In practise among the working men they look to Jim as a representative of the Church. In need of help they turn to Jim.

Jim was always involved in the running of the Church beginning as a young man in Bowhill, Fife. In 1967 when he moved to Tullibody to work down another coal mine he became more involved in directly supporting the parish priest of St Bernadette’s. He helped run the RCIA program ( preparing adults for entrance into the Church). Jim basically ran the house and he was the one to find the parish priest dead early one morning.

Jim has devoted his life to the Church and devotion to Our Lady. He was a frequent visitor to Lourdes with the sick. He has looked after the sacristy, Eucharistic Ministers, the church gardens. Even today in his eighties Jim looks after his wheelchair confined wife but still opens and closes the church, runs the Piety Stall, leads the people with the rosary and devotions to Our Lady every Saturday morning and at funerals. He takes communion to the sick and helps in the distribution of the Eucharist at mass. He is a daily mass goer.

After dedicating his life to church activities Jim at 78 years of age is still very involved in the Parish Pastoral Council, leading of prayers in the church at funerals, opening and closing of the church, Fabric and Maintenance of the Church. He still weekly walks longish distances to take Holy Communion to the sick.

Jim is an ex-miner who loves and cares for his family and the Church. Despite his age he never stops helping others. Someone is in difficulties Jim will know about it and be there to offer help. Friends say if Jim had not married Margaret he would have been a priest.


Mgr Basil O’Sullivan, Parish Priest of St John Vianney’s from 1970 to ’74, was impressed by the young schoolgirl, Anne Allen and encouraged her ambition to become a teacher. Even as a young secondary school pupil, following the example of her late mother, Annie, she had an active involvement in the Parish community. From an early age , she was a regular Reader at Sunday Mass and other services. She became a catechist before there was a Catholic school in the Parish and generously gave her time to instruct young children in the Faith and to prepare them for the sacraments. She had conscientiously prepared and presented pupils from St Bernadette’s Primary at services and functions in the Church, such as on Education Sunday and at the Centenary Commemoration in 2013. She spoke to the Congregation this year on Education Sunday about the holistic ethos of her Catholic school, the curriculum, attainment levels and future targets.
Her mother had a protracted period of ill health and Anne became a Eucharistic Minister, bringing Communion to her and to other housebound parishioners for many years and continues to do so up to the present. Her quiet unassuming manner and positive listening skills are highly valued by the sick and housebound of the Parish whom she regularly visits. Less publicly, she has offered her experience and skills in areas of marital reconciliation as occasions arose and where her help was sought.

Anne is a highly respected figure in the Parish Community of St John Vianney’s and St Bernadette’s.

Anne, however, spent all her 40 years teaching in Catholic primary schools. The first few years in Denny then almost as soon as St Bernadette’s opened in 1978 she became a teacher for the primary school infants where she has remained all this time. St Bernadette’s is also the feeder school for her parish St John Vianney’s and has proved a very effective link between the school and the parish as the children are bused to the school. At all educational and liturgical events in the parish she has always been the school representative.

Anne has managed to be very active in both school and parish community despite her husband Lawrence being seriously ill and normally confined to a wheel chair. Anne looks after his needs full time, keeping him involved in social activities which means her being his driver. When in hospital she is at his bedside everyday.

Anne is a great Catholic witness in her commitment to her family, the parish community and to Catholic Education . There are few possibilities of promotion within Catholic Education in the local area but Anne opted to remain at ST Bernadette’s school all these years as a commitment to both parishes.

Being retired Anne plans to increase her involvement with more parish pastoral activities and recently has committed herself to being part of a new Missio team going round the Catholic Primary schools in the Diocese.


Sam Morrison in May 1936 was born on the Scottish island of Barra. The family later moved to Oban on the mainland. As a young man he worked in Burtons the tailors, as a lorry driver for a distillery company and as a driver at Weir Pumps in Alloa where he retired.

Agnes Morrison (Fallans) was born in July 1935 at Cowie near Stirling. After school, worked as window dresser in Woolworths and after her children had grown up worked as a cleaner in Alloa library.
Agnes met Sam in Stirling where they were married at St Mary’s Church. In the early days they lived in rented rooms until they moved to Tullibody. They have five children who they were dedicated to. The four girls and one boy are now dedicated to looking after them. Every Sunday , after mass, their home gathers all the children and grandchildren together for Sunday lunch.

Both Sam and Agnes’ lives have been divided between their children, grandchildren and the Church. The parish is their life. When they were not working they were always daily mass goers. There is nothing in the parish they have not participated in or encouraged people to get involved in.

Sam for years looked after the sacristy and served at daily mass when they were no servers. Even today at 81 years of age he stands in when necessary. At funerals often of non-practising Catholics Sam is there as a great witness ushering, reading the Prayers of the Faithful. Since he retired Sam has devoted much of his spare time to the Saint Vincent de Paul untiring in their house visits to those in need in the local community.Sam has great sensitivity and does not hang on to positions he has had in the church. He is there to serve and moves over as soon as he sees younger people capable of taking on responsibilities.

Agnes’s life is much the same. After her family her dedication is to the Church. When younger it was the hard tasks of varnishing the church floors and cleaning the parish house. Always she has been a permanent fixture in the parish choir. Cooking and organising teas for all kind of parish, Catholic Primary school and local events Agnes is always present encouraging others by her example.

Throughout their lives they have had a great devotion to Our Lady and helped on many pilgrimages taking the sick to Lourdes and Knock. Today they are unable to travel far but still help in the organising of our Lourdes/Youth fund to raise money to finance youths to work caring for the sick in Lourdes and to work for six weeks in developing countries. A few years ago the parish priest, Fr. Wallace, had health issues and was aging. Sam and Agnes looked after the parish house. They prepared Fr. Wallace’s meals and generally looked after his shopping and home needs.

Our parish consists of many people like Sam and Agnes. They are the back bone probably of most parishes. People who are dedicated to their families but at the same time share that same dedication for the Church. They always have time, energy and goodwill to follow the Lord’s example in serving and putting others first. Because they have done it for so long, always constant in their dedication and done this so well as a married couple we feel they are and example and encouragement to others. Although they would never ask for this to be recognised our Parish feels we should thank them by awarding them the Benemerenti Medal.


Elizabeth Philliben was born on 2 May 1956 in Bridge Of Allen, Scotland. The daughter of Anne and Stephen Philliben and has two sisters Mary and Kath. She went to St Mungo’s Primary School in Alloa and also to St Mungo’s Secondary school. She then went on the Craigclockhart Teacher Training College run by the Sacred Heart Sisters. Later on following up her Catholic Teacher’s Certificate with a degree at Stirling University and various Educational and Infant Education Diplomas at Murray House, Edinburgh.

Elizabeth began teaching at the brand new St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School in Tullibody in 1977 where she has taught the infant classes all her life and now due for retirement in June 2017. All Catholics born in Tullibody and who went to a Catholic school have passed through Elizabeth’s care and she is now caring for the children of children she taught while in her care at school. There are few possibilities of promotion within Catholic Education in the local area but Elizabeth opted to remain at St Bernadette’s school all these years as a commitment to the parish community.She was the longest serving teacher in a Catholic school in the County.

Elizabeth’s family had a tradition of appreciating music and Elizabeth inherited this gift. Her musical talent obviously recognised at school led to many commitments and involvements over the years in church choirs.
Elizabeth’s commitment was never reduced only to her working hours at school. She has a tremendous commitment and loyalty to her own parish – St Bernadette’s – and the local community of Tullibody.

Throughout all the years in the same parish her involvement has always been with music, the liturgy, St Vincent de Paul, the Parish Pastoral Council. More recently she has been very active in the Parish and Diocesan Mission group helping build up mission awareness, both for home and abroad, in our Diocese. She has been very active in the Just Faith Project bringing together SCIAF, Missio and Justice & Peace in a joint project. Elizabeth was in the team that introduced this into the Diocese.

Elizabeth’s respected standing in the larger community facilitates her having many contacts with other religious groups. This has helped develop a close relationship with the Women’s Guild in the neighbouring Church of Scotland Parish. She has built up the practise of both Churches meeting every year and organizing Women’s World Day of Prayer.

Elizabeth is well known in the streets around Tullibody because of her pro-active activities in setting up and participating in community projects. She was partially responsible for setting up the Healthy Living initiative which promotes the growing and selling of your own vegetables, a weekly garden market and a rent free shop providing advice to the local inhabitants on any issues referring to well-being. The community vegetable garden was encouraged and influenced by her.
Other initiatives like an annual day out with family activities to clean the local pond unite a great number of the local population of all ages and churches interested in ecology issues.
Besides creating a connection with the school children and the local nursing home Liz has encouraged and created initiatives for church members to be involved in all the social activities of the local Nursing Home.

Recently Elizabeth has helped boost our St Vincent de Paul Society which was becoming quite weak but over the past few years has grown in participants and the amount of people whose basic needs are looked after.
Being retired Elizabeth plans to increase her involvement with more parish pastoral activities and recently has committed herself to being part of a new Missio team going round the Catholic Primary schools in the Diocese.