THE widow of the late GAA and Aussie rules star Jim Stynes has spoken of how her husband's deep Catholic faith gave him strength throughout his long battle with cancer – but revealed how he often questioned certain aspects of the church's teachings.
"His faith was really important to him but he was spiritual as well. I'd describe him as a 'progressive Catholic' and he loved to challenge his own father who's a more traditional Catholic.
"We'd have family debates about the doctrine and we'd have to say to him 'please don't ruin Christmas Day'.
"At the end of the day, the priest came for the last rites and it was very important for Jim that it happened for the passage to heaven," she told the Irish Independent.
Sam Stynes was speaking at a reception held at Aras an Uachtarain where Mr Stynes was posthumously awarded the first Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad which acknowledges the work of Irish people living abroad.
Stynes, who started out with the Dublin minors in the 1980s before carving out a successful career in Aussie Rules, succumbed to cancer last March.
Also honoured was Pat Kelly who has been closely involved with Irish organisations in Canada and Pierre Joannon in France. Donald Keough (US) and Andy Rogers ( Britain) were honoured for their work in business and education while American philanthropist Chuck Feeney – who was not present – was honoured for his charity work. Sally Mulready (Britain) and Sr Lena Deevy (US) were recognised for their work with Irish communities abroad while Fr Michael Kelly (Zambia) and Loretta Brennan Glucksman (US) were honoured for their work towards peace, reconciliation and development.
President Michael D Higgins said the award enabled the State to formally recognise the contribution made in different areas by "exceptional individuals".