Everyone at St. Anthony's parish in Shirley knows Ralph Lambert.
Over at St. Mary's parish in Ayer, Dorothy Marino is the parishioner everyone turns to for help.
So when their priest, the Rev. Edmond Derosier, was asked to nominate outstanding church members earlier this, there was never a question in his mind.
"(Lambert has) been the spiritual inspiration for me and the entire parish." Derosier said. As for Marino, "any time any person or organization needed anything, she was always there."
Lambert, 88, and Marino, 93, are two of 120 Catholics to be recognized by Cardinal Sean O'Malley with the Cheverus Award. The honor is named for Jean-Louis Anne-Magdalaine Lefebvrede de Cheverus, who founded the archdiocese in 1808.
The annual award given in his honor is an exclusive medallion presented to outstanding non-cleric congregants "who have served the parish well over an extended period of time and has done so in a quiet, unassuming and, perhaps, unrecognized fashion," according to criteria outlined on the archdiocese's website.
Each year, one-third of the parishes are asked to nominate a parishioner.
Both Lambert and Marino were surprised by the Nov. 1 letters, signed by O'Malley, that announced their awards.
"I didn't know exactly what it was at first," Marino said.
Later, she added, "I don't like the limelight."
Lambert said he knew how special the oval-shaped medallion is, because a friend of his had won it a few years ago.
"It's not every day you get to meet Cardinal O'Malley," said Lambert. "And to have him place this around my neck was very rewarding."
More than 2,200 people worship in the combined parishes under the leadership of Derosier, who has been pastor there for more than 20 years. And there are nearly 2 million Catholics within the Archdiocese of Boston, of whom about 320,000 regularly attend Mass.
Other area recipients are: Patricia Barry of Carlisle, Sally Guidotti of Bedford, Alice Harrington and Frances Randall, both of Billerica; as well as six people from Lowell including Francis Britton, Beatrice Cunha, Charlotte Morin, Thadeus Muthemba, Stephen and Elizabeth Papik, and Colleen Foley.