Dame Judy Coyne was the first Irish papal dame, being conferred with a Dame Commandership of St Sylvester . The Papal Honour was conferred by the Archbishop of Tuam, Most Rev. Dr. Michael Neary on Mrs. Judy Coyne of Belearra, theof the Knock Shrine Society, at a special ceremony in Knock Basilica, on the 7th September, 1997.
In 1935 with her husband, the late Judge Liam Coyne, she began her work for Knock. Together they set out to collect the facts then known about the apparition which occurred over fiftyyears before. They then published the firstof many books on Knock.
When it became apparent that more help was needed to further the cause they founded the Knock Shrine Society. They set out to make Knock better known and to help to promote it inevery way. Gradually and mostly through their efforts information about the Shrine spread, by means of broadcasts, lectures, tours and numerous publications. Pilgrimages grew from those on the traditional Marian feast days, August 15 and December 8, to almost every Sunday through the summer months. By the 1950's the numbers coming on pilgrimage had become immense.
Following the untimely death of her husband, Mrs. Coyne laboured on alone, undertaking all aspects of the work. There was no office at Knock so she dealt with the huge amount of correspondence as well as arranging pilgrimages, which included making special arrangements for the thousands of sick
The first Knock Shrine Annual was published in 1938. Mrs. Coyne remained its editor for fifty-seven editions. Today she is associated mostly, though not entirely, with the Handmaids and Stewards, but that is only a very small part of the story. She organised the first major pilgrimage to Knock in 1953 – which no fewer than 50,000 Pioneers from Dublin attended.
Through the years her vision, foresight and untiring efforts in what began as 'promoting the cause of Knock Shrine' have endured throughout her long life, and ensure her place in the history of the entire development of modem Knock. Mrs Coyne continued working on her Knock project until a few days before she died at the age of 97.
Mrs Coyne’s niece, Ethna Kennedy, has written a biography of her entitled ‘Providence My Guide’ Mercier Press, 2004.