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Dempsey Medal: Quiet achievers honoured

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP presents the Dempsey Medal to Anthony Cipolla; 23 recipients were honoured last weekend. PHOTOS: GIOVANNI PORTELLI

Medals acknowledge lifetimes of humble service to the Church in Sydney

Antonio Cipolla has spent more than six decades helping others but at 81 has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

Known around the traps simply as Tony, the parishioner of St Brigid’s, Marrickville, takes his vocation of representing God very seriously.

At least three days a week he can be found volunteering in the community, either helping to feed the city’s homeless, taking communion to the elderly or lending a listening ear to anyone who just wants a chat.

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He has raised over half-a-million dollars through fundraising for the parish and is the driving force behind the legendary Good Friday procession which attracts up to 10,000 people annually.

Tony is just one of 18 Catholics awarded a Dempsey Medal by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP during a Solemn Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral last weekend for outstanding service in the Archdiocese of Sydney.

The Dempsey Medal recognises those who have made outstanding contributions, usually through parish life. Photos: G Portelli

In the second group of recipients for 2022, the lay men and women from across the city, were honoured for service within their parish communities, schools or the archdiocese in a whole range of ministries.

After a lifetime of receiving awards for his service for others, Tony said the Dempsey Medal has been the absolute highlight.

“I was very emotional receiving the award and in particular receiving a blessing from Archbishop Anthony,” he said.

“I don’t cry very often but I must admit I think I did shed a tear.

“I do all of this for the glory of God and to have it recognised like this is incredibly special.”

Although the Dempsey Medal is awarded for outstanding service or witness to the diocese or community, it is primarily intended to recognise those people who have made an outstanding contribution in the context of their local parish.

Archbishop Fisher said the award celebrates significant contributions to building up the Church in Sydney through their acts of service.

Happy moment: recipients gather on the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral, above and at top of opposite page, after last weekend’s ceremony. The awards came as a considerable surprise to those who received them and were happily welcomed by their parish communities too.

“Today we honour those who have generously given of themselves for the betterment of our Church,” he said.

“Among them are ordinary women and men who have rendered extraordinary leadership and service in sacramental programmes, prayer groups, parish maintenance, fundraising, liturgical ministries, taking communion to the sick and more.

“They offer concrete examples of perseverance in faithful and loving service of Christ and His people.” The archbishop instituted the Dempsey Medal in 2017 in honour of James Dempsey, an Irish convict who was transported to Sydney in 1802 and later pardoned.

A stonemason, he oversaw the building of Sydney’s first bridge, barracks and hospital.

The Dempsey home was a pivotal gathering place for Catholics of the early colony during the years when there was no priest.

Then when Fr John Joseph Therry arrived in Sydney in 1820, Dempsey assisted him by helping plan, fundraise for, and build the first St Mary’s Cathedral.

Images by GIOVANNI PORTELLI 2022 / Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

2022 Demsey Medal Winners

Mrs Lynette Brown-Sellars – (Drummoyne)
For her commitment to her parish over more than sixty years, where she has served on the Finance Committee, as an RCIA leader and as leader of rosary and other prayer groups.

Mr Antonio Cipolla – (Marrickville)
For his service to the parish for more than five decades, where he has been a driving force in the Italian community, helping to establish the ‘legendary’ Good Friday procession and arranging many a fundraising ‘pasta night’.

Mrs Julia Cuming – (Hunters Hill)
For her commitment to the parish community where she has been an active member for more than 30 years and contributing as a committee member, skilled florist and scripture class teacher at the local public school.

Mr Stephen Dick – (Eastwood)
For his generosity and dedication as an acolyte, catechist, and member of the Parish Advisory Council and Finance Committee over many years.

Mr Gregory Driver – (South Hurstville)
For his dedication to the parish where he has served as an acolyte for more than 30 years, and as a generous volunteer in maintaining the church and grounds.

Mr Edward and Mrs Mary Gallagher – (Penshurst)
For their joint commitment to the Parish over many decades, where Mary led the Josephite Association from 2004 to 2020, and Eddie has spent many years as a visitation minister, taking communion to the sick and regularly praying with them.

Mrs Leila Leo – (Malabar)
For her dedication to the parish which she has maintained and supported since being received into the Catholic Church 31 years ago, having since served as both a catechist and sacristan.

Mr Raymond Low – (Blakehurst)
For his constant service to the parish community where he has served as an acolyte, assisted with RCIA, as a cantor at Mass and is acknowledged for his unstinting spirit of generosity.

Mr John Mercer – (Hurstville)
For his committment to the Parish over more than 50 years, where he was commissioned as both a lector and an acolyte, and has since served in countless liturgical capacities as well as on numerous committees.

Ms Nghia Nguyen – (Parish of Sydney City South)
For her outstanding contribution to the Parish where her floral displays, as well as service as an extraordinary minister and prayer leader over thirty years, have helped many new parishioners feel welcome.

Sr Mary O’Neill OSU – (Kingsgrove)
For her devotion to the parish where, since 2009, she has coordinated Pastoral Care and tirelessly supported families in mourning, assisted the elderly and aided the incapacitated.

Ms Christine Riley – (Bexley)
For her outstanding service to the parish, as a Catechist, on the Ladies’ Auxiliary at Calvary Hospital Kogarah and as a volunteer communion minister to St George’s Hospital.

Mr Francesco Speranza – (Italian Catholic Community)
For his tireless support of the Italian Catholic Community around Rockdale, where he has served as an acolyte and also devoted decades of time and effort to maintaining the lawns and grounds of the church and parish.

Mrs Veronica Tierney – (Kingsgrove)
For her more than four decades of commitment and contribution to the Parish, where she has served on the Parish Council, organised Anniversary Masses and coordinated the Parish Women’s Social Support group.

Mrs Rosa Wells – (Matraville)
For her devotion to the parish over four decades, where she is noted for her particular care and concern for the children of the parish and has served on the Parish Council and the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Mr David and Mrs Maria Rooney (Rockdale)
For their years of dedication to the life of the parish, including David’s long term on the Parish Finance Committee and Maria’s many years of cooking parish dinners and catering for all community gatherings.

Awards have also been made to the following people who were unable to attend today:

Mr Thomas Carson – (Hurstville)
Mr Boyd Higgins – (Clifton Gardens)
Mr Christopher Keher – (Malabar-Matraville)
Mrs Mabel Pasfield – (Rockdale)

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