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Police chaplain among Catholics honoured for King’s birthday

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Santa Sabina College teacher Jane Sulis was awarded an OAM for service to education and to the community. Photo: Supplied
Santa Sabina College teacher Jane Sulis was awarded an OAM for service to education and to the community. Photo: Supplied

By Debbie Cramsie and Marilyn Rodrigues

From supporting police officers and their families during some of their toughest times, to celebrating with parishioners’ during some of their happiest, Fr Barry Dwyer has led a lifetime of service.

The veteran parish priest of Holy Family Parkes, and chaplain with the NSW Police Force, had his 50 years of service to the community recognised last weekend in King Charles’ first birthday honours list.

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Appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the community, he is one of many Catholics and the only priest recognised with an award this year.

Other Catholics recognised for their outstanding contributions were from areas as diverse as the law, politics, education, health, research, music and parish life.

Fr Dwyer said the recognition, while unexpected, was also very much appreciated.

He has attended many of the critical incidents in the state including the Lindt café siege, Waterfall train disaster, the Belanglo backpacker murders and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s on top of countless car accidents, drug overdoses, domestic issues, robberies and everything in between.

Celebrating five decades of priestly life, he said being with people at some of the best and worst times of their lives had been an absolute privilege.

“The priesthood has been very good to me, I just hope I’ve been as good to it,” he said.

“The best part about being a priest is working with people, celebrating in their joys, being with them in their sufferings … the good times and the bad.

“Being able to be there for them, to help celebrate weddings and baptisms, while being with them at times of grief has been very important.

“My work with the NSW Police Force has also taken me to some of the biggest disasters in Australia’s history and being able to support those who support the community has also been a big part of my vocation.

“The initials OAM don’t change anything. While it’s nice to be recognised when you get to my age, I think it’s more about the people who support you.

“To be honest, when they rang a few weeks ago asking if I would accept the award, I said yes because you are only as good as the people around you. So it’s not really for me, it’s all about them.”

Bishop of Wilcannia Forbes Columba Macbeth-Green congratulated the veteran priest and thanked him for his 50 years of service to the Catholic community and beyond.

“We give thanks to almighty God for Fr Barry’s generous and faithful pastoral service, extend to him our warmest congratulations, and assure him of our prayers,” he said.

Award recipients from across the country include the chair of the National Catholic Education Commission Nicholas Moore who was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for “distinguished service to the finance, business, and commerce sectors, to arts administration, and to education.”

“I congratulate Nicholas on his award, I value his involvement in Catholic education tremendously and he is a joy to work with,” said NCEC executive director Jacinta Collins.

“Nicholas’ business acumen, together with my political experience and the leadership of Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP drives our collective passion for Catholic education.”

Dr Jennifer Buckingham (OAM), a member of the NCEC educational excellence standing committee, was celebrated for service to educational research and literacy.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore was named an Officer of the Order of Australia, for her service to local government, to the people and the Parliament of New South Wales, and to the community of Sydney.

Fr Barry Dwyer, the veteran parish priest of Holy Family Parkes and chaplain with the NSW Police Force, had his 50 years of service to the community recognised last weekend in King Charles’ first birthday honours list. Photo: Supplied
Fr Barry Dwyer, the veteran parish priest of Holy Family Parkes and chaplain with the NSW Police Force, had his 50 years of service to the community recognised last weekend in King Charles’ first birthday honours list. Photo: Supplied

Santa Sabina College teacher Jane Sulis and academic Dr Maria Piccioli were each awarded an OAM for service to education and to the community.

“Jane has been an exceptional educator and advocate. Her commitment to social justice, outreach and service is not just part of her job, it is a vocation that has influenced Santa Sabina staff, students and families,” said Santa Sabina College in a statement.

“She has led countless service and social justice initiatives that support a large number of Sydney’s most vulnerable.”

Other Catholics honoured included Catherine Malone, 84, who received an Order of Australia Medal for her many years of service to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish in South Wagga and the neighbouring Henschke Primary School.

Mrs Malone has been director of music at the church for more than 20 years and a chair and council member of the parish since 2011.

She also served as school secretary for 24 years at Henschke before retiring in 2011.

She told the Daily Advertiser that news of her award came as a shock.

“I’ve just been doing what I love,” she said.

Her friend and fellow parish council member Lyn Gibson, who also worked at Henschke Primary School as a special needs assistant, paid tribute to Catherine as “one of a kind.”

“She is a friend to everyone, she gives 150 per cent to whatever she does and has the most beautiful smile,” Ms Gibson said.

Henschke principal Paul Jenkins praised Catherine for her “tireless” work and willingness to give time to others especially those in need.

“I can’t think of a better person to receive this recognition from the King,” he said.

Lynton Nicholas of Wollongong received an OAM for service to the community through a range of organisations.

Along with a host of executive roles in the finance sector, the committed Catholic has been a member of the Wollongong diocese’s finance council since 2006 and chairs its audit and risk committee.

Frank Davey, president of the St Vincent de Paul conference in Merimbula in NSW, received an OAM for service to the communities of Merimbula and Pambula.

Also celebrated were Associate Professor Rosanna Capolingua who was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to patient care, medicine, and as a role model to women. Among a host of accomplishments, the western Australian GP assisted in the foundation of University of Notre Dame’s Sydney medical school.

From Queensland, Madonna Suter (OAM) was recognised for her service to the community through a range of organisations, and Josephine Burkett Boyne Island (OAM) for service to the communities of Boyne Island and Tannum Sands.

In Victoria were Miranda Armstrong (OAM) and Maria Dopheide (OAM) both for service to the community through social welfare organisations.

Also, former Victorian Catholic school principal and education consultant Mary Howlett received an OAM for service to the community, and to education.

In South Australia long-serving Catholic school principal and St Vincent de Paul member Craig Fosdike received an OAM for service to primary education.

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