Quiet labourers honoured

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The 2022 Dempsey Medal is held up at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
The 2022 Dempsey Medal is held up at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Archdiocese acknowledges Dempsey recipients for years of faithful service in parishes

Lending a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on when times get tough is Sue and David Cameron’s vocation.

The dedicated couple from St Patrick’s Parish in Sutherland have spent the past 10 years providing pastoral care to their community and represent the many devoted people who keep our parishes thriving.

Every day, sometimes under the cover of darkness, they visit the church and prepare it for the day’s services, before heading out for their many ministries providing communion to the elderly in nursing homes, bereavement counselling to those at end of life or leading prayer groups and daily Rosary in the parish.

They are just two of 21 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.

“We are so thankful and humbled, there are so many wonderful people doing wonderful things in the Church and to be recognised really is quite overwhelming.”

The recipients were a varied group of lay people from across the city, honoured for service within their parish communities or schools or the archdiocese in a host of ministries including liturgical service, prayer groups, RCIA, social justice groups, Bible courses, St Vincent de Paul Society, Antioch, social outreach, fundraising, administration and building maintenance.

For the Camerons, the recognition of their many years of service was not sought but it was still much appreciated.

“We are so thankful and humbled, there are so many wonderful people doing wonderful things in the Church and to be recognised really is quite overwhelming,” Sue said.

“Our faith is everything to us and being part of our community at St Pat’s really is part of who we are.

“We get so much joy doing what we do, helping the elderly and bereaved.

Sue and David Cameron from St Patrick’s Sutherland with former parish priest and friends Fr John Knight and Sr Helen Avery. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Sue and David Cameron from St Patrick’s Sutherland with former parish priest and friends Fr John Knight and Sr Helen Avery. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“In some cases religion is more important than a pill, and watching the peace people get from Communion, or being led in the Rosary can be so inspiring.

“We are so thankful to God that we have been recognised for something that we get so much joy and pleasure out of and hope to continue to do it for many years to come.”

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 Medal was awarded to those who have contributed to building up the Church in Sydney and beyond through their acts of service.

“Their ordinary acts of extraordinary service, provided to one soul at a time, are what bring people and God close and build up God’s Church today.”

“Our Dempsey medallists offer stellar examples of the integration of faith and action, of contemplation and service, as they have been volunteers to the sick and needy, sacristans, sacramental coordinators, catechists, and ministers of holy communion, event organisers, choir and committee members, formators and more within their Catholic parishes, agencies and groups, or in witnessing to the world beyond,” he said during the presentations.

“Amidst all the sensory overload of noise and imagery, the hustle and bustle of never-ending progress, the endless activity of production and consumption, the distracting gadgetry and more, it can seem as if our world is trying to make us forget God … Their ordinary acts of extraordinary service, provided to one soul at a time, are what bring people and God close and build up God’s Church today.”

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.