Dempsey Awards Recipients an "impressive group" - Archbishop Fisher

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
2 Aug 2017

During the Solemn Mass at St Mary's Cathedral on Sunday, 16 July, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP presented the inaugural Dempsey Medal for outstanding service in the Archdiocese of Sydney to twenty medal recipients from across Sydney.

The Dempsey Medal is named in memory of James Dempsey, an Irish Catholic convict who was transported to Sydney in 1802 and later pardoned.  As a stonemason, he oversaw the building of Sydney's first bridge, barracks and hospital, all near the site of St Mary's Cathedral.

In the years where there was no priest and no Mass, the Dempsey home was a place where regular recitations of the Rosary, along with Sundays Vespers, were hosted.  The Dempsey home was pivotal for Catholics of the early colony.

Dempsey also accompanied and prayed with prisoners condemned to the gallows. Father Jeremiah Flynn arrived in 1817 and, whether by accident or design, left the Blessed Sacrament behind when he was deported by Governor Macquarie six months later. Whether that Host was protected by James Dempsey or by another prominent Catholic, William Davis, has long been debated, but what is certain is that the lay faithful kept it for adoration in a private home.

A depiction of that scene of adoration is among the stained glass windows on the western side of St Mary's Cathedral.

When Father John Joseph Therry arrived in Sydney in 1820, Dempsey assisted him by helping plan, build, fundraise for and himself contributing to the building of the first St Mary's Cathedral.

The Dempsey Award recipients were a varied group.  Amongst them were people long involved in parish life, in building or maintaining their church buildings or parish community, in liturgical, catechetical, music or hospitality ministries, by membership of their parish council, social justice group, St Vincent de Paul conference, Catholic Women's League chapter, prayer group or altar society, by involvement with their parish school or sacramental team, by fundraising for our seminarians, retired priests or other good causes, or by engaging in ministry to the sick, the deaf or otherwise disabled or disadvantaged.

At the Mass, Archbishop Fisher described them as "a truly impressive group of people!"

In addition to the recipients and their family and friends, members of the Dempsey family and representatives of the lay Carmelites to which he belonged were present at the Mass.  On the altar were the crucifix and candlesticks preserved by the Dempsey family ever since the early settlement days.

The Dempsey Awards will be an annual event in the Archdiocese of Sydney.  For more information, see here.


Robert Beath, Ephpheta Centre.
Margaret Burgess, Sacred Heart Parish, Mosman.
Patricia Cosgrove, St Joseph's Parish, Belmore.
Merryl Foster, St Charles Borromeo Parish, Ryde.
Nicole Greig, St Luke's Parish, Revesby.
David Hinder, St Augustine's Parish, Balmain.
Merle Kenna, Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Kingsgrove.
Sheila Kovacs, Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Kingsgrove.
Verius Antonius Laarakkers, St Patrick's Parish, Sutherland.
Teresa Liu, St Michael's Parish, Hurstville.
Peter McNamara, St Kevin's Parish, Eastwood.
Bernard William Pasfield, St Mary MacKillop Parish, Rockdale.
Br Julian Quinlan FMS, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
Josephine Quinn, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Earlwood.
Mary Semaan, St Joseph's Parish, Belmore.
Don Smith, St Michael's Parish, Meadowbank.
Gillian Sofatzis, Maternal Heart of Mary Parish, Lewisham.
John Wakefield, St Raphael's Parish, South Hurstville.
Shirley Wakefield, St Raphael's Parish, South Hurstville.
Vera Waring, St Declan's Parish, Penshurst.