Dempsey medal awarded to 2024’s pillars of the Sydney Catholic community

Dempsey medals. Photo: Alphonsus Fok.

It’s not every day that an Anglican receives an award at a Mass presided over by a cardinal, but Kaylene Baumanis is a unique presence in one Sydney Catholic community. 

The newly-awarded Dempsey medallist is parish secretary of St Patrick’s Sutherland, where she is known as “the rock of St Patrick’s” for her 16 dedicated years of service. 

“Not being Catholic but still someone of faith, I was hired by Fr Martin Monaghan to assist with the business-minded side of things. As each priest came, they kept me on and my role grew from one day a week to five,” she said. 

Kaylene was one of more than 30 recipients of this year’s Dempsey medal for outstanding service, awarded by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at St Mary’s Cathedral at a Mass with visiting Mongolian Cardinal Giorgio Marengo. 

They included St Brigid’s Marrickville liturgy committee member Mary Cloran, St Francis Xavier Lurnea catechist coordinator Bibian Querubin, and St Agnes Matraville leader of music ministry Roy Burton, among other long-serving members of their parish communities. 

Though unable to make the event, Kaylene was honoured among not just volunteers, but witnesses to the Catholic Church’s mission in Sydney. 

Recipients of the Dempsey award. Photo: Alphonsus Fok.

From a fill-in position while on maternity leave to permanent employment, Kaylene said the role was “providential in the end” after her husband was later diagnosed with cancer, passing away after a six-year battle.  

“This community, and particularly Fr John, got my daughter and I right through that. I couldn’t have got to the other side without being here.  

“St Patrick’s was always willing to help with after school care, were always praying for me and my family. They would have done anything for me.” 

In the years since Kaylene has repaid the favour through her service and dedication to the church and is particularly fond of assisting with church funerals where she can. 

“Having been through that myself, it’s something that I have gravitated towards to help people out with.” 

Kaylene has also given her time assisting with church outreach and sacramental preparation programmes. 

Her most recent mission has been directed towards raising funds for much needed church restorations, for which her passion takes her beyond the parameters of the job. 

Asked how she felt about receiving the award, Kaylene showed that she’s picked up a few Catholic traits during her time at St Patrick’s.  

“I have to be honest—I think this medal should be for volunteers, not someone like me,” she said. 

“Despite my feelings, I’m honoured and appreciative to receive the medal. This community has given me so much, and I am thankful to know they feel I have given it something also.” 

Dempsey award - The Catholic Weekly
Photo: Alphonsus Fok.

The Dempsey medal is awarded for outstanding service to the Archdiocese of Sydney. Archbishop Fisher instituted the award in 2017 in honour of stonemason James Dempsey, a lay Catholic pioneer who arrived with Sydney’s early European settlement. 

In his address, the archbishop encouraged all attendees to live up to the model of James Dempsey and this year’s recipients. 

“Today’s Dempsey medallists offer concrete examples of faithful in action,” he said. 

“As the next generations of James Dempseys, your extraordinary service brings God and people closer.” 

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