The Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Paul Dempsey as Bishop of Achonry took place in the Cathedral of the Annunciation and Saint Nathy, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, on Sunday 30 August. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, numbers in attendance were at a minimum to allow for social distancing. The Mass was live streamed by iCatholic.ie.
Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam was the Principal Consecrator, and His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, and Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare & Leighlin, were the co-consecrators.
In his opening remarks Archbishop Neary said, “Two days ago we celebrated the feast of St. Augustine. On the occasion of his Episcopal Ordination, Saint Augustine said: “I am fearful of what I am for you, but I draw strength for what I am with you. For you I am a Bishop, and with you I am a Christian. The former designates an office I have received, the latter the foundation of salvation.
“In the office of Bishop, St. Augustine placed huge importance on being included in the prayers of the people. His comments provide a beautiful portrait of pastoral ministry. I have no doubt but that our new bishop, in keeping with his name, Paul, will invest his ministry with responsibility, love, service and self-giving. In a spirit of thanksgiving, recognising the way in which God continues to care for and bless us we turn to him now in our Eucharist and ask him to bless Fr. Paul and all those to whom he will minister as a Bishop.”
Father Vincent Sherlock, Parish Priest of Kilmovee, Co Mayo, in the Diocese of Achonry, preached the homily during the Ordination Mass. He said, “Coming to us from Newbridge, might we take that very name to locate you in the faith journey of our diocese. You are and will be a NEW BRIDGE – a bridge between what has been and what is to come, a bridge between what has been lost and what is to be found, a bridge between Heaven and Earth, between God and His people. The bridge makes travel possible, the NEW BRIDGE puts shape, puts its own stamp on the journey and we are thankful for the roads you will travel within our diocese and beyond, to help us find and know the way, the truth and the life.
Following his consecration Bishop Dempsey addressed the congregation and those watching online. He said, “Many years ago, I came across an important saying that went; “Gratefulness is the heartbeat of prayer.” It is certainly the heartbeat of my prayer here today! I give thanks to God for my family, friends, Bishop Denis, the priests & people of Kildare and Leighlin Diocese and the parishes I had the privilege to serve in. I am truly grateful for your love and support.
“There are so many people who have made today possible, people who have worked very hard to bring it all together in very difficult circumstances with the Covid situation.
“To the Priests and people of Achonry Diocese, thank you for your warm welcome. I look forward to meeting you in the coming weeks and working together into the future.
Bishop Dempsey went on to say “The world has changed radically since we gathered here on the 27th of January for the announcement of my appointment. None of us could have imagined how the Pandemic, in the blink of an eye, could change our lives in such a profound way. Many lives have become fragmented, uncertain, somewhat fearful. It’s all a bit wearisome.
“However, I wonder does the present moment pose an opportunity for the Church? Perhaps in this moment of uncertainty we have the chance to look to something or someone greater than ourselves, someone who is there for us no matter what, someone who says to us in the midst of trials and tribulations; “Do not be afraid!” Perhaps this crisis nudges us to reflect upon our relationship with Christ and with one another.”
Introducing the motto Bishop Dempsey explained, “When a priest is appointed bishop, he normally chooses a motto, it is something that gives a focus to his ministry. I chose “Duc in Altum,” meaning “Put out into the deep.” It is taken from Luke 5:4. In that passage, Peter and the disciples were wearisome, fed up, tired… perhaps a bit like ourselves at this time! But it is in that very moment Jesus appears to them on the shore. He sees things differently! He sees an opportunity in the moment. He invites them, challenges them to “Put out into the deep water…”
“We’re all familiar with the story and what happens, but we must be careful not to reduce this to Jesus simply asking them to try again! He wasn’t telling them to try again, he was inviting them, asking them, challenging them to go farther out into unchartered waters. He wanted them to go beyond what was familiar and safe to a place they had never gone before! Not only that, dropping their nets in that deep place involved more work, more energy, more effort than staying by the safe shoreline.
“Surely this must resonate with us in the Church today. Perhaps we have become satisfied with the shoreline, the place that is familiar and safe? Or do we hear that call of Christ in a renewed way today to the Church; “Go out, go out into the deep…”
“We can all agree that this is not an easy task, we too like the disciples can find ourselves wearisome, fearful, tired. But it was in the midst of all these struggles, that very moment that Jesus appeared and called his disciples! He doesn’t stand at the shoreline calling to us from a distance, he has climbed into the boat with us!
Bishop Dempsey concluded his address by sharing some of his vision and hopes for the Diocese of Achonry. He said, “My vision, my hope, my dream for the Diocese of Achonry, is that we, the people, priests, religious and bishop, listen to that call of Christ in a renewed way today. Let’s not be prisoners of mediocrity, but agents of hope, going out into the deep, the unchartered waters with, as Pope Francis put it, “The Joy of the Gospel!” Let us not be held back by the voices that say; “we have always done it this way.” The disciples would still be sitting at the shoreline with empty nets if they listened to that voice!
“In recent months we’ve become familiar with the saying; “We’re in this together.” As a diocese we’re on this faith journey together, as a diocese we listen to and discern the call of Christ together, as a diocese we share the mission together. There will be challenges along the way, there will be difficult decisions to be made. But from the words of the Kerry poet Brendan Kennelly we draw hope and encouragement where he reminds us;
‘Even though we live in a world that dreams of ending
That always seems about to give in
Something that will not acknowledge conclusion
Insists that we forever begin.’
“So, from this sacred place, where the Christian story has been celebrated for generations… let us go out, go out to where Christ is calling us as community of disciples today…Let us begin!”
Life and Ministry of Bishop Paul Dempsey
Father Paul Dempsey was born in Carlow Town on 20 April 1971. In 1978 his family moved to Athy, Co Kildare where he was educated by the Christian Brothers at primary and secondary level. In 1989, he began his studies for the priesthood and was ordained in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow by Bishop Laurence Ryan, on 6 July 1997.
Father Paul’s first appointment was as curate in Clane & Rathcoffey Parish, Co Kildare. In 2004 he moved to Kildare Town as curate and was also appointed Youth Director and Vocations Director for the diocese by Bishop Jim Moriarty.
In 2008, he pursued further studies in the Milltown Institute, Dublin where he completed an Honours Master’s Degree in Theology in the area of Faith & Culture. His thesis was entitled “The Contemporary Irish Catholic Church – A Church in Crisis or in Question?”
On completion of his studies, Father Paul took up his appointment as curate in the parish cluster of Naas, Sallins and Two-Mile-House in 2009. In August, 2014, he was appointed to Newbridge Parish and also as Vicar Forane for the Kildare & Leighlin North Deanery consisting of 17 parishes.
On 1 September 2015, he was appointed Parish Priest of Newbridge and Administrator of Caragh and Prosperous Parishes. On 27 January 2020, he was appointed Bishop of Achonry by His Holiness, Pope Francis.
Photos: John McElroy