Pope Francis has appointed Father Paul Dempsey, PP of Newbridge in the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, as Bishop of the Diocese of Achonry. The news of this Episcopal appointment was made public at 11.00am on Monday 27 January in the Vatican. It was announced simultaneously in the Diocese of Achonry by Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, at a Mass to celebrate Catholic Schools Week 2020 in the Cathedral of the Annunciation and Saint Nathy, Ballaghderreen, Co Roscommon.
Father Dempsey was born in Carlow Town on 20 April 1971. He is the youngest in his family, having one brother and two sisters. In 1978 his family moved to Athy, Co Kildare where he was educated by the Christian Brothers at primary and secondary level. He joined the seminary in 1989. His studies took place in the Milltown Institute, Dublin, Saint Patrick’s College, Carlow and All Hallows College, Dublin. During his formation for the priesthood his mother, Berry, died from cancer in February 1994 and his father, Tony, died suddenly twelve days later.
He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin 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. After seven years he moved to Kildare Town as Curate and was also appointed Youth Director and Vocations Director for the Diocese by Bishop Jim Moriarty. During this time Father Paul organised two diocesan World Youth Day pilgrimages to Cologne (2005) and Sydney (2008) as well as many other youth initiatives.
In 2008, Father Paul did further studies in the Milltown Institute, Dublin. 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, Bishop Denis Nulty appointed Father Paul to Newbridge Parish and also as Vicar Forane for the Kildare & Leighlin North Deanery consisting of 17 parishes. On 1 September 2015, Father Paul was appointed Parish Priest of Newbridge and Administrator of Caragh and Prosperous Parishes. The parish has approximately 32,000 parishioners.
Speaking in the Cathedral of the Annunication and Saint Nathy, Father Dermot Meehan, Administrator of Achonry Diocese said, “Twelve years ago today, 27 January 2008, Bishop Brendan Kelly was ordained in this Cathedral as Bishop of Achonry. During the ordination ceremony that day, the text of a prayer from our Irish tradition was sung in a musical setting specially composed for the occasion by Ronan McDonagh from Kiltimagh. This traditional prayer was said by generations in the past for the visit of the priest or the bishop, and the text reads:
Is céim go brách linn, is abháir sócháis agus réim ghairdis dár sláinte gur tháinig teachtaire Chríost in ár ndháil.
“It is a great honour for us and a reason for rejoicing and a cause of joy for our salvation that Christ’s messenger has come into our assembly.
“On 27 January 2020, the words of that prayer seem particularly appropriate as we welcome the announcement of a new bishop for Achonry. Today, Father Paul Dempsey comes into our assembly as Christ’s messenger, having accepted his appointment by Pope Francis as pastor of the people and priests of Achonry. We warmly welcome his appointment and, on behalf of the priests, religious and people of the diocese, I thank him for accepting it. It is a reason for rejoicing for us in Achonry that a priest of Father Paul’s calibre and extensive experience in pastoral ministry in his native diocese of Kildare and Leighlin comes to us as our new bishop. We assure him of our prayers as he prepares for his new role and we ask God to bless him with joy, contentment and peace in his ministry among us.”
Welcoming the appointment, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam said, “I look forward to working with Father Dempsey, and on behalf of the bishops of the Tuam Province, I warmly welcome him and assure him of our help and support as he assumes his new responsibilities. Today’s announcement is also great news for the faithful of the Diocese of Achonry who have been looking forward to a new bishop since Bishop Brendan Kelly was transferred to Galway two years ago. In the interim, Father Dermot Meehan, as Diocesan Administrator, has led the diocese with the greatest dedication and competence, in addition to his responsibilities as Parish Priest of Swinford. I take this opportunity to sincerely thank Father Meehan for his great work over the past two years, for his contribution to the Episcopal Conference and meetings of the Western Bishops.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference said, “I wish to congratulate Bishop-elect Dempsey whom Pope Francis has appointed as the new Bishop of Achonry. His service to the Church, particularly in the areas of youth ministry, communications and on matters concerning faith and culture, is well known and will provide a great foundation for his pastoral leadership as a diocesan bishop.”
Bishop; Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin said, “Since his ordination as a priest in 1997, Father Paul has served the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin with great distinction and dedication, while always demonstrating an immense capacity for work.
“He is a great collaborator with priests and people. Working in one of the largest parishes in our diocese, his many initiatives empowered lay people and encouraged young people. His work expanding the Newbridge Share Food project and reaching out to those living in Direct Provision in the parish has been outstanding.
“Father Paul’s going from Kildare & Leighlin leaves a deep void since his contribution to the diocese has been immense. We will certainly miss him but we are also very proud of his achievement and appointment this day. Today is a great day for Kildare & Leighlin, to see one of our own, with his gifts and potential, recognised by Pope Francis.
“On a personal level Father Paul has been a tremendous support to me. I appointed him Vicar Forane and Diocesan Consultor in 2014 and in those roles he brought great clarity of thought and fresh perspectives. I have every confidence that he will fulfil his new ministry as chief shepherd of Achonry with the same dedication and commitment that has characterised the years of his priestly life. Father Paul can be assured of the prayers, good wishes and support of the entire Kildare & Leighlin family.”
The Episcopal Ordination of the new Bishop of Achonry will take place on Sunday 19 April 2020.