NEW BISHOP OF ACHONRY
Today, January 27th 2020, Pope Francis announces the appointment of Fr Paul Dempsey, Parish Priest of Newbridge, Co. Kildare and a priest of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, as Bishop of Achonry. Locally the announcement was relayed by the Papal Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, at Mass in The Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghderreen. Archbishop Okolo celebrated Mass in the Cathedral to mark Catholic Schools Week 2020. The cathedral welcomed pupils, teachers, members of Boards of Management from the parishes of our diocese as well as local parishioners of Ballaghderreen and neighbouring parishes.
This is a day of great joy for the diocese who has awaited this appointment for almost two years. Fr Dermot Meehan, Parish Priest of Swinford, has during that time led the diocese as its Diocesan Administrator and we are all very grateful to him for his leadership and dedication to that role.
The diocese wishes Bishop-Elect Paul Dempsey every blessing and good wish as he prepares for ordination and to live among us as our bishop and shepherd. We congratulate his family, parishioners in Newbridge and the Bishop, priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, assuring them that our new bishop will be welcomed with joy and assisted in full in this new and blessed chapter of his life.
FR DERMOT MEEHAN, DIOCESAN ADMINISTRATOR ACHONRY
Twelve years ago today, on 27th 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 27th January 2020, the words of that prayer seem particularly appropriate as we welcome the announcement of a new bishop for Achonry. Today, Fr 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 Fr 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.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Okolo, for travelling to our Cathedral in Ballagahderreen today to preside at this Mass for Catholic Schools Week and to announce the appointment of our new bishop. We are greatly honoured by your presence, Your Excellency, and most appreciative of the part you have played over the past two years in the process of appointing our bishop. We look forward to welcoming you to Ballaghaderreen again in the very near future for Bishop-elect Paul’s ordination on Sunday, 19th April.
I also warmly greet Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin who has travelled to support Fr Paul today. I strongly suspect that our gain in Achonry in having Fr Paul as our new bishop is a great loss for the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin and we are grateful that you generously give him to us.
We have had a wonderful celebration here this morning and I am very conscious that such a celebration doesn’t happen without much work by many people. To all who helped prepare today’s liturgy and to all who participated in any way, our sincere thanks.
Finally, a big thank you to our young people here today for attending this Mass with your teachers and other staff members from your schools. We older people look to you in hope, for you are the future of the Church in our parishes. With the good grounding you get in our Catholic schools and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit whom many of you will receive in the sacrament of Confirmation this year, we hope that you will bring your natural enthusiasm and energy to your parish communities in the years ahead.
ARCHBISHOP ÉAMON MARTIN, ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH
In response to this morning’s announcement by Pope Francis, Archbishop Eamon Martin has congratulated Father Paul Dempsey, a priest of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, on his appointment as the new Bishop of Achonry.
Archbishop Eamon Martin 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.”
Archbishop Eamon continued, “Since 2015, Bishop-elect Dempsey has been parish priest of Newbridge – one of the largest and most vibrant parishes in the country. He is known as a hard-working and caring pastor who will no doubt be missed greatly by the people, clergy and religious of his native diocese. The pastoral experience and wisdom he has gained in Kildare & Leighlin will be of huge benefit to him as he takes up the role of shepherd of God’s people in Achonry. I also look forward to his contributions to our discussions at the Episcopal Conference as we move into a new time of mission for the Church in Ireland during the 2020’s. I wish him all God’s blessings as he begins this new chapter of his ministry as Bishop of Achonry.”
Archbishop Eamon also expressed his gratitude to Father Dermot Meehan who had been serving as the Diocesan Administrator of Achonry. He said, “Father Meehan has been very generous in leading the Diocese of Achonry during the interim period since Bishop Kelly’s move to Galway. He has faithfully attended the plenary meetings of the Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth and offered valuable insights to our deliberations which were grounded in the reality of pastoral ministry today in the West of Ireland. Father Meehan has always spoken highly of the priests and people of his diocese and he is clearly a gentle and generous pastor. I thank him for his diligent work at conference level, and for his pastoral leadership as Diocesan Administrator of Achonry, since February 2018.”
ARCHBISHOP MICHAEL NEARY, ARCHBISHOP OF TUAM
I welcome the news today that His Holiness, Pope Francis, has chosen Father Paul Dempsey, of the clergy of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, to be Bishop of Achonry, and I congratulate Father Dempsey on his appointment.
Father Dempsey has garnered a wealth of pastoral experience since his ordination in 1997 through his priestly ministry in Clane, Kildare and most recently as Parish Priest of Newbridge. He has also served as Diocesan Youth Director and Director of Vocations. A gifted communicator, Father Dempsey has hosted a very successful religious affairs programme on KFM Radio, and has also written a regular column in the Leinster Leader newspaper, as well as other media appearances.
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.
BISHOP DENIS NULTY, BISHOP OF KILDARE & LEIGHLIN
I warmly welcome the announcement today that Pope Francis has appointed Father Paul Dempsey, Parish Priest of Newbridge and Vicar Forane of Kildare & Leighlin North Deanery, as Bishop of Achonry.
Father Paul was born in Carlow, moving at the age of eight to Athy. He studied Philosophy in Milltown Institute before entering St. Patrick’s College, Carlow to study for Kildare & Leighlin diocese. He is the first native of Carlow town appointed a Bishop in Ireland in 130 years.
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. His appointments have always been in the more populated Kildare end of the diocese – Clane, Kildare, Naas, Sallins, Two-Mile-House and more recently Newbridge, where he has been Parish Priest since 2015.
In addition to his parish appointments, Father Paul has in the past held responsibility in the areas of youth ministry and vocations. 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.
BISHOP BRENDAN KELLY, BISHOP OF GALWAY
‘I am delighted today with the news that the Holy Father has appointed Father Paul Dempsey as Bishop of Achonry. It is just two years ago since I left Achonry after ten very happy years as bishop there, having been appointed to Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora. Since then the diocese has been in the very capable hands of Father Dermot Meehan as Administrator.
I have no doubt this announcement today will be welcomed with great joy by the people and priests of Achonry. Father Paul will find a deep sense of community amongst the priests and people in Achonry, and a ready willingness to work with him in furthering the vital mission entrusted to us all as God’s people. Father Paul has had wide-ranging and varied pastoral and other experiences in the diocese of Kildare since he was first ordained. These experiences, along with his many personal qualities and qualifications, will have prepared him well for this new responsibility and mission as shepherd of God’s people in Achonry.
Personally, I want to congratulate Father Paul and to assure him of my prayers and any support I can give as he takes on this new role. I look forward very much to welcoming him to the West, and to working with him on the Bishops’ Conference and at our regular meetings of the Western Bishops’.
BISHOP-ELECT PAUL DEMPSEY
I thank you all for your very kind and warm welcome here today – I welcome His Excellency, Archbishop Okolo, my own bishop, Denis Nulty, the Diocesan Administrator, Fr. Dermot Meehan, Fr. Joe Gavigan and Fr. Paul Kivlehan of the Cathedral Parish, the Diocesan Secretary, Fr. Vincent Sherlock, the priests of the Diocese, religious, deacons, the parishioners of the Parish of Ballaghaderreen and people from around the Diocese of Achonry, especially all of the young people, teachers and staff from so many schools throughout the diocese, it is wonderful to see you all and thank you for being here!
As we launch out into Catholic Schools Week, it is so encouraging to see so many young people here today! During my life as a priest I have worked a lot with young people. I have often heard it said that young people are the future of the Church, but we must remember you are not just the future, you are the Church of today! Each one of you is created by God in a unique and special way. He has a special mission in mind for each one of you. You are His disciples! Remember, the world needs Christ, Christ needs you! He needs your energy, your enthusiasm, your generosity. As you share these gifts in the life of the Church, you open up all sorts of new possibilities now and into the future. So, let’s work together to build that future of hope!
Returning to my own story, one of the first questions people tend to ask is “Where are you from?” My own answer to that question is a little complex. I was born in Carlow Town and then, when I was seven, my family moved to Athy in Co. Kildare, where I lived until I was eighteen. So, I normally say I’m originally from Carlow, but spent most of my life in Co. Kildare. Indeed, all of my life as a priest over the past twenty-two years has been spent serving in Co. Kildare. I’m presently working in Newbridge parish, on the edge of the Curragh of Kildare tracing its roots back to the time of St. Brigid who’s Feast Day we will celebrate in a few days, the 1st of February.
Those twenty-two years of service in the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, have brought me immense joy. I have felt loved and supported all throughout the years by my brother priests, parishioners, deacons, friends and religious. They have all helped me to grow as a person and as a priest, enabling me to say today that I love being a priest, despite the many challenges that have been part of the journey for any of us who have travelled this road. As I take a new direction, there is a sadness within me as I leave the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin but I know the love and support I have received there, I bring with me to this new chapter of my life in the Diocese of Achonry.
The beginning of that new chapter started with a phone call from Archbishop Okolo on Monday morning, 16th of December, a phone call that would change my life. Archbishop Okolo and I met later that day and he informed me that Pope Francis wished to appoint me as Bishop of Achonry. I’m still not over the shock! I would like to express my sincere thanks to Archbishop Okolo, firstly for gracing us with his presence here today as Pope Francis’ representative, but also for his welcome, kindness, patience and care shown to me over these past weeks. He has been a true pastor to me for which I am deeply grateful.
To my own Bishop, Denis Nulty, a man who is held in the highest esteem in the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin by priests, deacons, people and religious. His episcopal motto is; “Serve the Lord with Gladness.” His ministry as bishop encapsulates that wholeheartedly as he works tirelessly to share the Gospel every day with all those he meets. Bishop Denis has been unflinching in his care and support of me since he became bishop over six years ago and especially these past few weeks. He has been a true brother and friend, for which I say, thank you.
Fr. Dermot Meehan has been administrating the Diocese since Bishop Brendan Kelly was appointed to Galway almost two years ago. I remember Bishop Brendan today, whose episcopal ordination took place here in this Cathedral on this date, twelve years ago. I wish him every blessing on this his anniversary. Fr. Dermot has been most welcoming to me and I am very grateful to him for giving of himself so generously in service of the people, religious, deacons and priests of the Diocese as well as serving the people in the Parish of Swinford. I look forward to working with him into the future and drawing upon his rich experience and wisdom.
I’m sure you can understand how daunting it is to take on the role of bishop in a new diocese. I’m conscious of my own unworthiness and sinfulness as I take on this role. I ask you to be patient with me as I endeavour to get to know the priests, people, deacons and religious of the diocese in the coming weeks and months. I have a strong connection with the diocese as my brother, Tony lives in Kiltimagh along with his wife Mary and family, a place I have visited many times.
Most of my life as a priest has been in parish ministry as well as youth and vocations work and some local media involvement. I hope the experience gained in these areas will help me in my ministry in the Diocese of Achonry. The Diocese here is steeped in faith going back to the sixth century with its patrons’ Saint Nathy and Saint Attracta. Over the centuries that faith has adapted to changing times and now that faith is in our hands. We need to reflect deeply on how we nourish and hand on that faith today in the midst of many challenging questions. I look forward to us working together as we face those questions and respond to the call of Christ outlined in the Gospel of Luke; “Duc in Altum,” (Luke 5;4) “Put out into the deep.” That call of Christ to “go out” is as real here today in the Diocese of Achonry as it was when Christ first called from the shore.
Pope Francis reflects this when he said in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium;
“Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.” (EG 33).
As we begin this new chapter together may we be “bold and creative” in our task and mission of reaching out to all with the message of Jesus Christ, remembering especially those who have been hurt in any way.
Many thanks for being here today, thank you to all who organised today’s gathering, your work and efforts are very much appreciated. I ask you all to keep me in your prayers as I will remember you in mine.
Every blessing and good wish!
LIFE AND MINISTRY
Father Paul Dempsey was born in Carlow Town on 20 of 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 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. It was during this time that he started a weekly article in the Leinster Leader newspaper. 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. Father Paul also presented a weekly religious and social affairs programme on Kildare FM Radio on Sunday mornings.
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 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.
A DAY IN PICTURES AND SOUND
Bishop-Elect Paul Dempsey
Thanks to Fr Joe Caulfield, one of our priests, who recorded some clips from today’s Mass and Announcement. We will include them here.
Thanks to Carmel Williams (Kilkelly) who took most of these photos. They capture something of the mood of a great gathering. Truly, a day to be remembered with joy.A