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New Bishop speaks of fragmented, fearful lives

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Bishop Dempsey greeting his aunts Margaret Butterly and Kathleen Lenehan as they admire his episcopal ring after the ceremony

Bishop Dempsey greeting his aunts Margaret Butterly and Kathleen Lenehan as they admire his episcopal ring after the ceremony

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Okolo laying his hands on the new Bishop

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Okolo laying his hands on the new Bishop

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Bishop Dempsey greeting his aunts Margaret Butterly and Kathleen Lenehan as they admire his episcopal ring after the ceremony

County Kildare native, Paul Dempsey has ben installed as the Bishop of Achonry.

The Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Paul took place in the Cathedral of the Annunciation and Saint Nathy, Ballaghaderreen, on Sunday 30 August.

In normal circumstances such a ceremony would take place before a packed congregation but 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.

Following his consecration Bishop Dempsey told the congregation that there were so many people who had made the day possible in very difficult circumstances with the Covid situation.

"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 his motto Bishop Dempsey explained: "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.

"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."

Father 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 on 6 July 1997.

Father Paul's first appointment was as curate in Clane & Rathcoffey Parish while his last parish posting was on 1 September 2015, when he was appointed PP of Newbridge and Administrator of Caragh and Prosperous Parishes. On 27 January 2020, he was appointed Bishop of Achonry by Pope Francis.

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