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Guided by God of surprises


The ‘God of surprises’ has guided Monsignor Ian Dempsey from the time he joined St Francis Xavier Seminary as a 17 year old in 1961 to his retirement as parish priest of Brighton earlier this month.

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Mgr Dempsey said his life had been one of “giftedness and challenges”.

“God looks after us in ways mostly unknown to us. The God of surprises.”

He said his biggest surprise was God calling him to the priesthood, not something he was thinking of at 16.

“The request by Archbishop Gleeson for me to become a Navy chaplain was the next surprise. This was followed on my return to the Archdiocese by Archbishop Faulkner asking me to be the Vicar General.”

Mgr Dempsey said he had been abundantly blessed in all these ministries, each having its own special pastoral needs.

He said he had been “especially blessed” in his 18 and a half years as parish priest of Brighton, describing this time as a “gift”.

“The parishioners of Brighton have been a wonderful family to be with,” he said.

Born in Adelaide on September 10 1943, Mgr Dempsey went to St Joseph’s primary schools at Kingswood and St Peters, then Christian Brothers College in Wakefield St. He was ordained on September 6 1969 and his first placement was as assistant priest in the Edwardstown parish where he served from 1970 to 1972.

He joined the Royal Australian Navy as chaplain in May 1972 and for 22 years he served with distinction, achieving notable appointments as principal chaplain, Prelate of Honour to his Holiness Pope John Paul II; Vicar General of the Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia; and chairman of the National Council of Priests. He was awarded an AO in 1992.

Mgr Dempsey returned to the Archdiocese in 1994 to take up the position of parish priest of Edwardstown before serving as Vicar General of Adelaide from 1995 to 2000.

Monsignor Dempsey leaves his farewell Mass at St Joseph’s Church, Brighton.

In April 2000 he was appointed parish priest of Brighton which extended to include the parish of Hallett Cove from 2002.

Peter Mercer, chair of the Brighton Parish Pastoral Council, said Mgr Dempsey had provided “exemplary and distinguished service to the Church, the military, the wider community and for the last 18 years, our parish”.

“His wisdom, compassion and sense of humour have been greatly appreciated,” Mr Mercer said.

“He has challenged us all to love one another, to reach out to those in need and to live the life that Christ calls us to live.

“We thank him for his warmth, friendship and for always ensuring we started Mass on time!”

The parish farewelled ‘Mons’ at lunch after his last Mass as parish priest on September 9. The occasion also was a chance to celebrate his 75th birthday.

He has been replaced by Fr Michael Kyumu who was warmly welcomed by Hallett Cove and Brighton parishioners.


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