Diocesan News

Priest’s Final Ministry Was A Labor of Encounter

By Father Bob Blauvelt

This is a tribute to the late Msgr. Michael Dempsey, who died earlier this year.

It’s not about me – I’m just one of the 18 retired priests in the diocese that he visited every week. Mike and I got to know each other at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, and then later when we were both residing at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs rectory in Forest Hills.

We belonged to a support group for priests. He was one of the pioneers when this group was started 20 years ago. We said evening prayer and ate dinner together and then shared for one hour. He was definitely the leader who made the sharing flow.

Years later and after medical advice, I moved from Bishop Mugavero Residence, Douglaston, to Queen of Peace Residence, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Queens Village. I was put on Mike’s list of priests to visit and he visited me at 1 p.m. every Wednesday for the next 14 months.

It’s interesting how Mike developed this ministry. A recent article in The Tablet spelled out how things changed for him – a radical change – followed by reinstatement to the priesthood.

As a counselor and a priest, I have seen people shut down in this situation, close themselves off from the world and sadly go through much pain. Not Mike! He saw a need and his ministry grew.

Before I made my move to Queen of Peace, I was privileged to accompany Mike on some of his visits. He showed the zeal of a newly ordained priest. His goal was to affirm each priest and he did!

Our personal visits at Queen of Peace were good and relaxing. He always had copies of Catholic magazines and the bulletin from a parish he had visited. We talked about the latest in the church, the diocese, the country and the world – all of which he loved.

Lately, the themes changed. We talked about the different ways that God is working on us to prepare us for meeting Christ and how fortunate we were to know about Him.

At our last Wednesday session, he suddenly suggested that we go to confession to each other – and we did! Then Mike said, “You won’t see me for two Wednesdays because I’m going to visit my brother in Florida.” He later called me to remind me about his plans.

Then I heard that he went to face the Lord – suddenly – not planned. My grief is real; yet my hope for him is also real. A very good priest with whom I had the honor to spend time.

He will be missed.