|Fr. Richard Joseph Dempsey passed away
on Thursday, February 4, 2016. Fr. Dempsey was the Pastor Emeritus of
Most Holy Redeemer Parish in Evergreen Park and he died in Bonita
Springs, Florida, where he was retired. He was 83 years old.
Fr. “Dick” Dempsey, as he was more commonly known, was born in Chicago on September 30, 1932. He attended St. Christina and St. Cajetan Schools in Chicago and Quigley Preparatory Seminary. Fr. Dempsey graduated from the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary, receiving his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He also did post-graduate studies in Psychology at Loyola University Chicago. Later, while on active duty as a U.S. Naval Chaplain, he earned a PhD in Psychology from the United States International University in San Diego, California. Fr. Dempsey was ordained into the priesthood on April 12, 1958, by Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago.
Fr. Dempsey served as Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Chicago (1958-65); St. Sebastian Parish on Dayton Street, which was closed in 1990 (1965-66); Holy Family Parish in North Chicago, closed in 1991 (1969-80); and St. Victor Parish in Calumet City (1989-91). During this time, he served as Chaplain of the Area 7 Catholic Youth Organization and Kelvyn Park High School (1960-64). In 1966, Fr. Dempsey went into the Navy Marine Corps. With the U.S. Marines, his tours of duty included Vietnam, Okinawa, Marine Corps Recruit Depot and San Diego. During his time with the U.S. Navy, his tours of duty included the Philippines, the USS Constellation Aircraft Carrier, San Diego, Monterey and the Great Lakes.*
In 1991, he was named Pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Parish in Evergreen Park, serving in that capacity until his retirement in 2003, when he was named Pastor Emeritus.
Rev. Edward McLaughlin, retired Archdiocesan priest, was close friends with Fr. Dempsey. He recalled, “Fr. Dempsey laughed a lot and was a fun-loving man.” He continued, “He was proud of his over twenty years in the military as a Navy chaplain. He was a dedicated man and pastor, who spoke very highly of the people he worked with and served. He was very generous and he was a White Sox fan.”
Paul O’Toole, Fr. Dempsey’s brother-in-law, shared a different perspective about Fr. Dempsey and the priesthood. “Chicago priests ordained in the late 1950s were the direct successors of earlier Chicago priests trained in the tradition of the social gospel, formulated during the Great Depression and World War II by Pope Pius XI, and priests of Chicago who have since become legendary.” He continued, “Dick began his ministry less than a year before St. John XXIII’s call for an ‘Aggiornamento,’ a spray of sunlight to shine through the windows of the Church. All who have known Fr. Dick Dempsey experienced a ray of this sunlight up until Dick’s last day on earth.”
Interment is at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip.
Fr. Dempsey is survived by his brothers, Msgr. Thomas Dempsey of the Rockford Diocese, Donald “Duke” Dempsey and sisters, Deanne (Paul) O’Toole, Sally Dempsey, Kathleen Moyer and Sister Dorothy “Dot” Dempsey, O.P.