What the pandemic denies us, technology makes up

What the pandemic denies us, technology makes up Bishop-elect Fr Paul Dempsey

During the week we re-scheduled a date for First Holy Communion. It is another re-scheduled date in a year of cancellations, postponements, and disappointments. The hope is that the new date will go ahead and that the day the children have waited for will come, be lived, enjoyed and forever remembered. That, of course, remains to be seen.

On a webcam in May, I spoke to the children on the day we had originally planned to celebrate their First Holy Communion.

A few days earlier I had invited them to send me in some pictures that I might use at the Mass. They did so, and their work was precious.

Among the pictures was one that looked like a snake. I struggled to find the connection but then realised it was not a snake, but a shawl spread out over the ground.

There was a small, matchstick woman, holding it and a speech bubble from her mouth: “Now can I have my piece of land?”


I realised that the image was of St Brigid and that the ‘snake’ was her cloak and that it all went back to the legend of the chieftain telling her he would give her as much land as her cloak would cover. She spread it out, the legend goes, over Co. Kildare.

That cloak from Co. Kildare reaches across Ireland this weekend and, at 3pm on Sunday, August 30, it goes all the way to the sanctuary of the Cathedral of the Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen when Fr Paul Dempsey, a priest of Kildare and Leighlin, will be ordained the bishop of Achonry.

Paul comes to our diocese from Newbridge where he served for the past six years. He is welcome! May his cloak gently cover our diocese as he makes it his home.

By Sunday evening our diocese will have a new bishop. He will truly need his friends as he begins this journey”

Like our First Holy Communicants, this was not to be Paul’s day. That was planned for April 19, but his script too was re-written in the ink of Covid-19. There was disappointment around that, of course, and some difficult decisions too.

Most of these were around people and letting them know that guidelines and restrictions meant a reduced attendance at the ceremony and that people who were to be there, were asked not to come.

For Paul, I have no doubt, this was especially difficult. It was not easy for the diocese either, but the safety of people had to be the concern.

By Sunday evening our diocese will have a new bishop. He will truly need his friends as he begins this journey. New friends to be made in the parishes that make up our diocese, new friends among the priests and religious of Achonry, new friends among his neighbours in our Western Province but he will truly need the old friends as well. Those who know him best will have a vital role to play.


That cloak of friendship will need to be fully unfurled now, to cover the ground – the Holy Ground of Ministry.

The ordination ceremony will be streamed live on achonrydiocese.org and all are truly welcome. What the roads deny, what the numbers dictate, what the pandemic demands must be respected but there is a place today for a virtual presence, a meaningful prayer and the spreading out, from east to west, of the shawl of friendship.

Off the record…

A man was ordained a bishop and, at the reception, he told two jokes that went down very well. Afterwards, a journalist commented on this and said it was quite unusual to hear a bishop tell a joke. He said it was refreshing. The bishop agreed but went on to say that they were the only two jokes he had and that he would use them again so he asked the journalist not to include them.

Next day the report spoke of the ordination, who was there, what happened and what was said.

The report concluded with a reference to the bishop’s jokes: “At the reception the bishop told two jokes but unfortunately we cannot reprint them here.”