Alumni Association of The Pontifical North American College

Fall Richard Dempsey

REV. RICHARD DEMPSEY

ICTE 2001 FALL

 

Rev. Richard J. Dempsey was one of eight children of Myrtle and George Dempsey, a police officer whose favorite job was being assigned close enough to Comiskey Park to hear the crowds cheer. To the Dempsey kids, the center of the world was Kennedy Park at 113th and Western. After long hours on the basketball court, Dick and his older brother, George, would buy a gallon of milk and chug the whole thing.

“We went there every day,” Duke Dempsey said. “We had no money, but we had more fun than you could shake a stick at.”

Dick Dempsey graduated from St. Cajetan’s grade school and went to Quigley Preparatory Seminary. “He always wanted to be a priest,” his brother said.

After completing his studies at Mundelein Seminary, he was assigned to the Chicago parishes of Our Lady of Grace and St. Sebastian. In 1966, then-Archbishop John Cody called him in and said the military needed chaplains, according to Duke Dempsey: “He told him to join the service, and Dick said he’d prefer not to. He said, ‘You don’t have a choice.’ ’’

Rev. Dempsey organized support groups for military families whose husbands and fathers were on tours of duty.

In 1985, he was a spokesman for his family when his brother, Msgr. Thomas Dempsey, was among hostages taken captive by terrorists on TWA Flight 847 while returning from a trip to the Holy Land and held for a two-week ordeal in Beirut. One hostage, Navy diver Robert Stethem, was shot to death and thrown onto the tarmac. The hijackers thought Thomas Dempsey — who’s now a monsignor in the Rockford Diocese — was in the military because of his khaki pants.

“Tom was trying to convince them he was a priest,” Duke Dempsey said.

Rev. Dempsey’s other assignments included Holy Family in North Chicago and St. Victor in Calumet City. In 1991, he became the pastor of Most Holy Redeemer in Evergreen Park, the site of his funeral. He was named pastor emeritus when he retired in 2003 but kept ”marryin’ and buryin’  “if friends requested it, his sister said.

He loved rooting for Notre Dame and spending time with his family, which includes three more sisters, Deanne O’Toole, Sally Dempsey and Kathleen Moyer, as well as 10 nieces and nephews and about 25 grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

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