Man who died after car hit him while bicycling identified as Burnsville priest

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A south metro priest was killed while riding his bicycle Monday, according to church leaders.

Dennis "Denny" Dempsey, a priest at Church of the Risen Savior, was killed when a car hit him while he was riding his bike at about 3:23 p.m. Monday near County Road 42 and 145th Street West.

A man is in custody in relation to the incident, police said. As of Tuesday afternoon, no official charges have been filed.

"To learn of that sudden loss of life is just shocking," church trustee Dave Hutton said. "He treated every single person he met, regardless of where they were from or what their background was, as a child of God."

Hutton said Dempsey was known to take long bike rides and was simply outside getting exercise on Monday when he was hit and killed.

"For a 72-year-old priest, he had the energy of a 35- or 40-year-old," Hutton said. "He would go out for 40-, 50-mile bike rides without even thinking about it. He loved to hike in the woods, he loved to kayak, he loved to help other people with projects. He was just a very serving and giving person."

According to the church, Dempsey was ordained 41 years ago, serving many years as a parish priest in St. Paul and Northfield. He then served seven years as a missionary in Venezuela. He started at Church of the Risen Savior in Burnsville just this past July.

"We have a very vibrant English and Latino community in our parish and Father Denny, being bilingual and having his missionary experience in Venezuela, was making beautiful strides in helping to unify and bring those communities together," Hutton said.

Just a few hours before his death, Dempsey posted on the church website in a section called "Father Denny’s Reflections," sharing passages about loving God and loving your neighbor. Church leaders said Dempsey did both on a daily basis.

"If more of us would live our lives with the love he displayed, this world would be a better place," Hutton said.

Since Dempsey was only a few months into his new assignment, his church had planned to do a welcome gathering for him this weekend. The church said that will now be a remembrance event.

Church of the Risen Savior hosted a prayer vigil in memory of Father Denny Tuesday night.

Visitation has been scheduled at St. Dominic Church in Northfield from 4-8 p.m. Friday. A vigil will also take place Friday at St. Dominic starting at 7 p.m.

Church of the Risen Savior will then have visitation from 9-10:30 a.m. on Saturday before a 10:30 a.m. mass. Burial will follow at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights.

The church also posted the following in memory of Dempsey:

Dear members of the Church of the Risen Savior,

It is with heavy hearts that we need to share some very sad news. We learned Monday evening that Father Denny Dempsey had been riding his bike in Rosemount, as he so loved to do. He was struck by a motor vehicle and did not survive the impact.

The church will be open this evening from 6:30 to 8:30 with a prayer vigil beginning at 7:00 p.m.

We know this comes as a complete shock and all join together in prayer for Father Denny, his family and for our Risen Savior parish. At this point, we have many more questions than answers. Archbishop Hebda and his staff are already actively engaged in supporting us as we only begin to discern our path forward. The Archbishop will name a Parochial Administrator as soon as possible to serve as interim pastor for our parish.

As would be Father Denny’s wish, we will continue scheduled parish activities as planned. A previously planned welcome event for Father Denny this coming weekend, October 30 & 31, will shift to an opportunity for us to gather and remember our beloved pastor. Father Matthew Malek will preside at the 5:00, 9:00 and 11:00 Masses and help us process this loss. Mass in Spanish will also be celebrated at 1:00 p.m. as usual. Following all masses we will gather for fellowship, remembrance and snacks.

We will communicate funeral arrangements for Father Denny as they become available.

We are in the process of filling in gaps for future weekends, funerals, weddings, etc. and will keep you all updated as things develop. Feel free to contact parish staff with questions (952) 431-5222.

We are all significantly affected by this sudden loss. We will live our faith, knowing God will provide. We will continue on the path forward that Father Denny set and rally as one Risen Savior community.