By Caroline Cummings

BURNSVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) – A Catholic congregation in Burnsville is grieving after their priest was killed by a driver Monday afternoon while riding his bicycle.

Father Denny Dempsey, 73, died after being struck by a car in Rosemount, near the intersection of County Road 42 and 145th Street West. First-responders pronounced Dempsey dead at the scene and a person has not been charged in connection to the incident.

The life and legacy of Father Denny, as he’s known, looms large in his faith community, which is heartbroken by the sudden loss. He was a priest for 41 years, serving in Minnesota parishes and two missions to Venezuela. He spent 15 years at St. Dominic in Northfield before going back to South America and then returning to Church of the Risen Savior, where he was pastor for just four months.

“He gave an example to everyone on how to be a better human being,” said Kevin Rotty, director of liturgy and music at the Church of the Risen Savior. “The hardest sorrow is regretting what could have been.”

Rotty described Dempsey as a generous person with boundless energy freely given to everyone he encountered. Condolences, he said, are coming in from all over the world. Hundreds participated in a vigil remembering him on Tuesday night.

Dempsey died doing something that he loved: biking. He was an avid cyclist who at a time even biked with a friend across the country.

“It’s hard to grapple with the guy can make it across the country on a bicycle only to meet his maker on a road in Rosemount,” Rotty said.

A 26-year-old man with a long history of speeding and driving with a revoked license was arrested and questioned, but the man has since been released pending further investigation. WCCO does not typically name suspects until they’ve been formally charged.

In trying to process the tragedy, Rotty said he is leaning on the congregation and the words of scripture to be read at this Sunday’s Mass resonate with him: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“I can only think that Denny would encourage us to include that driver as our neighbor as well, as someone who deserves to be forgiven,” he said.

St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Northfield will hold a vigil in his honor on Friday evening. A funeral Mass is set for Saturday at the Church of the Risen Savior.

Caroline Cummings