Parishioners of a Roman Catholic church in Burnsville are mourning the death of their spiritual leader, who was hit by a motorist and killed while riding his bike in Rosemount.
Risen Savior Church announced Tuesday that the Rev. Dennis Dempsey, who came to the parish only three months ago, was the bicyclist who was traveling on the shoulder when he struck about 3:20 p.m. Monday by a car on westbound County Road 42 near W. 145th Street. By the time police officers arrived, Dempsey was already dead.
The motorist, Trejean D. Curry, 26, of Minneapolis, was arrested at the scene and jailed on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide in connection with driving in a grossly negligent manner.
Court records show that at the time of the crash, Curry was driving after having his license revoked. He's been convicted of 10 times for that offense in the past 3½ years.
"We know this comes as a complete shock, and [we] all join together in prayer for Father Denny, his family and for our Risen Savior parish," read a notice on Facebook from the house of worship. "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."
Parish communications director Marianne Brass said Dempsey often rode his bike to the church from the rectory about a mile away in Apple Valley.
"We compared him to the Energizer Bunny," Brass said. "He never stops. ... Riding his bike was what he loved to do."
Dempsey, 73, came to Risen Savior in July after doing missionary work in Venezuela for two years, said Before that, the Minneapolis native was at the Church of St. Dominic in Northfield for 15 years after a seven-year missionary stint in Venezuela.
"Everyone thought he was going to retire when he left Northfield," Brass said. "He told the archbishop he was going to do missionary work in Venezuela. ... That was his passion."
Risen Savior is one of the larger parishes in the Twin Cities, with at least 2,300 families, said Dave Hutton, a member for 20 years and one of the parish's trustees.
Hutton said the number of Latin families is growing and on the verge of reaching a 50-50 split between English and Spanish speakers.
"That was one of Father Denny's focuses was unifying the English-speaking and Latin communities," Hutton said.
As prosecutors considered charging Curry, Risen Savior's leadership was receiving guidance from Twin Cities Archbishop Bernard Hebda and his staff on how to continue serving its worshipers after losing their only priest.
One of the first steps for Hebda is to name an interim pastor, Risen Savior disclosed in its announcement of Dempsey's death.
Events at Risen Savior on Saturday and Sunday meant to be a welcoming for Dempsey "will shift to an opportunity for us to gather and remember our beloved pastor," the announcement continued.
"His energy and his love was infectious," Hutton said. "It didn't matter where you were from or what your background was. He had a special affinity for the marginalized."
Brass said parishioners soon came to admire Dempsey's ability to tell a story, among them his recounting of when he set off on a 165-mile bike ride from Prior Lake to Lake Okoboji in Iowa many years ago with $10 in his pocket.
"About 75 miles into my journey, I had spent all my money and was worn out," Dempsey wrote in a Risen Savior bulletin. "Reality was beginning to set in. Around 5:30 p.m. I still had 50 miles to go. I was coming down a long hill into Trimont, Minnesota, when a kid on a motorcycle rode out of town, up the hill, turned around and came alongside of me. 'Are you hungry?' he asked. 'I sure am,' I replied."
Dempsey arrived at the kid's home where his parents had earlier spotted him outside of Mankato, made dinner and waited for him He dined on a pork chop dinner and packed up sandwiches they made for him to last the entire journey.
"I reached my destination around 11:30 p.m. with a full stomach and a grateful heart," Dempsey wrote. " "I learned a lot that day. I learned that I could do 100 miles a day. ... But most of all, I learned, as did the disciples whom Jesus sent out two by two without food or money, to have faith that somehow God will provide through his angels and living saints like that family in Trimont."