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Emma Dempsey

Described as “one of our most committed and reliable volunteers, someone who never hesitates to step forward to assist with Justice and Peace efforts,” Emma Dempsey is a force to be reckoned with. A parishioner at St. Francis since 1993, Emma has been a prolific volunteer, “I’ve gone through everything,” she says with a smile. On the Parish Council for three years, working in Faith Formation when her children were enrolled, involved in the Women’s Network back in 1998, and time spent volunteering with ‘Social Concerns,’ which became what is now the ‘Justice and Peace ministries’ at St. Francis, her time was full. At one point, she had 18 different ‘Advocacy Ministries’ under her in ‘Social Concerns’. Still, that was not enough; she also started working with a medical mission to her home, the Philippines, outside of the parish ministry envelope, supported by the Diocese of Raleigh and Msgr. Jerry Lewis in 2001, and she has been a leader in that effort since 2003. Now, she organizes missions with dozens of volunteers going to the Philippines annually. 

Where did this dedication to service begin? “I did a lot of traveling and moving around with my husband,” she says, “and all five of my children were each born in a different state!” Those moves separated her from her extended family, so she found a different connection through her faith. “Whenever I moved to a new place, I joined a church; because my family wasn’t there, the Church became my family.”  Fortunately for St. Francis, she landed here in 1993 and found a home. While busy as an ESL teacher at Duke, NCSU, and Wake Tech, she still dedicated much time to service. 

She spends much time now in the ‘Panera Food Gathering’ ministry, a part of the Panera Bread’s Day-End Dough Nation Program, to assist Our Lady of the Rosary Food Pantry or the Durham Center for Senior Life. This ministry’s focus is to feed those in need in our community with dignity and to be good stewards of God’s resources. She laughs when she recalls that in the program’s first two years, it was mostly her ‘Philippine crew,’ parishioners at St. Francis, because “I can force them to participate!” While self-deprecating, her involvement is all about her faith. “It is important,” she says, “to be Christ to others and do acts of mercy and Jesus’s work; to be an example by serving other people and modeling for family and friends.”