David Trinko: Unexpected move for an area priest

At this point in his life, Father Dennis Walsh looked forward to a slower pace of life.

“I mean, at this point in my priesthood, I was looking at a quieter parish without the administrative load,” Walsh, 58, said. “So that was kind of the horizon that I was looking at.”

As they say, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.

Walsh, a Lima native, settled down Sunday, June 9 to relax after a full Sunday of saying Mass at his parishes in Delphos, Landeck and Spencerville. He received a call from the papal nuncio that changed his life. Pope Francis wanted him to become the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.

Walsh was in Iowa last week for the announcement when it became public knowledge. He’ll be installed Sept. 27. When he returned to work in Delphos last Thursday, he urged people to keep calling him “Father Dennis,” instead of the more formal title of “Bishop-elect” that the people in Iowa used after the announcement.

So now, instead of thinking he had three years left to serve those three local churches, he has about two months.

“It’s a bit of a panic,” Walsh said. “You don’t want to leave undone for the next guy. So there’s a sense of urgency to get things done.”

Walsh became pastor at St. John the Evangelist Church in Delphos and St. John the Baptist Church in Landeck in 2015. He added the pastor duties at St. Patrick Church in Spencerville in 2016.

As he looks back, he hopes he brought some stability into a difficult situation. The bishop removed the previous pastor in Delphos and Landeck, David Reinhart, in 2014 following allegations of inappropriate relationships with adult women. The pastor before that missed substantial time while on sabbaticals.

In Walsh’s time, the churches’ financial situation improved, to the point they’re starting a youth ministry program.

“As I look back, I think there’s a sense of stability not only for the life of the parish but also stability in terms of finances,” Walsh said. “I think they’ve done a very good job of having a strong financial institution here that’s certainly able to withstand the future. That wasn’t how I found it, so I am grateful for that.”

Now he’s on to a new, unexpected challenge. He said he preferred being in the “backyard of life,” so the attention of being named a bishop was unexpected.

During his introductory press conference, he seemed to win over the locals, both by answering a Spanish-speaking reporter’s question in Spanish and by sharing his love for attending fairs and festivals. He’s already receiving invitations to go to various festivals, even before he moves to Iowa and becomes the bishop there.

“I’m told that in Iowa, they’re famous for all their food on a stick, so if you can put it on a stick it’s going to be served at a county fair in Iowa,” Walsh said. “I like the rural life. As I mentioned at my press conference, rural communities have a real sense of community and maintaining the faith. They’re pretty devout in their Catholic faith, and I’m happy I’ll still be in a rural area.”


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.