Bishop Brendan Leahy’s address
Conclusion of the Episcopal Ordination Ceremony,
Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick
14th April 2013
Today has been a wonderful celebration. It is simply impossible to thank adequately everyone who should be thanked.
Firstly, I would like to thank each of you for coming.
You can only imagine how much work has gone into every little detail of what we have seen, heard, touched and experienced today. I’m sure Jesus will say to all concerned: “you do it to me” and he will respond in the way he knows best to each one. Everything has been done with good cheer and so God must be pleased because he loves a cheerful giver.
I want to express my gratitude for all that has been achieved in this diocese over many years under my predecessor Bishop Donal Murray whom I greet warmly. I want also to say “thanks” for all that has been done in these recent three years by the administrator Father Tony Mullins, along with Father Paul Finnerty, Father Eamonn Fitzgibbon and so many of the diocesan offices, agencies and, especially, the clergy.
So now, I and all of us together are beginning again. A new chapter in our diocesan history is opening. I’ll share one or two thoughts on that.
The other day I was eavesdropping on a conversation, one that you too have overheard many times. One person was saying to the other: “I will give you the keys” but then added “I’ll build”…. You might guess the conversation I’m referring to – it was the one between Jesus and Peter that we find in the Gospel. Jesus says to Peter, “on this rock I will build my church” . For me personally as I set out as Bishop of Limerick you can’t imagine what a relief it is to hear Jesus say: “I will build”! He has promised he’ll do his part.
If Jesus builds, what have we to do? Our part is to let Jesus build his Church by our love for one another, giving our contribution so that he can work through us renewing the world we live in. Where should we start? I was struck recently by the words of Pope Francis when he says: “start from the outskirts”. Each of us has regions that are “outskirts” – people who are different from us or who we find hard to get on with; groups that we dislike because they have different views than ours; areas that we simply ignore, causes that we know are right but feel lazy about getting involved in. It’s with trust in Jesus who builds, that we can give our reply to the great question put to Peter in the Gospel: “Do you love me?” “Do you love?” It’s the most profound question in life. In today’s Gospel we have heard an invitation to love “more” and in this way build the Church; and that also means to love more those who are on the outskirts, broken and marginalised.
I know that many will say “but I am only hanging on in faith by my fingernails”. For some it is really difficult to believe. A fellow Irishman, Bono, wrote a song some years ago now. Its words ran something like this: “I have climbed highest mountains; I have run through the fields; Only to be with you, Only to be with you; I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls, These city walls, Only to be with you; But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.
I don’t know what Bono had in mind but these words can be applied to the situation many find themselves in with regard to faith. Moments of difficulty are written into the Christian journey of faith. How many saints and exemplary men and women throughout the centuries have told us about shadowy moments they lived through. We can think of the Irish woman and martyr, Margaret Ball, Teresa of Lisieux, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the philosopher, Simon Weil, the young Jewish woman, Etty Hillesum, the recently beatified teenager, Chiara Luce Badano… We can only imagine how much Mary, Jesus’ mother, went through many trials of faith along her journey.
Darkness in our faith journey can affect us individually but also as a group, as a community, as a Church. We know only too well of how many innocent people suffer terrible darkness because of clerical abuse. I want to make their pain my own and seek forgiveness seventy times seven. It is a deep wound also for all of us.
I have been greatly consoled in getting to know how much has been done in the diocese in the area of child safeguarding. I am deeply indebted to the high professionalism of the many lay men and women involved in our diocesan structures in this regard as in many areas of the diocese. It was good to read the observation made in the Audit by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland that the diocese of Limerick has robust measures in place in the area of child safeguarding and protection.
We know from the Christian spiritual tradition that trials in the life of faith can be a prelude to a new dawn of light and love. Perhaps we can draw inspiration from another conversation Jesus had, this time with Philip in John’s Gospel. In reply to Philip who asked him to show us God the Father, Jesus says: “to those who love me I will reveal myself” and so we will discover God. In other words, love has eyes. Love gives light. To those of us hanging on by our fingernails, we are invited to hang on in there, and keep on loving, looking around for those “outskirt” people, areas and projects that we can reach out to in love. Jesus said: “Whatever you do to the least you do to me”. If we love those on the outskirts – and these can be people close to us too, like members of our family, or work colleagues, Jesus promises we will have light. He repeated this often – he would give light to those who go outside themselves to love him in the least, in the poor, in the neighbour, in the wounded: “those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them” (Jn 14:20).
I want to thank the whole diocese, parishes and religious communities for the great outpouring of prayer to the Holy Spirit for me and the diocese in recent months. I thank especially the young people and their teachers for their daily prayers. I am greatly humbled by all the encouragement that has surrounded me in these days and weeks.
I now feel I am a Limerick man! Limerick is beautiful. I’ll have to start wearing the Limerick colours!
I am proud to be bishop of this great diocese with such an ancient history. As a diocese we want to do our part also today to make all of Limerick even greater, as I believe and hope we do, day in, day out, in countless communities of faith and love in parishes, religious orders, communities and movements, schools, hospitals and social initiatives. In so many ways, people are replying positively to Jesus’ question: “do you love me?” Today let’s renew our love of him even more; let’s bridge to make Limerick even more beautiful, so that others will come and see Jesus living among us.”