Episcopal Ordination Address by Bishop Francis Duffy
Ordination – Sunday 6th October
The Episcopal Ordination will take place in St Mary’s Church, Athlone, Co. Westmeath at 3.00pm on Sunday 6th October. The church, opened in 1861, has served as a Pro-Cathedral for the diocese since the destruction of St. Mel’s Cathedral by fire in 2009. It is home to the cathedra which was designed for St Mel’s Cathedral in 1891. Fr. Francis will be the sixth Bishop of the Diocese to have used it.
The Principal Consecrator will be Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, assisted by the Apostolic Nuncio, Most Rev. Charles J. Brown and Most Rev. Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois. Fr. Peter Burke, Parish Priest of Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, will give the homily.
Ordination Address by Bishop Francis Duffy
Some weeks ago the children in a school in the parish where I was working drew congratulation cards for me. One in particular caught my eye. It had a dark storm cloud with a yellow zigzag fork of lightening coming from it. The teacher asked what was the significance of the streak of lightening; the reply was ‘when we heard the news we got a shock’. I thank the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, for imparting that shock with great gentleness and encouragement in July! I thank him also for his steady support ever since.
During today’s ceremony Bishop Colm passed on the Bishop’s staff, symbolising the role of the shepherd caring for his people. I thank him for his warm welcome, his encouragement and his kindness to me over the last two months. I am conscious that I am following in the footsteps of a very caring and pastoral leader. Bishop Colm’s wise counsel and assistance have been invaluable to me. May I add that he is a much loved pastor of deep faith, strong substance and compassion, and we are all greatly indebted to him for his selfless service to the diocese comprising over 30 years as bishop and 23 years as priest.
I am particularly glad that a fellow Cavan man and former Kilmore priest and a former teacher, Cardinal Seán Brady is here with us today as the principal ordaining prelate. I thank him for his leadership and for his gentle and thoughtful support.
I thank all those who helped to organise this ceremony and all who participated in this beautiful liturgy of ordination. I thank our outstanding choir. Thanks to the diocesan office and the committee here in Athlone for coordinating all the plans: invitations and publications, stewarding and car parking. It is very heartening to witness the enthusiasm and care with which they have prepared today’s event. I am very grateful to them individually and collectively. In my address in July I mentioned that the diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois has a long and proud history and that it is also a modern diocese. So it is good that modern IT enables many to follow the ceremony on the Internet and also in ‘The Little Theatre’ next door and in the Cathedral Centre, Longford. I thank iCatholic and the Dominican students for making this possible.
I wish to take this opportunity welcome the listeners of Shannonside / Northern Sound Radio, and to thank the station for broadcasting today’s Ordination Mass. I also wish to acknowledge Midlands 103 for reporting on today’s ceremony. And, I welcome all local and national media representatives here today and I look forward to a long and fruitful working relationship with you all.
I am very happy that many significant people in my life are here today. My mother and my family members, my friends, priests of Kilmore led by Bishop Leo, who for me has been an inspirational leader. Also here are the religious, colleagues from the schools in which I worked and friends from the communities where I lived; people from Laragh, Carrickallen and Clifferna, where I served in the last four years, classmates, and the stalwarts from the diocesan office in Cavan and in Longford. I welcome the bishops who have come to the centre of Ireland for today’s ceremony. I also greet the representatives of the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church.
The motto I chose is from St John’s Gospel ‘I have come that they may have life’. I chose it because each human life is so important. In thinking of life we inevitably think of those who matter to us. Ordinary daily life, around the kitchen table, at work, at recreation, with all its joys, pressures and possibilities, is where our faith and ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ can bring the glow of hope that can transform our actions and our living. Today happens to be ‘Day for Life’ with the theme ‘Care for Life: It’s Worth It’. This is a pastoral letter to the faithful of Ireland from the bishops. It holds up the vision that no person should ever be marginalised or set aside. When I think of life I think of the great ability we can have to lift hearts and especially the hearts of those who are in dark places, maybe facing difficult choices or feeling abandoned, alone or of little worth or struggling financially, as many are. I think of those whose passion for life and whose sensitivity to others conveys the message that life is worth living, the message of Jesus Christ.
I share the country’s shock and repulsion concerning the attacks on the innocent children here in this town as they played last weekend. My prayer today is for the young victims, their families and local communities.
Finally, I end where I hope to begin, with the priests and people of Ardagh and Clonmacnois. Two years ago an open-day was held at St Mel’s Cathedral. Several thousand passed through, many were tearful and sad to see the devastation that had been visited on their local church, their Cathedral. On Sunday last up to five thousand people came to visit St Mel’s Cathedral. The mood was different, more upbeat and hopeful because progress was visible and a restoration in sight. The plans for the future are in good hands with Bishop Colm and the Restoration Project Committee and we all look forward to the reopening at the end of next year. For me it is an immense privilege and joy to be bishop of this wonderful diocese. I thank the people of Ardagh and Clonmacnois for the welcome I have received. There are representatives here from the forty-one parishes of the diocese. I greet you warmly and look forward to being with you in your parishes. On Tuesday last I met the clergy as a group; I thank them for their friendly and hearty welcome. I am eager to continue and build on the good work that the faithful and talented clergy of this diocese and their parish communities have accomplished.
I conscious that I need to listen, and to engage with the priests, people and religious so that together and with God’s help we can continue to build up the ‘People of God’ in Ardagh and Clonmacnois. I look forward with great joy and enthusiasm to joining with you and to working and living among you in our mission of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
St Mel, pray for us. St Ciarán, pray for us.