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Sunday August 30th, 2020 – Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy

I remember my first visit to the Cathedral here, it was back on a chilly day in mid-January.  Fr. Dermot Meehan, the Diocesan administrator, brought me along to see it.  We parked at the front of the Cathedral and walked around by the side.  As we walked around the first thing Fr. Dermot pointed out was where the bishops are buried!  A sobering thought in case I got ahead of myself!  In a similar vein, while reading the history of the diocese, I came across a bishop who came to Achonry, transferred from Killala Diocese, in the late 18th Century.  It was observed that he was “very elderly, toothless and goutish…”  I still have my full set of teeth and to the best of my knowledge, I don’t suffer from gout, so I hope things are looking up!

Many years ago, I came across an important saying that went; “Gratefulness is the heartbeat of prayer.”  It is certainly the heartbeat of my prayer here today!  I give thanks to God for my family, friends, Bishop Denis, the priests & people of Kildare and Leighlin Diocese and the parishes I had the privilege to serve in.  I am truly grateful for your love and support.

To those who have become part of my story since December last; Archbishop Okolo, the Papal Nuncio, for his support and encouragement and for representing Pope Francis here today.

Archbishop Neary, for leading us in the Ordination and the bishops of the Western Province.  They have been so welcoming to me and I look forward to working together over the coming years.

Rev. Andrea Wills, representing the Church of Ireland Community.

Fr. Dermot Meehan, who administrated the Diocese in the absence of a bishop.  Fr. Dermot has put in many hours of hard work and effort.  He has been a tremendous support to me and has offered his wisdom and guidance, which is very much appreciated.

There are so many people who have made today possible, people who have worked very hard to bring it all together in very difficult circumstances with the Covid situation;

Fr. Vincent Sherlock for his homily, as always words chosen beautifully, a gift he has and is so generous in sharing it.

Fr. Martin Henry, our Master of Ceremonies.  Fr. Joe and Fr. Paul in the Cathedral and the team with them, our sacristan, stewards and all who worked hard in the background, your time and efforts are truly appreciated.

To our Choir and Organist, Antionette Byrne under the direction of Maria Moynihan.  Our traditionalist musicians Grainne Horan and Fr. James McDonagh and also Fr. Tommy Towey.  Thank you all for making our ceremony so prayerful and special.

Sr. Pat and Bernie at Bishop’s House, thank you for all the extra work and effort over recent weeks and months.

Because of the various restrictions and lockdown, the importance of our virtual presence became all the more important for those watching in from home.  We are socially distant, but spiritually close.  For enabling this to happen I thank Fr. Bill Kemmy and the team at iCatholic and Brendan Nugent for his assistance.

To the Priests and people of Achonry Diocese, thank you for your warm welcome.  I look forward to meeting you in the coming weeks and working together into the future.

The world has changed radically since we gathered here on the 27th of January for the announcement of my appointment. None of us could have imagined how the Pandemic, in the blink of an eye, could change our lives in such a profound way.  Many lives have become fragmented, uncertain, somewhat fearful.  It’s all a bit wearisome.

However, I wonder does the present moment pose an opportunity for the Church? Perhaps in this moment of uncertainty we have the chance to look to something or someone greater than ourselves, someone who is there for us no matter what, someone who says to us in the midst of trials and tribulations; “Do not be afraid!” Perhaps this crisis nudges us to reflect upon our relationship with Christ and with one another.

When a priest is appointed bishop, he normally chooses a motto, it is something that gives a focus to his ministry.  I chose “Duc in Altum,” meaning “Put out into the deep.”  It is taken from Luke 5:4. In that passage, Peter and the disciples were wearisome, fed up, tired… perhaps a bit like ourselves at this time!  But it is in that very moment Jesus appears to them on the shore.  He sees things differently! He sees an opportunity in the moment.  He invites them, challenges them to “Put out into the deep water…”

We’re all familiar with the story and what happens, but we must be careful not to reduce this to Jesus simply asking them to try again! He wasn’t telling them to try again, he was inviting them, asking them, challenging them to go farther out into unchartered waters.  He wanted them to go beyond what was familiar and safe to a place they had never gone before!  Not only that, dropping their nets in that deep place involved more work, more energy, more effort than staying by the safe shoreline.

Surely this must resonate with us in the Church today.  Perhaps we have become satisfied with the shoreline, the place that is familiar and safe?  Or do we hear that call of Christ in a renewed way today to the Church; “Go out, go out into the deep…”

We can all agree that this is not an easy task, we too like the disciples can find ourselves wearisome, fearful, tired.  But it was in the midst of all these struggles, that very moment that Jesus appeared and called his disciples!  He doesn’t stand at the shoreline calling to us from a distance, he has climbed into the boat with us!

My vision, my hope, my dream for the Diocese of Achonry, is that we, the people, priests, religious and bishop, listen to that call of Christ in a renewed way today.  Let’s not be prisoners of mediocrity, but agents of hope, going out into the deep, the unchartered waters with, as Pope Francis put it, “The Joy of the Gospel!”  Let us not be held back by the voices that say; “we have always done it this way.” The disciples would still be sitting at the shoreline with empty nets if they listened to that voice!

In recent months we’ve become familiar with the saying; “We’re in this together.”  As a diocese we’re on this faith journey together, as a diocese we listen to and discern the call of Christ together, as a diocese we share the mission together.  There will be challenges along the way, there will be difficult decisions to be made.  But from the words of the Kerry poet Brendan Kennelly we draw hope and encouragement where he reminds us;

“Even though we live in a world that dreams of ending
That’s always seems about to give in
Something that will not acknowledge conclusion
Insists that we forever begin”

So, from this sacred place, where the Christian story has been celebrated for generations… let us go out, go out to where Christ is calling us as community of disciples today…Let us begin!

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