Tag Archives: Achonry

Bishop Brendan appointed Bishop of Galway

Bishop Brendan Kelly

Bishop Brendan, appointed Bishop of Achonry in November 2007 and ordained in January 2008, has today been appointed Bishop of Galway.  The Diocese, in thanking him for his wonderful leadership over the past nine years, is tinged with sadness as we prepare to bid him farewell.  Returning to his native diocese, we wish him every happiness and blessing and know that his contribution to the life of Galway diocese will be meaningful and rooted in the Gospel he so cherishes.


STATEMENT OF MONSIGNOR THOMAS JOHNSTON, VICAR GENERAL

I congratulate Bishop Brendan Kelly on his appointment as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and as Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora, and with the priests, religious and people of Achonry I pray God’s blessing on him in this new ministry.

Bishop Brendan was ordained bishop of Achonry in January 2008 and he brought to that office many fine qualities, personal and pastoral. We thank him most especially for his kindness to priests and people alike, his commitment to priesthood and dedication to ministry.

We appreciate the initiatives he introduced, encouraged and supported within the diocese, his deep appreciation of the work of priests, his encouragement for their various ministries and his understanding of their ever increasing work-load.

As bishop, he was always deeply aware and encouraging of the ministries and activities carried out by the many volunteers at parish and diocesan level.

His appointment to the see of Galway takes him back to the place of his birth and early priesthood and while we would love to see him remain in Achonry, we know that God’s will comes first.

We remain forever grateful for the time Bishop Brendan spent in our diocese and assure him today and always of our continued prayers.

Monsignor Thomas Johnston,

Vicar-General Diocese of Achonry

11th December 2017


STATEMENT OF ARCHBISHOP EAMONN MARTIN

Following the appointment today by Pope Francis of Bishop Brendan Kelly as the new Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and as Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora, Archbishop Eamon Martin has published the following statement of congratulations:

“I wish to offer my warmest congratulations and prayerful support to Bishop Brendan Kelly for his generous acceptance of a new episcopal appointment.

“Bishop Brendan’s ten years of pastoral service as Bishop of Achonry have been characterised by a natural warmth and empathy towards the people, priests and religious of the diocese, and a gentle, prayerful and caring leadership.

Now he returns to his roots! As a native of Craughwell, and a priest of longstanding, dedicated service in the diocese of Galway, Bishop Brendan will no doubt receive a wholehearted welcome home from the clergy and faithful of his native diocese. He returns with the benefit of new wisdom and experience garnered among the faithful people of Achonry.

“I am pleased that Bishop Brendan will continue his valued service to the Irish Episcopal Conference. His contribution, to date, has been immense – as a member of Standing Committee, the Commission for Catholic Education and Formation, Council for Liturgy and as chair of the Bishops’ Council for Education.

“In recent days, we rejoiced with Bishop Brendan as he brought to completion a project that has been dear to his heart as a native Irish speaker – the launch of the new altar edition of An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach, the Irish translation of the Roman Missal.  One of the most important recent cultural achievements in this country, its preparation and production was the fruit of years of intensive work and collaboration of many individuals from throughout the Church, and Bishop Brendan deserves great credit for delivering an Irish Missal that we can all be proud of.

A man of great gifts, I wish him happiness and fulfilment in his new appointment.

“May Saint Colman, Saint Fachanan and Our Lady Assumed into Heaven guide Bishop Brendan in his new role in Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora.

Guím gach rath Dé air agus ar a chuid saothair.”


STATEMENT OF ARCHBISHOP MICHAEL NEARY

“On behalf of the Bishops of the metropolitan province of Tuam, I wish to take this opportunity to warmly congratulate Bishop Brendan Kelly on his new appointment as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora.

“Bishop Brendan was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Galway in 1971 and will now return as its bishop.  As both priest and bishop, Bishop Brendan has been a much loved local pastor and a very popular shepherd to the faithful of Achonry since his ordination as bishop on 27 January 2008.  His personal integrity, generosity of spirit and outstanding ministry to the people of the diocese will surely be missed.  No doubt he will bring the same natural enthusiasm and pastoral leadership to the people of his diocese of origin in Galway.”

Archbishop Neary concluded, “On this special day for the diocese and for the country, I ask the faithful to join with me in prayer to ask the Lord to guide and bless Bishop Brendan as he undertakes his new and important Episcopal appointment.”


APPOINTMENT WELCOMED BY CANON MICHAEL McLOUGHLIN,

Please see below the statement of welcome by the Very Reverend Michael Canon McLoughlin, Diocesan Administrator, regarding the news today that the Most Reverend Bishop Brendan Kelly has been appointed by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora:

“With great joy and with a feeling of some relief, I am honoured and I am proud to say to our new bishop – ceád mile fáilte romhat abhaile arís.

“We, the priests and people of these three ancient dioceses, have been through a sixteen-month Advent since the retirement of Bishop Martin Drennan in July 2016.  We have been waiting daily in expectation and in hope for white smoke.  Now that hope has been fulfilled with news from Rome and we at last can begin preparations to welcome one of our own back home to lead us and to be our shepherd.

“We have no doubt that Bishop Brendan will be a good shepherd.  The people of Lisdoonvarna and of Spiddal can testify to his compassion and his dedication, to his gentleness and his kindness when he were their priest.  Those many pupils he taught in Coláiste Éinde and in Our Lady’s College, Gort will also know of his abilities and commitment both inside and outside the classroom.  Although he left us ten years ago for Ballaghaderreen, we watched and regarded him with pride and we always kept him in our prayers.

“And now we are very pleased indeed that he has come back to us. We look forward to making him feel welcome and to helping him readjust.  We know some of his many gifts.  Like Bishop Drennan and Bishop McLoughlin before him, he has a passion for the Irish language and for Irish culture.  In his work he has always prioritised evangelisation and the wonderful potential of Catholic education. We know from his words in Oranmore last September, when he ordained our newest priest – Father Declan Lohan – that fostering and inspiring vocations to the priesthood and the religious life has always been to the fore in everything he says and does.  And we know too that he is a man of integrity and of deep faith.  These things are important to us: the priests and people of this diocese.  We look forward, with the help of God and our Blessed Mother, to sharing the journey in the years ahead with our new Bishop.  May God bless our work together mar ní neart go cur le chéile !

“On a personal note, as my time as Diocesan Administrator draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank, with deep gratitude, those many people who have supported me in my work these past sixteen months.  I will be forever indebted to our retired bishop, Martin Drennan, for his wisdom and unfailing kindness and to all those many people who worked closely with me in the Diocesan Office, in Moycullen, throughout Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora and beyond.  I believe that Bishop Brendan is coming back home to a diocese full of enormous potential and promise and I wish him, and pray him, bountiful blessings.

“When a priest is first ordained, each priest at the ceremony goes at once to him, offers him the kiss of peace and whispers quietly in his ear ‘ad multos annos’, which means ‘to many years’.  Bishop Brendan, on my own behalf and on behalf of your priests and your people, from our hearts, we also say on this special day: ad multos annos!” 


BISHOP BRENDAN KELLY REFLECTS ON APPOINTMENT

A Cháirde dhíl,

Go mbeannaí Dia dhaoibh … Níor shíl mé riamh go mbeinn anseo, ná go mbeadh an ócáid seo ag tarlú.  Go raibh maith agaibh as teacht agus fanacht.

I am still somewhat in shock.  Having settled happily in Achonry, I never expected I never expected to be asked to take on the shepherding of another diocese.  However, the fact that it is my own native diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora makes it much easier to say yes to this appointment with which Pope Francis has chosen to honour me.  I am very grateful to the Holy Father for his trust.  And it is good to be coming home.

Tá mé sásta freisin bheith ag freastal arís i ndeoise ina bhfuil paróistí bhreátha Gaeltachta. Ba mhór an bheannacht  dom féin blianta a chaitheamh i measc muintir Chois Fharraige  i bparóiste An Spidéil.  Is maith bheith ar ais libh arís.

It is now over 10 years since I was appointed by Pope Benedict as Bishop of Achonry.  I have been very happy in Ballaghaderreen. I am deeply grateful first of all to the priests of the Achonry diocese.  Their welcome to me from the beginning was entirely generous and warm. I believe we have worked together well. I want to thank them with all my heart for their constant support, kindness and acceptance of all I asked of them. I will miss them, but I believe the bonds of friendship and fraternity will endure and continue to sustain me.

From the start, the welcome and acceptance I experienced from the people of Achonry, including the Religious, has been warm and generous, too.  It has been a grace from God to serve them and I trust they will continue to carry me in prayer as I will them. There are those then who worked with me on a daily basis in Achonry. I owe them a special debt of gratitude. I thank them and will miss them.

Now as I stand here in this beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas, I am conscious of all that lies ahead.  I look forward to working again with the priests of Galway diocese, colleagues since the day I was ordained up to the time I left here 10 years ago.  Many of you have been good friends to me for years.  And I am thinking today with deep gratitude to God of so many of them atá imithe ar shlí na fírinne, great mentors and friends.

I realise there is much work to be done. Somewhere all of us in the Church in Ireland need renewal in faith and in prayer at this time.  Pope Francis is very clear. All of us who have been baptised are missionaries and all of us must be on a continuous journey of conversion. The world needs the Good News as much or more than at any other moment in history.  We have all, priests and people, been solemnly commissioned at Baptism to carry that Good News to the people of our times, most particularly to those who are  experiencing exclusion, isolation and rejection and who are in need of good shepherds.  I invite you all to assume along with me a new determination to be those good shepherds and bearers of the Good News, priests and people together.

I want to say a particular word of thanks here today to my friend Canon Michael McLoughlin, with whom I served happy years in Lisdoonvarna.  Canon Michael has carried the burden of the Administration of the diocese since Bishop Martin retired.  I thank you, Michael, for the courage and faith with which you took on the task, the work you have done and the kindness with which you have dealt with each situation and the people involved.

I want to thank also Bishop Martin, my predecessor as bishop, for honouring the occasion with your presence, and I am so glad you are here today. Thank you for the years you gave shepherding all of us here in the diocese of Galway. Your prayers and scholarly love for God’s Word along with your wise counsel are still needed and I will be availing of them. We are glad that, in retirement, you have chosen to make your home among us and I personally look forward to your ongoing prayerful presence in the years ahead.  And speaking to you as a Kilkenny man, I have to say that I am glad to be returning at a time when Liam McCarthy is making his home again very happily west of the Shannon in this great County!

At the present time we are all looking forward to the World Meeting of Families in August in Dublin and particularly, please God, to a visit from Pope Francis. Pope Francis has set a very clear path for the Church in our time: He has placed the family at the heart of his programme from the start.  The theme he has given for the World Meeting in Dublin is “The Gospel of the Family, Joy for the World”. We are all called to be and to build family domestically and at every level.  It is nothing short of tragic that in a time of unprecedented prosperity for so many, too many families are finding that there is no house for them, no room for them in the Inn. Then there is Our Holy Father’s focus on young people who must always be our first priority in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Along with family and young people, there is the critical mission in Ireland at this time that is Evangelisation: discovering anew the wonder and gift that Jesus Christ is for ourselves and learning anew how to share this gift with others.  We are becoming a smaller, weaker and poorer church.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I look forward to working closely with the priests and people of our parishes and diocese, with colleagues and good friends in the other Christian communities represented in our city and beyond, and with all people of good will, men and women, both the young and those who have the wisdom of years, as we build together the Kingdom of God. We must work together in new ways and as never before so that we will be a church that is open and welcoming, humble and full of mercy, and cherishing human life at its most fragile and vulnerable, no matter what the price: in other words, a church that confidently takes our stand always with the one who was crucified and whose birth outside and in abject poverty we are preparing now to celebrate again at Christmas.

Finally, mo bhuíochas ó chroí daoibh ar fad as bheith anseo ar maidin.  Please pray for me that I may give my life as Jesus did in service of you, his people.


BIOGRAPHY (Catholic Communications Office)

He was ordained to the priesthood on 20 June 1971 by Bishop Brown in the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas in Galway city.

His first appointment was to the parish of Kinvara as a curate before being appointed to the teaching staff of Coláiste Éinde in Salthill in 1972, completing a Higher Diploma in Education in the then University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway) in 1973.

Bishop Brendan remained on the staff of Coláiste Éinde until 1980 when he was transferred to the teaching staff of Our Lady’s College, Gort, becoming President in 1986.

Following the 1995 amalgamation of the three Gort secondary schools, Bishop Brendan applied for and was granted sabbatical leave from his diocese for one year and went to live with the L’Arche Community at Cuise-la-Motte in France.  Founded by Jean Vanier in 1964, the worldwide L’Arche movement seeks to create inclusive, creative and caring families where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work in friendship, joy and mutual respect.

Returning to his diocese in 1996, Bishop Brendan was appointed by Bishop James McLoughlin as

Parish Priest of Lisdoonvarna in Co Clare and subsequently as Parish Priest of An Spidéal in 2003.

On 20 November 2007, Bishop Brendan was named by Pope Benedict XVI as the Bishop of Achonry, succeeding recently retired Bishop Thomas Flynn.  On 27 January 2008 he was ordained to the episcopate by Cardinal Seán Brady in the Cathedral of the Annunciation and Saint Nathy in Ballaghaderreen.

Today, 11 December 2017, Pope Francis, named Bishop Brendan as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora, succeeding Bishop Martin Drennan who retired in July 2016.

It is planned that Bishop Brendan’s ‘Installation Ceremony’ will take place in the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas on 11 February 2018, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Bishop Brendan’s episcopal motto is ‘De réir d’fhocail’ (‘According to your word’ Lk 1:38).  He:

– is a fluent Irish speaker and has a working knowledge of the French language;

– was a member of the Standing Committee of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference for six years;

– is a member of the Bishops’ Council of the Liturgy;

– is a member of the Bishops’ An Coiste Comhairleach um Liotúirge i nGaeilge;

– is a member of the Bishops’ Commission for Catholic Education and Formation;

– is Chairman of the Bishops’ Council for Education;

– is a member of The Council for the West.

Fr Dermot Burns Funeral Mass Homily

This is the text of the Homily preached by Fr Martin Convey, P.P, Straide at the Funeral Mass for Fr Dermot Burns in the Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Straide, Co. Mayo on Saturday April 1st 2017


Today, we gather to commend to the Lord the soul of Fr. Dermot - a brother priest who faithfully served the People of God here in the Diocese of Achonry for 42 years. To Father Dermot’s brothers, sister, in-laws, nieces and nephews, relatives and friends, we extend to you our deepest sympathies on the loss of your brother and uncle.

I don’t need to tell you, his family, or anyone who knew the man that Fr. Dermot was very much in love with life; so full of the zest of living, so brimming with joy, so full of banter, so full of fun and merriment. He exuded life and cherished it to the very last breath.

We all have our own particular fond memories of Fr. Dermot. They are usually very happy and very funny memories. Those memories abound today and they weave together a unique tapestry of a unique life.

One of my own fondest memories goes back a few years. I wasn’t too long in the parish at the time. I remember returning to the parochial house after saying the morning Mass. As I turned the key in the door I could swear I got the smell of freshly burnt toast. It didn’t take me long to discover a rather elderly man (a total stranger) sitting at the kitchen table having a leisurely breakfast. Before I could ask who he was and how he got in, the uninvited stranger managed to speak first. He demanded to know who I was, how I got in and what on earth was I doing in Fr. Dermot’s house. It quickly emerged that he was an elderly priest friend of Fr. Dermot. One of the many many friends he had made over the years. At some stage Fr. Dermot must has given him the loan of a key to the parochial house. He hadn’t known Fr. Dermot had retired and was merely availing of his hospitality (as he had done, on occasion, in the past) while waiting for him to return from the Church.

Fr. Dermot got a great laugh out of that when I told him! And that’s just one of the more sanitised events Fr. Dermot is remembered for.

The incident was funny but it really sums up Fr. Dermot’s life as a priest and as a human being.

The key to the front door, given freely and trustingly, was symbolic of the key to his soul (which he gave so generously to God in the priesthood) and the key to his life (which he gave to his family, friends and parishioners).

Fr. Dermot was, very much, an open book. What you saw is what you got. He wore his great big heart openly on his sleeve. This was a quality which endeared him to so many people whose lives he touched in his ministry as a priest.

He was great with people. In exchange for the keys to his inner spiritual self he received, in return, from others the keys to their lives. The bonds he forged, over the years, with people he encountered (as parishioners or as colleagues) were truly remarkable. Those bonds he held on to and never let break.

No matter where he might be, I would always notice people going out of their way to approach him and talk to him. He was a kind of a magnet for people. Even after the passage of time (often decades), he kept up ties and friendships. He was the only individual I knew whose Christmas Card list actually increased every year.

And it wasn’t just his friends from Straide parish who kept in contact with him. It was, also, his friends in all the other parishes he had served in - Bonniconlon, Achonry, Ballymote and Kilkelly. They all remembered him for the same reasons. They remembered his compassion, his kindness, his generosity, his sincerity, his wit and his humour.

He was a very people-centred person who generously gave the open door of his life to so many others: celebrating their successes, lamenting their failures, consoling their distress, and (when necessary) helping carry their crosses. In this, and in so many other regards, he was a priest to be admired and respected. He had learned his theology in Maynooth but had spent his days, ever since, living that theology.

He was also a man who, to his great credit, never hesitated to delegate responsibility within the parish. He realised something we priests all eventually learn - namely, that there are always people within every community who can do many things we do far better than we, ourselves, can.

It stands to reason, then, that we should build strong teams and allow the gifts and charisms of a community to flourish. This is exactly what Fr. Dermot did. In this respect, he left a great legacy behind. One has only to observe the pristine condition of this Church and grounds to see how much he achieved.

Family meant everything to Fr. Dermot: his twin brother Pat, his brother Frank, his sister Joan, his nephews and nieces and in-laws. Not to forget his beloved parents (Una & Paddy) and brother John who have already gone to their eternal reward. No family could have supported a brother any better than you have done.

As one might expect, Fr. Dermot was particularly close to his twin brother Pat who was especially good to him and looked after him above and beyond the call of even brotherly love and duty. 

This parish of Straide was, also, very very special to Fr. Dermot. It was here he spent the last 23 years of his life. He often confided how happy he was here - how kind and how good parishioners were to him.

Fr. Dermot worked in parish ministry for all of his 42 years of priesthood. His priesthood was founded on a deep unshakable faith and on a spiritual life that brought him ever closer to God. His priestly ministry was truly a beacon of hope for so many people. He exercised his ministry brightening so many lives, binding so many hearts, smoothing so many paths, calming so many souls, warming so many lives. And it is great to see so many of his former parishioners here today at his funeral Mass. Fr. Dermot just had that wonderful gift of connecting with the people he came in contact with.

When, unfortunately, in 2011 he had to retire due to ill health there was never a question of him living anywhere else except in Straide. He chose to spend his (all too short) final years with the people he knew and loved. That is certainly a great compliment to his former parishioners who are owed a great debt of gratitude for the manner in which they looked after and cared for Fr. Dermot.

Another thread in the tapestry of Memory I have of Fr. Dermot is chatting to him about how difficult it can be to find something new to preach on every weekend. He consoled me by saying that “It’s difficult to be profound every Sunday”. Then thought for a while and added “But it would, indeed, be nice to be profound the odd Sunday though!”

I’m sure there were days when he, too, stood at this lectern and looked to the heavens for divine inspiration. I’m sure from this spot he, also, must have focused his eyes on a particular design on the windows of the gallery – a design which catches my eye frequently.

There are, as you would expect, images of crosses on those stained glass windows. However, there is also a subtle detail that can easily be missed. If you look carefully you can see that there are little green shoots of growth emerging from the foot of each cross.

The Cross was something Fr. Dermot became all too familiar with in his later years following a life-threatening diagnosis just before Christmas 2010. But the cross he was given to carry never dampened his spirit or took from his wit and good humour. Even when given very bad news a few short weeks back, he never lost hope and he never gave up but, rather, fought bravely on.

I think he got great consolation from the green shoots of growth that are always there at the foot of even the heaviest of crosses we are sometimes given to bear. Fr. Dermot’s deep Christian faith led him to believe those green shoots would, ultimately, bring him New Life. Today, we pray that he has, already received, that reward.

After this, his funeral Mass, Fr. Dermot will be laid to rest in the Church grounds - facing East to greet the rising sun each morning. He will be under the shade of two oak trees planted last year by Bishop Brendan in honour of Ss. Peter and Paul to mark the centenary of this Church dedicated to the two giants of our faith. Those oak trees are young now. But, I’m told, they will spend the next 300 years growing and, then, another 300 years stagnant before they will spend a final 300 in decline.

Knowing Fr. Dermot as I do, I don’t think he will wait that long to visit St. Peter. No doubt, he has already entered the gates of heaven and is, by now, making his presence felt and catching up with old friends.

Hopefully, at some stage, he might get a hold of St. Peter’s Keys and have a few copies made for us, too, on the quiet so that when our time comes may let ourselves in to one of the many rooms that today’s Gospel assures us are already prepared for us.

In the meantime, until we meet our friend and brother again, may his gentle soul now Rest in Peace. Amen

Eucharistic Adoration Diocesan Committee

On Saturday, February 11th, there was a preliminary meeting to establish a Diocesan Eucharistic Adoration Committee. The gathering was in the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Charelestown, Co. Mayo.

The diocese was well represented at this meeting and the training of this committee will take place over the coming weeks.

We wish all involved every blessing as they embark upon this Spiritual Journey and express gratitude to Brendan Cleary and John Howard who were “inspirational” in their presentation on Saturday.

Speaking about this initiative Bishop Brendan says:

The practice of Eucharistic Adoration has been growing in the parishes of our diocese for the past number of years. This has been happening at the same time as traditional practice of the faith has been in decline (Mass attendance dropping, etc.), and it is a great blessing.

However, like every aspect of living our Catholic faith, we need to ensure that constant renewal and deepening occurs in this practice. For us Catholics the Holy Eucharist is the most sacred reality and is at the heart of our faith. It is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in our midst and it is the source and summit of our Christian life and faith. So it is appropriate, good and essential that we take the utmost care of this most sacred and holy inheritance from Jesus himself.

The Diocesan Eucharistic Adoration Committee will be given this sacred trust. So training and preparation for taking care of the practice of Eucharistic Adoration and of its promulgation amongst the faithful is necessary. I have no doubt God’s blessing will be upon all those who will come and participate in the upcoming six training sessions.


See below for details of Training Sessions.


Click HERE to download copy

Day for Religious

Earlier today, (February 5th) we gathered with the Religious of the Diocese to celebrate the Feast of The Presentation in The Temple (took place earlier this week) and to pray for the Religious.  Sisters from the various communities in the diocese attended along with a number of our priests.

Bishop Brendan spoke about today’s Gospel on the theme of Salt and Light and acknowledged the great work done by the Religious in Achonry diocese through the years. Acknowledging too the age profile of the gathering he reflected on the role of prayer now in our lives.  He spoke of the bishops’ recent meeting with Pope Francis and that he too spoke of the need for prayer around and for vocations and the future of our church. The bishop suggested that we might have something of the time required now, as the abiliity for day to day work diminishes to focus our prayer lives.

Didn’t take many photographs but posted a few clips and tweets on our twitter account @achonrydiocese

OPENING HYMN

RENEWAL OF CONSECRATION

THE MAGNIFICAT

CLOSING PRAYER

Christmas Prayer

A Christmas Reflection

‘Do you have a prayer for me this Christmas?’ the question came on the phone.

A prayer I’d like to make for all of us this Christmas goes something like this:

May the birth of the Christ-child be a blessing for each one, and for every one of our families. May  the sight of the Crib be a source of new hope and of joy for all our hearts: there is so much more to this family ‘for whom there was no room’ than meets the eye.

Family is at the heart of Christmas from the very beginning.  Family and home. This is one reason why we love the Christmas. We long to be home at Christmas and we all long for home. May that deep longing be fulfilled for each of us.

Our Holy Father’s Prayer to the Holy Family stands beside the Crib in every Church in the country this year as we begin our journey of preparation for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin at the end of August 2018. Please God, we will welcome Pope Francis himself amongst us for that occasion. He is as passionate about family as he is about mercy, to which he had this past year dedicated in the Church. Let us each pray this Prayer to the Holy Family from Christmas Day on, and with our families best of all.

For many people Christmas is a time when pain, loss and loneliness are all the sharper. Often home and family do not live up to our longing, or only do so very imperfectly. We all know this. We are made of such fragile and delicate stuff : is that why He came amongst us as a tiny baby? And in extreme poverty?

Family nevertheless is central to God’s design, and imaged in our deep hearts’ core. ‘It is not good for the human person to be alone’. Family is necessary. That’s the story of Christmas, God’s story from the beginning, and ours.

Isn’t it because of this deep need for the communion of family that the gift-giving, the greetings and the good wishes pre-occupy our preparations? Even if we go overboard, and the commercial takes too much space, somewhere the best of us is being played out too at the prompting of Christmas.

In a world still plagued by violence and unwelcome, by unspeakable terror and inhumanity, Christmas will not let us forget the goodness that is in us, and rekindles every year the warm flames of care and love that makes us our best selves, and calls us to be family. To be human is to be good. In the Creation story, after he had created man and woman, God looked and saw that what he had created was not just ‘good’, like the rest of his creation, but ‘very good’. Jesus was born lest we forget that fundamental goodness that is in us. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us. In human flesh and blood like us.

 God is born to us in the little Child in the manger…and by extension in every child and person consigned in our 21st Century to the outhouse of life. But he is born too every time we choose generosity and welcome, eschewing fear, sharing what we have, and trusting in the future precisely because it is in God’s hands, he who is our merciful Father.

As we pray then for all who are suffering and unable to really celebrate Christmas, we also give thanks to God for the wondrous generosity and self-giving that marks this time: together these two realities make Christmas, in the light of Jesus born for us on Calvary as at Bethlehem, a sacred season. And praying together, even if separated, we are family. Family of God.

Nollaig mhaith go raibh agaibh ar fad.

+Brendan Kelly

Bishop of Achonry

A neighbour recalls

Pat Hunt, a native of Ballaghaderreen, shared the following.  

His piece also features in the 2016 Publication of “Ballaghaderreen Echoes” (going on sale December 8th).  

Both men are remembered with fondness and respect within our diocese and further afield.  May they rest in peace.

We are grateful to him for sharing his thoughts and memories with us on our Diocesan Website.


Two remarkable priest brothers from Ballaghaderreen

Monsignor Gerard Spelman (1930-1990)

Monsignor Gerry Spelman, R.I.P.

“Goodbye Monsignor, we’ll meet in heaven,” were among the words spoken by about 30 parishioners after their tenth and final annual visit to the grave in Kilcolman of Monsignor Gerard Spelman, their late parish priest in the diocese of Leeds.

Monsignor Gerard died suddenly in his Leeds parish in March 1990 after 35 years’ devoted service. One hundred priests and almost 1,000 people attended his funeral mass before his remains were taken home to Ballaghaderreen for burial.

Ordained in All Hallows College in 1955, he worked for 13 years as a curate, and then served nine years as chaplain to two teacher-training colleges, and is remembered by former students with gratitude and affection.

He was then appointed Director of Wood Hall, the diocesan pastoral centre, where he ministered with patience and understanding to the needs of Vietnamese refugees. In 1981 he was assigned as parish priest to the first of his two parishes (St Augustine’s and St Paul’s) in Leeds. At that time the Irish community in the city numbered almost 31,000 persons. Older Irish people there remember him as a particularly dedicated chaplain to the Irish community.

He touched the lives of many, many people in Leeds. At the time of his passing, all spoke of his great patience, kindness, and above all, his gentleness. Many Irish emigrants who arrived in the city with little money and even less in the way of job prospects found Fr Gerry a willing listener who always found the time and energy to put them in touch with potential employers.

Monsignor Joseph Spelman (1932-2016)

Monsignor Joe Spelman, R.I.P.

His brother, Joseph, was ordained in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth in 1959. After a year on a Ford Fellowship at Stanford University, California, he ministered in Palo Alto parish, Archdiocese of San Francisco until 1965.

On his return to Ireland in 1965 he taught in St Nathy’s College and Ballaghaderreen Vocational School. Patsy McGarry (Irish Times), a past pupil, has warm memories of Fr Joe. “He had a wry sense of humour and paid me the first compliment I ever recall for something I wrote. It was for a line in an essay. It tickled Fr Spelman’s sense of humour and he commented, “…Very good, Very good’. I stood very tall indeed!”

In 1969 he was appointed Professor of Mathematical Physics in Maynooth, a position he held until he was appointed a monsignor and parish priest of Collooney in 1992. He became Vicar General of Achonry diocese.

Fr Joe loved local history. He researched and wrote, for example, the definitive account of how Ballaghaderreen came to be located in Co Roscommon, not Mayo. He circulated a pamphlet on this topic, which I hope is still available to help young local people explore their identity. In Collooney he loved to hear older people recall the people and lore of days long ago. Many parishioners said he was a great listener.

In his homily at Monsignor Joe’s funeral mass last June, Bishop Brendan Kelly related how people described him as a ‘gentleman’ — in every sense a gentleman and gentle man. “He was quiet spoken and reserved, laconic and witty, discreet but welcoming, very attentive to people, and kind, always kind.”

Fr Vincent Sherlock, who served with Fr Joe in Collooney wrote, “He moved with people at their pace, prayed with people … and stayed for as long he was needed. He was a good priest, a role model and thankfully a friend.”

His former Maynooth teaching colleagues gathered in September to offer a memorial mass for Monsignor Joe. Chief celebrant, Fr Pat Hannon, professor emeritus of Moral Theology, recalled a gifted teacher “who bore his learning and piety lightly”. He added that when Fr Joe was recalled to his home diocese after 25 years’ service in Maynooth, he first took a sabbatical “to brush up on theology, liturgy and pastoral work”. Such was his dedication to his priestly calling.

As a boy and student I had the privilege of serving mass regularly for the Spelman priests when they spent their respective summer holidays in their native town. I have vivid memories of their mother sitting radiantly in the front row of a side altar in the cathedral attentive to their every word and ritual. Even then I was aware that for them each celebration of mass was an intensely spiritual experience.

Gentleness and kindness were their shared hallmarks then and for the rest of their lives. May their noble souls enjoy eternal peace.

Spelman family

The priest brothers were the sons of Joe and Mary Spelman. Joe (Snr) was a hardware manager in Flannery’s, although he started his career in Monica Duff’s. His brother, Canon James Spelman PP, served in many parishes in Achonry diocese and is buried in the chapel grounds in Tubbercurry. Another brother, Willie, ran a successful garage business in Barrack Street, later passed on to his son, Billy (RIP).

Born in Monaghan, his wife, Mary Spelman, came to Ballaghaderreen first to teach in the Convent NS but later found her true and much celebrated niche as junior infant teacher in Coolavin NS (Monasteraden). Marie, the third Spelman sibling, took up nursing in Dublin, later married Frank Gallagher (RIP) and set up her present home in the capital.

Golden era for vocations

Ten young men from the Ballaghaderreen area were ordained to the priesthood in the 1950s: Paddy Kilgarriff (1953), Robert Flynn (1954), Edward Towey (1955), Thomas Flynn (1956), Dominic Doherty (1956), James Creaton (1958), Edward Dorrington (1958), Sean Flanagan (1959), Gerry (1955) and Joe (1959) Spelman. The early 1960s saw six more ordinations: Barry Freyne (1960), Des McMahon (1961), Seamus McMahon (1964), Joe Macken (1965), Jack Madden (1963), James Shryane (1965). Fine men and priests, one and all.

Patrick Hunt

Permanent Diaconate Ministry of Lector

Bishop Brendan Kelly conferred the Ministry of Lector on two candidates for the Permanent Diaconate on Saturday last.  In a ceremony, held in Summerhill College Chapel, Sligo, Kevin Flynn and Martin Lynch were called to be Lectors (Ministers of The Word).  This is one of the orders conferred on those exploring the vocation to Permanent Diaconate.  We wish both men every blessing on their journey.

For additional information on the Permanent Diaconate click here

Kevin and Geraldine Flynn, Martin and Anne Lynch with Bishop Brendan Kelly

Kevin and Geraldine Flynn, Martin and Anne Lynch with Bishop Brendan Kelly

John Paul 11 Awards

The diocese of Achonry had its first presentation of the (St) John Paul 11 Awards this evening (November 21st) in St Nathy’s College, Ballaghderreen.  Bishop Brendan Kelly presented the awards to nineteen students from throughout the diocese in the presence of their families, teachers and friends.  Members of the Knights of St Columbanus were also in attendance.  This first group, though small, is seen as a very important development in the diocese.  Monica Morley spoke to the gathering and encouraged the young people to keep deeply involved in their church, making the point that Parish is the touchstone.  Bishop Brendan thanked the young people and congratulated them on their achievements.  Three of the recipients spoke of their journey through the awards process and it was evident the journey had been good for them.  Activities included volunteering in St Vincent de Paul Shop, being part of the youth group on our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, helping a local priest edit and publish the parish bulletin, joining Folk Group, being Ministers of The Word and much more.  All in all, impressive presentations by impressive young people.  Well done to them all.

The students were from secondary schools in Charlestown, Tubbercurry, Ballymote, Ballaghaderren and Ballisodare.  Fr Joe Gavigan, Chaplain to the Knights of St Columbanus, welcomed them all and wished them well.

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