Bishop Paul has begun a journey of visitation of the parishes of the diocese. He has chosen to visit various parishes and to join in the celebration of Daily and Weekend Masses with the priest and people of the parishes. This is a wonderful opportunity for him to meet with the people and for them to meet with their new bishop.
So far Bishop Paul has celebrated Masses in Ballaghaderreen, Carracastle, Charlestown, Collooney Keash, Tourlestrane, Tubbercurry, Attymass, Bohola, Swinford, Kilmovee and Ballisodare (where he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation) and his journey continues.
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!
On Thursday, September 10th, Bishop Paul celebrated his first Chrism Mass in the Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen. Gathered with priests, deacons and parish representatives from around the diocese, he blessed the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of The Sick and consecrated Chrism. The oils were carried by three priests of the diocese: Frs John Maloney and Gerard Davey both celebrating their Silver Jubilee of Ordination this year and by Fr Peter Gallagher, celebrating his Ruby Jubilee this year.
Music was provided by the Cathedral Folk Group and the Word of God was proclaimed by parishioners of the diocese.
In his homily, Bishop Paul reminded priests gathered of Christ’s words: “You did not choose me, I chose you” and asked them to recall two key moments from their Ordination Days – the moment they lay prostrate on the ground as the Litany Of Saints was prayed over and for them and the moment the bishop laid his hands on their heads.
For the priests present this evening, I want you to take a journey back to your ordination day. Maybe it was many years ago or, for a few of us, it might have been in more recent years. We can probably remember those who were there, family, friends, parishioners. I’m sure there was a palpable sense of excitement, but also perhaps some fear and anxiety. There are many special moments during the Ordination Rite, tonight I want to refer to two of them.
The first moment was when you lay prostrate before the altar. Can you remember it? You lay there, and as you did the Litany of the Saints was sung. These saints, down through the centuries who themselves heard the call of Christ in their hearts, each one of them was being called upon to pray for you. Praying that you would respond to Christ. Those saints praying that within your heart you would hear the call of Christ; ”You did not chose me, no, I chose you.” They were praying that you, with your gifts and your brokenness, would be a faithful disciple. You lay there before the altar, the symbolic gesture of surrender. Surrender to Christ and His plan for your life
In the moments after the litany, you rose up from the ground, in preparation for the second moment I wish to refer to tonight, the laying on of hands. As the bishop placed his hands upon your head you were configured to Christ, forever changed in the depth of your being. In this moment it was Christ himself placing His hands upon your head. In this gesture He was saying; you belong to me, you are under my protection, I hold you in the palm of my hand. As I extend my hands over you, I ask that you give me your hands to do my work of service and of sanctifying.
These two moments; the laying prostrate before the altar and the laying on of hands are important moments for us to return to in the priesthood. They remind us of the heart of what we are about as priests. It is so important to return to those moments especially when expectations weigh heavily upon us and there are many;
You are expected to be great with the young people, you are to have a word for everyone. You’re expected to be a great preacher, being able to reach out to those who are seldom at church while at the same time able to keep the more traditional parishioners happy. Then there’s the finances, the Data Protection and Safeguarding procedures that all have to be in place and up to date. You are to have a flourishing Pastoral Council, you are always expected to be in good form and to be visionary while also conscious that people don’t like change. You are to be on top of things, ready to be there at an impending death while at the same time planning a baptism for first time parents, a great man with the sick, great at visiting houses, but not too imposing, great at organising the parish and the volunteers to satisfy the challenges of Covid 19 and the reduced numbers and sanitisation of the churches, the list goes on…
As the memories of the ordination rite fade over the years and the reality of life in the priesthood becomes more real with all of its expectations, it can be very real to ask the question; “Is it worth it?” When that question arises, return to the moment you lay on the floor of your church, return to the moment the Lord laid His hands upon your head… He called you to be His priest, he called you to be His disciple not just in that moment as you lay on the floor or the hands were imposed upon you. He calls you to be his priest now, in this very moment! He calls you as much today as he did on your ordination day. “You did not chose me, no, I chose you!”
How important it is to root ourselves in that call at this time. The reality is that we find ourselves at a critical moment, change is inevitable. The cliché reminds us that there are two options around change, do we fear it or embrace it? As we face the future, we must remember that the Lord who called us, whom we surrendered to on the day of our ordination, the Lord who placed His hands upon our head, that same Lord is calling us now! The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, be open to that Spirit!
Pope Francis leads us on this path and encourages us not to be afraid. He issues and invitation to us in Evangelii Gaudium;
“I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.” EG 33.
In the spirit of Pope Francis, let us be bold and creative in the task given to us by the Lord. In the coming months let us discern where the Lord may be calling us as His family in Achonry. What are the possibilities and opportunities He is offering us as priests and people?
So, is it worth it? Yes it is! As we lay prostrate before the altar on the day of our ordination, we were making the statement with our very bodies saying, we believe in Him, we trust in Him, we depend upon Him, we love Him. Let’s renew that belief, that trust, that dependence, that love this night…
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