Category Archives: Diocese

Sunday of The Word of God

On September 30, 2019, on the liturgical memorial of St. Jerome, Pope Francis announced that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time would be celebrated as the Sunday of the Word of God. This year it will fall on Sunday, January 24, 2021.  In the past Catholics were not encouraged to reflect upon the Word.  This was unfortunate as the Word is “something alive and active” (Heb. 4:12) and guides us along the road of discipleship.  Pope Francis through this initiative is being faithful to the call of the Second Vatican Council with its renewed appreciation of the importance of the Word of God.  The Council underlined the significance of the Liturgy of the Word saying that Christ “is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church” (Vat. II, Constitution the Liturgy, 7).

In “normal” times this Sunday would be an opportunity to highlight the Word and how it is proclaimed.  This can still be done through our various virtual platforms.  One very positive development made possible through social media is the number of Apps that are available to help people draw closer to the Word.  Many of these Apps have audio content and can be used at home for quiet reflection, while you are in the car, or out for your daily exercise.  As part of this year’s Sunday of the Word, we present some Apps below that might be helpful for those who wish to explore the Word a little further.  These are just a few examples, but there are many more available.  The good news is that most of them are free to download!

www.Bible.is – This Website/App presents the various books of the bible and has audio and visual effects that help to enter into the Word.  The dramatisation of the Word could be helpful for children too.

Bible-Catholic Study (Ignatius Press) – This App presents the daily readings and has helpful study notes to accompany them.

Laudate – This App has comprehensive reflections on the Word for each day.  It has a great deal of other content that could be helpful for Catholics, such as prayers, how to go to confession, etc.

Pray as you go – This App has reflections upon the Word each day and has an audio facility that invites you into a quiet reflective space for a few minutes each day.  It has various other features such as online retreats and the well known “Examen,” a method to help you review your day and discover where God was in your day.

Jesuit Prayer – Daily inspiration – this App gives a short reflection/thought on the Word, mostly the Gospel passage each day.

Universalis – This App has a full and comprehensive outline of the Word, the readings for each day throughout the year etc.  It also has the Prayer of the Church and other features worth exploring.

Mother and Baby Homes Report

A Reflection by Bishop Paul Dempsey,
Achonry Diocese

14th January 2021.

I am conscious as I write these words that I have no idea, nor can I even imagine what it must have been like for a young girl in Ireland to have become pregnant outside of marriage just a few decades ago.  So many were abandoned by their families, their communities, their parishes, their priests, their Church, and the men who were responsible for their pregnancy.  The loneliness, the shame, the fear, the angst, the sheer terror is beyond my comprehension.  The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes Report goes to three thousand pages.  It would be impossible for me to cover all the issues it raises.  However, the general tenor that emerges within its pages is of a society that was cold and uncaring.  We could all too easily blame “society,” but as a member of the Church, and a leader in that Church, I face the difficult reality that it was a society which was deeply influenced by the Catholic Church.

In their apology, the Bon Secours Sisters, who ran the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, stated that they “did not live up to their Christianity.”  It seems that so many during that period of Irish life “did not live up to their Christianity,” even though we were a nation that prided ourselves on being a good Catholic country.  It seems that we may have been good Catholics, but we were not such good Christians.  The question has been asked: “How could this happen?”  How could we be so cold, so cruel to our daughters, our sisters, our friends, our neighbours?  One explanation was that the Church had a distorted view of sexuality that seemed obsessive.  Instead of seeing sexuality as a beautiful, sacred gift, created by a loving God, it was considered something secretive and taboo, something not to be talked about.  Anyone, who through human nature, was viewed to have made a mistake, was shunned.  Sins of a sexual nature seemed to be the only sins one could commit, there was little focus on other immoral issues such as domestic abuse or fraud.  There is no doubt, and it is truly shameful, that the Church during this time lost its focus, which should always be Christ.  When the Church fails to focus on Christ, all sorts of distorted practices emerge. It seems that one of those distorted practices was exercising an unhealthy power over people’s lives, especially in the most intimate areas of life.

Unfortunately, we cannot change the past, but we can learn from it.  This, perhaps, is where we can draw some hope.  The Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, stated that; “we should not lose sight of the more hopeful story that is told in the Commission’s report as well.  It tells the story of a country that has changed and progressed, that got better, kinder and more compassionate, more loving, less judgmental and less misogynistic as the years passed.”  I believe this is generally true, but in my own ministry over the years, I have come across many people who lament the direction our country has taken.  They feel it has become far more secular, with fewer numbers attending Mass and they believe there is an agenda to rid society of the influence of the Church.  In the light of the Mother and Baby Homes report and the numerous reports that preceded it, is it any wonder people would want to rid the country of the Church that is portrayed?  I believe there is a more hopeful message in there for the Church too.  The publication of so many painful reports has exposed us to the truth.  Jesus Christ tells us; “The truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32).  It is important to acknowledge that it was the “secular” world that has called the Church to account and made us face the truth.  Surely this is a good thing and God has to be at work in it?

In my experience the Church has become a more humble, more compassionate community today.  It no longer holds an unhealthy, powerful grasp on society.  The Church has its teaching, a teaching that is inspired and revealed by Christ, an ideal that followers of Christ aspire to but do not always attain.  It is a teaching that is proposed, not imposed.  It is also important to state that so many people in parishes, priests, sisters, members of parish pastoral councils, and numerous others reach out and serve the needs of so many in such generous ways in communities right across the country today.  Their work is critical to the lives of so many people and is to be commended.  Our position as Church was never to be at the centre of society in, as Pope Francis puts it, a “self-reverential” manner.  I believe this is a moment of fundamental call and challenge to those of us who hold the Church close to our hearts.  There are justifiable concerns and fears about the future, but we must remember that the Church is not dying, it is a model of Church that is dying.  The dying process is painful, but the potential for new life always gives hope.  This is Christ’s Church, not ours, he is in charge, “we are ministers, not messiahs” as St. Oscar Romero reminds us.   

It is hugely positive that the real-life stories, the experience, and the pain of so many has now been heard through this report.  The State has apologised, as have religious orders who were responsible.  I too, as a Church leader, wish to apologise to all those who were treated in such an undignified and demeaning manner.  However, as has been said many times, apologies can be easy, action is more challenging.  I hope and pray that those who wish to find their true identity that might bring the peace they are searching for, can be given the means to do so. 

As I conclude, there is one concern I wish to raise.  I heard several politicians making statements this week about our past and how the poor treatment of women and children must never happen again.  Related to this, over the past few years when I worked in parish, I was in regular contact with people in a Direct Provision Centre.  I saw how women and children and others, were cramped into tight living spaces, lacking basic human dignity.  I have been thinking about them these days.  As we have been told, we cannot change the past, but we can change the present.  I urge those in power, in the light of the Mother and Baby Homes Report, to focus on improving the living conditions of those in our Direct Provision Centres.  I would imagine this real action to improve the lives of mothers and children today, would be a fitting tribute to those who suffered in Mother and Baby Homes in the past.

+Paul Dempsey,

Bishop of Achonry.      

For those affected by these issues please see:www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mental-health-services/national-counselling-service/counselling-service-for-former-residents-of-mother-and-baby-homes

God is with us

The contemporary celebration of Christmas is a mix of religious and cultural traditions and customs. While modern times have seen the feast take on commercial and secular tones, at its heart, it still remains for many the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Retelling the story of the first Christmas has the innate power to inspire moments of spiritual reflection and renewal along with the practice of charity and outreach to those who are in need. It has become an important time to gather as a family and indeed to gather as a Christian community. This year, the restrictions in place because of the Coronavirus mean that we may not be in a position to gather as usual for our religious services. This situation challenges us to find new ways of reflecting on our faith and praying in our homes. It is hoped that this guide, prepared by the Dioceses of Clonfert and Elphin, will assist you in doing just that.

godiswithus

Memorial Service

Bishop Paul’s Homily

I’m sure we’re all familiar with Newgrange, that strange structure located about 30 miles outside of Dublin.  The experts tell us it is about 5,000 years old.  Imagine it was built before the time of Abraham, our father in faith.  It was built when the power of symbol spoke deeply to our people.  On the 21st December in the Northern Hemisphere we experience the shortest day, the darkest moment of year.  As the sun rises on that darkest day, it shines into the back of the structure at Newgrange, filling it with light.  Today we are almost certain it was a tomb, a burial chamber.

Think about that, think of what our ancestors were saying…  Into the place of death at the darkest moment of the year, comes the light of dawn! What a powerful image.  A flash of resurrection before our understanding of resurrection ever developed.  Our ancestors, before we ever heard of Christ, were pointing to the way of resurrection.  This message of light, of hope, is in our DNA, it’s in our bones, it’s in our psyche.

3,000 years after the time of Newgrange, Jesus Christ walked among us, with his message of hope, his message of light.  In his resurrection he has defeated death, light has overcome the darkness!  Because of that we too, his disciples, will defeat death. 

This November, our remembering is especially poignant. We are experiencing a period of hardship and sacrifice due to the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to disrupt the lives of so many people.

In the midst of such a crisis we might overlook families whose loved ones have died recently from other illnesses or in tragic circumstances. Like the relatives of the victims of COVID-19 they too have been unable to engage fully in the customary rituals that normally mark the death of a loved one in this country. Restrictions have impacted on wakes, gatherings of extended family and friends at the funeral and in some cases, only a committal service attended by a small of mourners has been possible. During November we have another opportunity to acknowledge the pain and hurt that families have endured and to assure them of the consolation our prayer and our sympathy. As St Paul wrote to the Romans: “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ”.

Since the beginning of the pandemic we have rightly marked the personal sacrifices of our health workers, carers and many others who provide our essential services. We also recognise the dedication and service of priests, religious and lay people who selflessly reach out to people in so many ways. Their pastoral care is bringing comfort and healing to those who are anxious because of a relative’s illness or who are feeling the loss and pain of bereavement. Their commitment and dedication is greatly appreciated.

As bishops we are dedicating this month of November as a time of remembrance and prayer for all those who have died since this time last year, whatever the cause.

May the light which spoke so powerfully to our ancestors in Newgrange 5,000 years ago, lighting up that burial chamber in the darkest moment of the year, giving them hope and encouragement, may that same light which we, as disciples, understand to be the Light of Christ encourage us in the dark moments we experience and give us the hope we all need in these difficult times.

Fratelli Tutti

Pope’s Encyclical on Fraternity and Social Friendship

Pope Francis signed his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on Saturday 3 October 2020 during a visit to Assisi. The Holy Father celebrated Mass at the tomb of his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. “Fratelli tutti,” the encyclical’s opening words, means “All brothers” in Italian. The phrase is taken from the writings of St. Francis, one of the major inspirations for Pope Francis’ third encyclical, on fraternity and social friendship. The full text of the encyclical, the third of Pope Francis’ pontificate is released today, Sunday 4 October, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. 

Please see below the full text of the encyclical letter and some useful links and resources: 

  1. Text of Fratelli Tutti
  2. An overview of the Encyclical FRATELLI TUTTI
  3. Quick Key Guide to reading FRATELLI TUTTI
  4. Questions and Answers on FRATELLI TUTTI
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