A very good morning! It is difficult to express in words, the shock and surprise I felt when the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Okolo told me of Pope Francis¹ wish to appoint me as the next Bishop of Cork & Ross.
I was very happily serving the Church as an ordinary priest in the Archdiocese of Dublin during the last 27 years since I was ordained in various different ministries. And as a North Side Dubliner I would never have expected such trust to be placed in me by Pope Francis by asking me to serve as a humble servant leader, the People of God, the Body of Christ of the Diocese of Cork & Ross.
To be honest, it seems very daunting at this stage and I am very aware of my own human limitations but I have always answered God¹s call, each day, to serve in ways I would never have planned or expected. Thankfully God has always given me the grace and strength to do this, with the help of God¹s people and I am really excited by the challenge.
Journeying towards Cork
Today is about the people of the Diocese of Cork & Ross, one of the largest dioceses in Ireland. I have experienced in Cork people their great sense of community spirit and warm welcome across all the generations of all age groups and places. I look forward to becoming part of your great sense of community and making my home among you. That community spirit is alive in active and faith-filled parishes throughout the diocese as people and priests work together. I look forward to supporting and being enriched by the community spirit here and together in collaborative ministry, getting to know you as I visit and meet and engage with you in the parishes across the diocese.
In recent years I have had two wonderful experiences of priestly ministry here in this diocese. I celebrated, on the occasion of their marriage, the wedding of two friends in the historical setting of Saint Finbarr¹s Oratory, Gougane Barra, in the parish of Uibh Laoire, Inchigeela, a place steeped in the history of our Christian faith lived by people over many centuries.
On another occasion I concelebrated Mass here in the Cathedral of St. Mary and St Anne. I was accompanying, to a very warm welcome here, the Young Adult Gospel Choir from our parish of Our Lady of Victories, Ballymun Road, Dublin. The Gospel Choir led the liturgical music at a Saturday evening vigil Mass while we were here in Cork. The choir was participating in a choral competition as part of the Cork International Choral Festival.
I greet with a heart of love and faith the priests, the permanent deacons, the religious and all the people of the Diocese of Cork and Ross, especially young people and look forward to getting to know each of you as we work together and as I learn from you.
I am conscious of those who have felt let down by the Church and are just hanging in there¹. I encourage you not to give up.
Setting out on this new ministry, I have a lot to learn from you the people, religious, deacons and priests of the Diocese of Cork and Ross. I look forward to listening to you and benefiting from your experience, from your wisdom and guidance.
I look forward to working with other Christian Church leaders to build on the work of dialogue and ecumenism already taking place. I look forward in this City, County and beyond as a good neighbour of engaging also with other faith communities and, on this occasion, I greet people of all faiths, traditions and all who serve the common good in every way.
I cannot pretend that leaving my life and ministry in Dublin will be easy. I want to thank those I have collaborated and worked with in the Holy Cross Dublin Diocesan Centre and the Diocesan Offices and the faith community of the parish of Our Lady of Victories, Ballymun Road where I have served as a priest over the last almost ten years.
I have been blessed always in my family and close personal friends whose love and sacrifices have supported me on my journey as a priest and that support will continue to be very important to me.
I would like take this opportunity to thank Archbishop Jude Okolo, Papal Nuncio to Ireland, for his kindness and advice to me over these weeks and for his presence here this morning and in leading the celebration of morning Mass.
I am very grateful to Cardinal Connell and to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for the many life giving opportunities I have been trusted with in ministry and service in the Dublin Diocese. I want to thank Archbishop Diarmuid Martin especially for his kindness and practical support during these days.
I would like to thank Bishop John Buckley for his genuine welcome and for all his encouragement and support to me over the last two weeks. I know well that Bishop Buckley is a much loved pastor of the diocese during his time as auxiliary bishop and then bishop over the last thirty-five years.
While I wish him every happiness in his well-deserved retirement, I hope that he will be present and active and feel welcome in diocesan occasions and celebrations in the years ahead. I hope to be able to draw on his wisdom and experience.
I wish to express my appreciation to acting diocesan secretary Father Michael Keohane and to the cathedral administrator Father John O¹Donovan and to all here in the Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Anne for their work in organising this morning¹s announcement and for their welcome.
I wish to acknowledge the presence of Archbishop Patrick Coveney Apostolic Nuncio<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuncio Emeritus<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emeritus> to Greece<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greece> now living in his diocese of origin, Vicars General Monsignor Kevin O¹ Callaghan and Monsignor Aidan O¹Driscoll and the priests religious and so many people of the diocese, including the pupils and teachers from the local parish schools, gathered here this morning.
A splash of holy water¹ as we journey out together
As we move towards Easter we are reminded of how we are all united through our baptism. When I visited it previously, one of the things that struck me about this historic cathedral was the baptismal font which is placed – significantly – at the entrance of this cathedral parish church.
Sometimes, before setting out on a journey, we put our hands in the holy water font maybe at home or we splash those who are about to set out on a journey with some blessed Holy Water.
One of the scripture readings just a few days ago this Lent from the prophet Ezekiel (47:1-9.12) talks about God¹s love and our love as a stream of water, bringing life to all wherever it flows, reminding us of the love and light Jesus brings all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable, those on the margins.
As I, in these very first few significant steps, walk among you and prepare to begin my ministry with you, let us pray for one another. As a gesture reminding each of us of our baptismal call from God I would like, as a help on the journey, to ask Bishop Buckley and others gathered at the font from the local community to bless us, as we bless one another and to Œsplash me¹ this morning with some local holy water, blessed before we began Lent, as we journey out together.
I ask sincerely for your prayers and blessing as we go forward together, remembering one another in prayer.
From my heart, thank you for the warmth of your welcome here this morning. Thank you!
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