Bishop Joseph Duffy celebrates 25th anniversary of Episcopal Ordination

05 Sep 2004

Bishop Joseph Duffy celebrates 25th anniversary of Episcopal Ordination

 “We must work towards an integrated and inclusive cross-border society, where political and religious differences are understood and mutually respected” – Bishop Joseph Duffy

 The Bishop Of Clogher, Dr Joseph Duffy, celebrated his 25th anniversary as bishop at a special Mass in St Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan at 6:30pm today. Bishop Duffy was the principal celebrant of the Mass and the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Seán Brady, was guest speaker. Bishop Duffy said:

 “A Ardeaspaig urrmaigh agus a phobal Dé idir chléir agus daoine uaisle. Sul a dtugaim beannacht scoir an Aifrinn daoibh, tá  dualgas nó dhó le comhlionadh agam más é bhur dtoil.

 “My main duty is to express a word of thanks to all of you who have come here today to thank God with me for my 25 years as bishop of Clogher.

 “In the first place I thank our esteemed Primate, Archbishop Seán Brady, for gracing us with his presence and for his encouraging words. While every diocese has its own identity, we share much in Clogher with our neighbours in Armagh and also with Kilmore, the Archbishop’s native diocese. As president of the Bishops Conference, Archbishop Brady is called to give national leadership to the Irish Church; let me

assure him how much we appreciate his total dedication to his very demanding office. The result is that we are all inclined to impose on his easy accessible style. By the way, the word is out that he was cheering for Fermanagh over the Summer, I wont say in what matches.

 “I also take the opportunity to thank very warmly the clergy of our own Diocese, not just for organising this celebration but for their understanding, friendship and cooperation over 25 years. One of the snags of being appointed bishop in one’s 40s is that the joints are liable to creak well before the final whistle. But what I have always admired about our priests is the way they get on with their work and leave the Bishop to get on

with his. In any case, changing circumstances, if not changing bishops, keep the pressure on all of us, moving us, admittedly at different speeds, to ongoing renewal and better ways of doing our business. We are all learning, at least I am, that there is no single programme, no automatic formula for approaching the Word of God and the Sacraments. I don’t have to labour the point that we need more young priests and we need them urgently.

“I am thrilled to see people here from every parish in the Diocese, from Fermanagh and Tyrone and Donegal as well as from Monaghan. You have made it a real diocesan gathering, turning God’s scattered people into his gathered people. In our diocese that is never an easy exercise if only because we straddle the Border. Our

history has left us a political border which effectively means we are on the margins of two States. The temptation is to bewail our historical grievances, as Patrick Kavanagh said, to keep sailing “in puddles of the past”. But that is not to say that we can afford to ignore the particular frustrations of belonging to a border diocese. It’s simply a painful fact of life – and one that happens elsewhere as well as here – that border areas are largely forgotten by the people who make strategic decisions for the future. One has only

to think of the ongoing and systematic downgrading of the health service in county Monaghan and the abject failure so far to address this problem to meet the legitimate needs of the people. Similarly, the imaginative project to reopen the Ulster Canal has been loudly trumpeted, but we are still waiting for action. On both sides of the Border, as many of you will have experienced today on your way here, the road infrastructure lags well behind that of other regions. One could go on.

 “The underlying issue here is important. It’s no longer a question of merely identifyingthe social and economic needs of local communities on both sides of the Border. The paper work here has already been done; the research and the reports have been published. What we face now is the patient and piecemeal task of taking on specific projects as the opportunity arises, of working steadily towards an integrated and inclusive cross-border society where political and religious differences are understood and mutually respected. We have seen this happen on mainland Europe in our own lifetime; I’m not saying we have done nothing here; but we have a long way to go.

 “It would of course be foolish and unworthy of our Christian heritage to expect others to solve our human problems. The response to the mystery of Infinite Love, to the mystery of the sublime unity and harmony of the Blessed Trinity, has to be a personal agenda, an agenda which is the personal privilege of every Christian. In the new world in which we live, we have to be more honest than we are in addressing the perceived irrelevance of Church practice and Church teaching to so many people. One can understand the fatigue and low morale of many Christian parents today. They feel they have done their best, and that their best has not been good enough. They fear they have lost the plot. They quietly opt out of the struggle with the new world. If I’m describing your situation, I can only share with you my sincere conviction. You can rediscover the plot, you can influence your children for the better, but strictly on one condition: that you believe you can do it. Hope is of the essence. We bring our personal faith to our family and community commitment and it makes all the difference. Past experience – what we have been through, not merely over the past 35 years but over the generations – and the extraordinary willingness to forgive shown by so many people, these are some of the sustaining elements that inspire us to be positive about the future.

 “Finally, I want to compliment all those who help out in our parishes in any way and who have worked so hard to replace, refurbish and improve the diocesan and parish plant. This has meant much voluntary labour on the part of priests and people, working together in large numbers, fundraising, planning and supervising, the kind of generous community effort that calls for public recognition on an occasion like this. The latest

project has been the magnificent renovations at Lough Derg which continues a thousand years of unbroken tradition and which has geared itself with courage and determination for the 21′ century.

 “Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world. They were to let their light shine. And although, and indeed because he knew that in doing this they would often be distracted and put down, he sent them the Holy Spirit. On this Sunday, 25 years ago, I prayed in this place that the Holy Spirit would give me the will and the energy to bear public witness to the Christian faith. I also prayed for the forthcoming Papal visit. When the Pope arrived three weeks later, I vividly recalled how inspired I was by his enormous energy and missionary zeal. It remains my prayer that the Holy Spirit will continue to share his gifts not only with me but with all of us.

“Go meadai Dia bhur stor.

Further information:

Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)