Canon Thomas Johnston’s homily at the ordination Mass for Monsignor Brendan Kelly as the new Bishop of Achonry

27 Jan 2008


27th January 2008

Canon Thomas Johnston’s homily at the ordination Mass for Monsignor Brendan Kelly as the new Bishop of Achonry

The Episcopal Ordination of the Right Reverend Monsignor Brendan Kelly as Bishop of Achonry took place today at 3pm in the Cathedral of the Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon.

Please see the homily delivered by Canon Thomas Johnston below:

Today we extend a warm welcome to all who have gathered here for this wonderful occasion and we extend a very special welcome, a céad míle fáilte, to our Bishop-elect, Monsignor Brendan Kelly. We feel very privileged that Brendan has been appointed as the chief pastor of our diocese. We thank him for accepting that call and we pledge him our loyalty and support. We pray that his time among us will be blessed and happy and we pray also that something of the humanity, friendliness and prayerfulness of this man will touch all of our lives.

Brendan is here today in response to Christ’s call to discipleship, heard as truly by him as by the first disciples. Christ’s first disciples were fishermen, two sets of brothers, called from their fishermen tasks of casting and mending nets, called to be fishers of men – and women, to cast their nets for Jesus and to tend to the broken, to preach the Good News of Jesus and to minister to the hurting. The creative word of Jesus laid hold of these men and marvellously changed their lives. Since then how many have heard and responded to that gentle but persuasive call of Jesus, ‘Follow me.’

Brendan’s journey to priesthood was in response to, not exactly those words, ‘Follow me’, but words equally persuasive voiced by the late Bishop Michael Brown of Galway when he addressed Brendan’s class in their Leaving Cert year and said, ‘The diocese needs you’, and the diocese got him; but now, a far higher call, has brought Brendan to the diocese of Achonry to lead the church here in the following of Christ, to proclaim the Good News and to minister to those broken in body and spirit.

The call of our diocese today is not so much for a leader who will have all sorts of policies and programmes, councils and committees; of course there is a place and a need for such, but the primary focus of our message must be the person of Jesus and, in the words of the late Holy Father, John Paul II, ‘Jesus must be presented as he really is, a living, fascinating person …. to be known, loved and imitated.’ Jesus is the light who will lead. Just follow that lead; that is our task. It should be so simple, yet history and our own experience show that staying with the simple can be a real challenge. Think of the confusion, the differences within the Corinthian Church of St. Paul’s time, wrangling so often mirrored in the centuries since and right down to our own day. To address the confusion of his day, Paul restated his mission and it was simply to preach the Good News of Jesus in its totality – life, death and resurrection; no pandering to the popular mood of the day or the philosophical fancy of the moment.

The mission of the Church has not changed. Its call is still to boldly proclaim the message of Jesus: a message to appeal to our deeper and better selves; a message to stretch our minds beyond the ordinary, the mundane; a message to counter a prevailing cult of softness; a message to give joy to our hearts, determination to our efforts and the assurance to make us profoundly aware that God is on our side and that he loves us totally, utterly, completely.

I believe that our new Bishop is a person equal to this task. He has chosen as the motto for his ministry, ‘de réir d’fhocail,’ ‘according to your word’, a phrase attributed to Mary in the first chapter of St. Luke’s gospel. It is the last few words of her response to God’s invitation to divine motherhood, ‘let it be done to me according to thy word,’ a response made possible through Mary’s trust and confidence in God. In choosing ‘according to your word’ as his motto, our new Bishop is taking Mary as his inspiration and building his ministry on the solid foundation of trust, confidence and reliance on God, ‘not my will, Lord, but yours be done.’ It is only by aligning our wills with the will of God that the greatness, the goodness of the Almighty can be released in our lives and in our world.

The call of Jesus, ‘Follow me,’ is as real today as it was for Peter, Andrew, James and John, and its urgency is no less. May each of us here have the courage to listen openly to that call to discipleship, not to be fearful in following its lead but with new hope, energy and enthusiasm discover the fulfilment and joy of following Jesus who, in the words of Pope Benedict, ‘gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’.

When Bishop Michael Brown told Brendan’s Leaving Cert Class that the diocese needed them, did he ever think that thirty six years on another diocese would claim one of them as its Bishop, but that is what has happened – today Brendan Kelly will be ordained Bishop of Achonry. Brendan, the diocese of Achonry needs you and welcomes you warmly.

Notes to Editors:

Biography of Monsignor Brendan Kelly, Bishop-elect of Achonry
Bishop Brendan Kelly was born at Derrybrien, Loughrea, Co Galway, on 20 May 1946, and was baptised on 26 May 1946, before moving to Craughwell two years later. He is the son of the late Annie and Sean Kelly, NT, and the second in a family of nine children. He received the Sacrament of Confirmation at Craughwell, in the Diocese of Galway, on 28 May 1957.

Following his early education at Craughwell National School, he attended St Mary’s College, Galway, from 1959 to 1964. He began his studies for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, in 1964 and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Galway by the Most Rev Michael Browne in Galway Cathedral on 20 June 1971. While at Maynooth he was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Arts and that of Bachelor of Divinity, and he later obtained his Higher Diploma in Education at University College Galway in 1973.

Having served for a year as Curate in the Parish of Kinvara, Co Galway, he held a number of academic posts. From 1972 to 1980 he taught in the diocesan post-primary college, Coláiste Einde, and, similarly, from 1980 to 1986 in Our Lady’s College, Gort, of which he was subsequently President from 1986 to 1995.

In 1995/1996 he received Sabbatical leave and served as Chaplain to the “L’Arche” community at Cuise-la-Motte in France. In 1996 he was appointed Parish Priest of Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, and on 19 June 2002 he was created a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter and became Vicar Forane for the deanery of Kilfenora.

From 2003 until the present day he has been Parish Priest of Spiddal, Co Galway. In 2005 he was also appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Galway by the Most Rev Martin Drennan, and on 6 March 2006, Pope Benedict XVI conferred upon him the honour of Chaplain of His Holiness.

The Bishop’s Coat of Arms:
The open book (The Book of The Gospels) is depicted on the upper half of the coat of arms. The bishop is called to serve the word of God by opening it up for the people, having first listened to it in his own heart. “In the beginning was the word” (John 1:1) the first words of the Gospel of St. John are written in Latin on the left leaf. The Cross, the great sign of Christians is on the right and is inseparable from the Word.

On the lower half of the shield is a medieval depiction of Noah’s Ark. The desire was to have a boat in the coat of arms as the boat has many relevant associations. There is the boat of St. Brendan but more importantly the fisherman’s boat of St. Peter, a rich metaphor for the Church reflected in the “nave” (from the Latin navis – a boat) of nave and chancel churches.

The particular choice of Noah’s Ark (L’Arche) as the boat in the coat of arms is prompted by the famous drawing in the Book of Ballymote which originated in the diocese of Achonry. Noah’s Ark is the instrument of salvation for humankind in the Book of Genesis. It recalls also the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant, and Mary who as mother of Jesus is the Ark of the New Covenant.

His Eminence Seán Cardinal Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, was Principal-Consecrator at the Mass. Archbishop Michael Neary, the Archbishop of Tuam and Bishop Thomas Flynn, Bishop Emeritus of Achonry, were co-consecrators.

Members of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, priests from the dioceses of Achonry and Galway, classmates and friends of Monsignor Kelly, concelebrated.

Canon Thomas Johnston is Parish Priest of Charlestown, Co. Mayo.


Further information:

Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
Kathy Tynan, Communications Officer (086 817 5674)
Fr Vincent Sherlock, Diocesan Communications Officer (087 242 4253)