St Patrick’s Day Message from Bishop Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry and Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Emigrants

15 Mar 2008

15 March 2008

St. Patrick’s Day Message from Bishop Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry and Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Emigrants

Today we celebrate the feast of our National Patron, Saint Patrick. He brought the message of Christianity to Ireland. When he came to this land he explored Celtic Ireland without cynicism or ridicule. His openness to our traditions did not diminish his own beliefs in the person of Christ present in all aspects of his life expressed so eloquently in his prayer entitled Patrick’s Breastplate. In fact his openness created a desire among the Irish, to learn about the personal loving God that sustained Patrick’s own life and his mission. This is the call to every person of faith today. Taking Patrick as our model, we need to be fully at home in our own faith tradition, being able to defend its value and purpose yet able to dialogue confidently with those of other faith traditions.

As Ireland evolves into a new phase of its growth and development we are more than ever called to identify our values and our traditions of belief that are foundational to human dignity and to a civilised, caring society. The call for a society that champions integration is first and foremost a call to every person that believes in a God of Love to integrate these beliefs into every aspect of life.

Faith and religious belief have too conveniently been ushered into the realm of the personal and private domains. Patrick’s faith was a very public faith. Christ was part of his every waking moment, his every human interaction and inspired his every conversation. His faith and his ability to see Christ’s love present in all things are the foundations of renewal and hope for a future which places security, peace and harmony as it’s goals.

Patrick shared one thing in common with many of the great prophets in Sacred Scripture. Abraham, Elijah, Moses, and Saint Paul all experienced revelations of God’s mysterious and unfathomable love while on journeys. Today, we pray for all who travel in search of hope and blessing. We think particularly of our own people who have found new lives in far flung shores and those who now come to our land. May they, like so many people in Scripture, and in the previous generations before them, discover the rich mystery of God’s salvific purpose and know the peace and support that Saint Patrick found for his life. May they be sustained and nourished and may they enrich those they come in contact with as Saint Patrick blessed so many in his own time and in succeeding generations. We thank God for the blessings that are bestowed on our land by the presence of so many people from the many countries, backgrounds and traditions that we are privileged to witness in everyday life but more particularly when we worship together.

The migrant journey is one filled with hope and expectation. However there is a growing awareness of the implications of migration, both for the migrant, and, for sending and receiving societies. The migrant’s journey cannot be made without some serious preparation and support. The role of Church and voluntary organisations are essential in this regard. The role of Government is critical in the development of policy and the provision of financial resources to those who provide outreach and care to our vulnerable migrants.

In this regard the Bishops’ then Commission for Emigrants welcomed the Report on Irish Prisoners Abroad launched in August 2007. This Report, the first of its kind commissioned by the Government and prepared by Chris Flood, is a timely reminder of the problems faced by Irish prisoners abroad and their families. The Report, as well as containing important statistical information, provides a disturbing snapshot of the conditions, problems and issues faced by prisoners and their families. It also contains a number of practical recommendations which, if implemented, would go a long way towards addressing these concerns.

The Bishops’ Council for Emigrants now calls on the Government to renew its commitment to prisoners abroad and their families by implementing, in full, these recommendations and doing all it can to alleviate the anxiety and hardship experienced by this most vulnerable group of emigrants and their families. This work was undertaken as a result of a promise in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness to undertake research to identify the number of Irish prisoners abroad and their needs for services in prison (Ireland, 2000).

As more and more people migrate, the work of organizations – such as the Bishops’ Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas – will serve as a template to nations as they face the multi-faceted challenges posed by migration. It is only right that Ireland establishes itself as an international leader with regard to services and supports for citizens abroad.

Notes to Editors:

Solemnity of St Patrick

This year the Solemnity of St Patrick is celebrated on Saturday, 15 March as the 17 March falls in Holy Week. As the days of Holy Week rank above all others in the Liturgical calendar, the Solemnity must be transferred from its usual date. Because the Solemnity has been transferred from its normal date for this year, the celebration of St Patrick on 15 March is not a Holy day of Obligation in 2008. The general rule would be to transfer the feast until after the Second Sunday of Easter but, in order to keep a link with the civic celebrations which take place as usual on 17 March, the feast of St Patrick will be on Saturday 15 March 2008.

Bishops’ Commission for Migrants

At the March meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference a decision was made to restructure the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants. In its place now exits the Commission for Migrants. This Commission comprises a Council for Immigrants and a Council for Emigrants. The pastoral outreach for this new Commission is guided by the norms as set out in Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi.


Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan, Communications Officer (086 817 5674)