23 February 2009
Ferns Diocesan Finance AGM
Monday 23 February 2009 at 7.30pm
Words of Bishop Denis Brennan (Ferns)
… I would like to acknowledge tonight the many people who are now hurting in our communities – and the many others who are frightened. My aim is not to add to that fear, yet elephants in the room create their own problems when unaddressed…
“Let us openly prioritise our needs, not our wants” – and let all proposals – in the home, the parish, the school, the wider community and indeed the nation and world – be discerned in terms of “most vulnerable first, not last” – and let us be content to do so. We are now clearly living in an age where “wants” are unaffordable, but where needs can be addressed; the needs of those on the margins at home and abroad – and I respectfully suggest that we keep a close eye to education and health as the most important areas…”
Good evening everybody.
I would like to welcome you – the priests and the people of the parishes here in Ferns – to this our Annual Finance AGM.
It is a long established date in the annual calendar and an opportunity to outline the year past – and glance a little at the road ahead.
This year we have varied the format slightly – having taken an opportunity to pray a little – and “break bread together” – before we get down to the business of the evening.
As I begin, I would like to call to mind one of our priests who has died in the past twelve months – Frank Staples in his 62nd year of priesthood – and to recall all those members of our parish communities who were loyal to church and community and who have passed to their eternal rewards. May they rest in peace.
The diocese is blessed with a model of financial administration that is second to none.
Finances are managed by a committee headed by Mr. Eugene Doyle (Diocesan Finance Officer) and Mr. Liam Gaynor (Accountant). This committee – composed of lay people and priests – meets regularly as a full group and on a micro level every Thursday morning, in Summerhill where I and the administrative staff in Summerhill attend.
Your monies are managed professionally and astutely, efficiently and with great transparency. For this, I am grateful – the system we have is a great back up to me, and for this, I would like to say thanks.
I would like also to thank the many people who contribute faithfully – week in and week out – to the upkeep of parishes and priests – and indirectly to the local diocesan, national and universal church. Your faithfulness in generosity and attendance at church – is greatly appreciated.
The diocese strives to exercise to the best of our ability the trust you put in us – and to deliver cost effective and ever evolving service.
The Current Downturn
At the outset here this evening – I, like you – and those we are called to serve – am conscious of the very serious economic situation in which we find ourselves, as a country, and indeed as a world.
The sad reality is that it is no longer a fear for many; it has actually arrived in terms of job losses, reduced hours, pay cuts, evaporating pensions, withdrawn public services, and ever increasing domestic and commercial challenges.
I would like to acknowledge tonight the many people who are now hurting in our communities – and the many others who are frightened.
My aim is not to add to that fear, yet elephants in the room create their own problems when unaddressed.
Economics and financial expertise are neither my calling, nor is it my aptitude or competence. That said, the welfare of those who are in difficulties is our collective vocation.
As Church what can we say – or do – that will help?
I would suggest three things which will make a difference:
- “Do not be afraid” are the words of Jesus and we here tonight need to hear them afresh first. “Do not be afraid” are words that offer sanctuary in the current stormy waters of life. I would ask that you take that gift of inner peace home with you tonight and in the days and weeks that are now likely to follow, that you take time each day to realize that the vicissitudes of life do not touch you when you step into this place, the place of God. “Do not be afraid.”
“Be mindful of your neighbour”. The current climate is taking its toll on virtually everybody. Even the sure are being tested as they seek to manage their revised circumstances. As priests and people, let us be ever more mindful of the people with whom we come into contact each day. As there is added pressure, there needs to be added care. This is our shared calling. Give people the time, space and permission to get perspective and reassurance in the coming days. This current turmoil will work out, but like the market place, it is a matter of belief and steady nerve. Such is a contribution with which we can assist.
- “Let us openly prioritise our needs, not our wants” – and let all proposals – in the home, the parish, the school, the wider community and indeed the nation and world – be discerned in terms of “most vulnerable first, not last” – and let us be content to do so. We are now clearly living in an age where “wants” are unaffordable, but where needs can be addressed; the needs of those on the margins at home and abroad – and I respectfully suggest that we keep a close eye to education and health as the most important areas.
Regarding diocesan finances generally, I would like to situate my comments within the context of the diocese as I have again experienced it again over the past twelve months:
1. I have received a great welcome wherever I have been over the past year. At confirmations, funerals, blessings or social gatherings – we have the highest of standards operating on a day to day level – and this is only made possible through the very dedicated lay / religious and priestly partnership that exists in the parishes of the diocese. A lot of things are working and working well – and challenges aside – it is important that we would see this as the main subject on that canvas we call diocese, as we set about commencing another administrative year.
2. Since we met last, we have put in place new Boards of Management in our 96 primary schools. I would like to say a word of gratitude to the outgoing Boards – some 768 people who have served on these Boards – making high quality education available to children on their doorsteps, education that is in line with the ethos of parish and their parents. To all who have served on Boards – and to the members of the new Boards – I say thank you. A word of thanks also to school staff here also; to teachers, support staff and ancillary staff – the quiet and focused personnel – who keep these small school communities pitching well in a changing Ireland and a changing world. The Catholic education product that is delivered is very valuable – to quote Bishop Leo O’ Reilly of Kilmore – “As Catholics, we are believers when we study. We are rational when we pray.”
3. To members of parish councils, finance councils and to those who participate actively in making Sunday possible – sacristans, altar servers and societies, readers, Eucharistic ministers, ushers groundspeople, choirs and musicians – I say thanks again also. You are the people who live at the front line, you are the interface, the sign as was talked about so eloquently at the Second Vatican Council, the people of God in this part of the wider and universal church called the Diocese of Ferns. Never underestimate your calling – and never doubt its value and effect to the Church and to God.
4. On a wider scale, these are some of the things that I have seen recently within the diocese that give me great heart:
- Priests and People working on a day to day level serving the needs of the local parish. Funerals, weddings, patrons, Sunday Masses – the very stuff of daily catholic life.
- The same in schools – from beginning to end of year Masses, prize giving and other award ceremonies – to day to day chaplaincy and work of our catechists – and all that is done quietly and surely. A lot of great work occurs in our schools and in our parishes – may God continue to guide it.
- The work of Fr. Sean Devereux in the Gambia and that of Fr. Denis Browne in Brazil, and the quiet army of people within the diocese who supports their work so faithfully.
- The World Youth Day last July when over 100 from the diocese traveled to Australia – all self funded and with monies left over earmarked for further youth ventures. 20 more young people are headed to Rome in April when our “Pilgrim Cross and Icon” will be blessed by Pope Benedict XV1. Plans are also being laid for WYD Spain in 2011.
- Book launches and parish publications.
- School extensions – Danescastle, Kilmuckridge Horeswood, Monageer, the Vocational College bridgetown Colaiste an Atha Tara Hill – and church renovations in Newbawn
- Golden, ruby and silver jubilees over the past year – not to mention what we will celebrate in the coming year – Canon Jim Finn’s sixty years of priesthood, Monsignor Kehoe’s Golden Jubilee, Ruby anniversaries for Frs. John Jordan and James Furlong and the silver jubilees of Frs. Peter O’ Connor, Brian Broaders and Don Kenny.
- Bene Merente awards in the parish of Tagmon and in the curacy of the Ballagh. A Pro Ecclesiae award for Carmel Walsh last year in Lourdes.
- The ordinations of Tomas Kehoe, Harold Bumann and Peter Corish (O.P.) here in the diocese.
- The arrival of a new group of religious into the diocese – the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara to Bunclody – and Frs. Darius and Fr. Lucian – who has since been seconded to Liverpool – to the Friary in Wexford.
- The 150th anniversary of the “twin churches” in Wexford – the presence of the President, Mrs Mary McAleese and Cardinal Keith O’ Brien – and the engagement of so many of the schoolgoing population – in celebrations that went as smooth as clockwork.
- The 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Mercy sisters to Enniscorthy.
- The involvement of some 313 people in the RTE screening of the Easter Ceremonies from the Cathedral, a mammoth task that went to perfection and drew positive comment and admiration from near and far.
- Advances in the area of Safeguarding Children, all of which will were relayed to the parishes of the diocese over the past few weekends, through the good offices of our now 54 – and growing – parish representatives. 12 more are in training.
- Day to day administrative meetings – where the best course of action is discerned by very committed laypeople and clergy – for the people and priests of the diocese.
- The vocations promotion which is due to commence in the diocese over the coming weeks and months through a very well thought out and meaningful presentation. I would like to thank Fr. Jim Finn and the vocations team for their work. Much more about this you will hear.
This is just a small bit of all that is going on, I could mention much more – but from this small snapshot, you get an idea of how rich and vibrant the diocese is – let us express our gratitude and ask God to help us to continue.
5. Diocesan services continue to give of their best and I would like to say a word of thanks here also, to:
- The Ferns Diocesan Centre and the Education Secretariat – Sr. Anna, Fr. Frank Murphy and Fr. John Paul Sheridan.
- Diocesan Pilgrimages – Fr. Brendan Nolan (O.L.I.), Fr. Richard Lawless, Fr. Oliver Sweeney and Fr. Tommy Doyle and to the teams of people who make pilgrimages possible – and successful. And also our many priests and people involved in the Irish Pilgrimage Trust.
- The diocesan property committee – headed by Mr. Bernard Doyle.
- Family Life Services (ACCORD / CURA / BEREAVEMENT / TRAVELLERS / COUNSELLING).
- Christian Media Trust people – and I would like to single out Mr. Frank Flanagan for sterling service which was recognised by the Holy Father this year in a Knighthood of St. Gregory.
- Not forgetting also those who serve on retreat teams, the ecumenical committee, St Aidan’s Trust, St. Ibar’s Trust, History and Archives, Retirement and Sick Priests’ Funds, Pontifical Missions, Vocations, Liturgy under John Woodbyrne, Emigrants and Newcomers, Marriage Tribunal and Diocesan Administration.
These diocesan groups provide services to and for parishes, services that parishes cannot provide – or which make financial sense for individual parishes not to provide – for themselves. The monies you send to the Central Fund are used to fund these services and they are provided in a cost effective and professional manner. To all I say thank you.
6. With regard to finances, there are a few points that have been made before, but which deserve restating:
- Your money – for the most part (80%) remains within your parish – and it is managed locally by yourselves.
- What comes to the diocese – and which has been outlined tonight – is well managed and helps us to achieve the break even situation we achieve almost annually.
7. The funding of claims associated with child abuse as perpetrated by some members of the clergy continues to impact on the diocese financially. The issue continues to receive priority attention and I am glad to report continued progress. To date the diocese has agreed 46 settlements totaling €8,120,775. These have been funded from the diocese own resources, from insurance and from the Stewardship Trust. Treatment of offenders has amounted to €836,000, an investment in child protection in the long term. The diocese would like to record its deep gratitude to the other dioceses in Ireland for the very tangible support they have shown in their continued assistance in the funding of claims through the Stewardship Trust.
In conclusion, I would like to extend a word of well wish and gratitude to the Loreto Sisters who celebrate 400 years since their foundress Mary Ward set out on her work. The St. Louis Order will celebrate 150 years in Ireland this year and we thank the members of these Orders – who serve here in the diocese – for the contribution they continue to make. In congratulating them, I say a word of thanks to all of the religious in the Diocese of Ferns – genuine hard working and capable individuals – who in many cases continue to give as wholeheartedly as they ever did, in the wake of a lifetime of very generous and self sacrificing service.
2008 has been a year of hard work, of genuine commitment and foresight – as we face 2009 may God bless us for the tasks ahead – and may we see in these tasks, opportunities to fulfill our role as the People of God in the diocese of Ferns.
Fr. John Carroll, Diocese of Ferns Communications Office
Tel: (053) 9124368, Fax: 053) 9123436