25 July 2010
Homily of Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, for the ordination of Right Reverend Monsignor Liam MacDaid as Bishop of Clogher – embargoed until 4.30pm Sunday 25 July
Readings : Is 61:1-3; Ps 39 ; 2 Tim 1:6-8,13-14, Mt 20:20-28
Our assent conveys the congratulations and pride of so many of your friends : your brother, Christopher, and your relatives, friends and neighbours from your native parish of Magh Ene (Bundoran), women and men with whom you have worked in education and in the many area of pastoral service in which you were active during four decades of priestly ministry, representatives of public life in both jurisdictions, representatives, friends and indeed co-parishioners from the Christian Churches in the diocese, friends from the days of your prowess on the Gaelic fields, fellow cognoscenti of lens, hoof and turf, the numerous individuals and families whose lives you have touched as teacher, school principal and then as pastor both in this diocese and far beyond its borders, and your former parishioners in the parishes of Aghavea-Aghintaine and my native Tyholland.
This expression of assent includes the fraternally supportive and vital voice of your brothers in the priesthood of the diocese of Clogher. And it is embellished by the empathetic and graceful presence of members of your Maynooth ordination class, among whom you were eminent in many ways, particularly as editor of the review, Irisleabhar Mha Nuad.
On this historic Sunday in your life we, and many associated with us on stream, pledge you our support and continuing friendship. We wish you health and strength. Above all we thank you for taking on the office of bishop at this juncture in the history of salvation, at this trying point in the mystery-laden history of the Church and in an epoch of significant social, cultural and religious metamorphosis in the evolution of Irish society.
It is a genetic moment, that is, a moment of potential for growth of new life, of a church renewed through purification. If this genesis is necessarily uncharted and signally un-chartable, it is a pioneering time to assume the office of bishop in the service of the Catholic Community in contemporary society.
It is a promise-laden time to enter the Episcopal ministry in the context of growing ecumenical respect and trust between the leaders, clergy and faithful of the Christian Churches in this diocese and on the island of Ireland.
This is a time of challenge to the spirit of prophecy in the Christian community particularly, Fr Liam, in terms of a bishop’s vital role in dialogue with civic, economic, political and cultural leaders in society who must also seek to build and mould a societal context worthy of the human person. For if the paradigms of the relationship between the sacred and the secular, between Church and State, are also metamorphosing in this epoch of the history of Ireland, as they have throughout our history, in response to the Word of God and for the sake of the irreducible in each human person a prophetic voice must proclaim and remind us all that man is not his own measure. As bishop it will be your task to grow and foster that prophetic, and therefore self-critical, voice in the Church in Ireland as a leader of Christian citizenry in the coming years. In this arena, Fr Liam, you assume a responsibility today to help modulate the changing relationship of the religious and secular, whilst recognising in your role as bishop that that secular reason, the secular voice, (even if sometimes undifferentiated in its assertions about the role of religion and Church in society, as our own voice, let’s admit it, sometimes overstretches or simplifies life’s complexities), has purified the Church, is purifying it and will continue to do so in the present and in the coming years.
As you assume the office of bishop against this background, the choice of readings you have made from the Sacred Scriptures for your Episcopal ordination sounds the signature tune of your aspiration as bishop. The figure of the servant-leader dominates. The servant image intertwines with the prayerful strophes of psalm 39 and the refrain, Here am I, O Lord, to do your will, thus proclaiming your prayerful choice to accept the mission entrusted to you.
The lines of the first reading, a soliloquy, from Trito-Isaiah, ch. 61, vv. 1-3, pick up the motif of the suffering servant in Second Isaiah (Is. 40 – 55.13). These verses catch your understanding, Fr Liam, of the role and function of bishop as a servant-leader. They express your aspiration to pastoral leadership as service, and indeed what we all know to be the task of every bishop: to be the Spirit-anointed God-bearer, to proclaim the good news of God’s Word, to foster God’s mission of mercy and to awaken, nurture and sustain Christian hope in the community of believers and in society through the Church’s liturgy, prayer, work, charitable outreach and witness.
The gospel text you have chosen, Mt 20:20-28, brings together a dialogue (vv.20-23) with a separate collection of sayings (from Lk 22.24-27) on Christian leadership. In the closing lines of the gospel text you have chosen, Jesus proffers two models of authority: freely exercised service and slavery. As Chancellor of the diocese you have the great advantage of having worked closely with Bishop Duffy. Having shared in his work, you know how the exercise of episcopal authority encompasses both models alluded to in this gospel text, freely chosen service and the endurance of slave-like fidelity through arduous unseen work, even betimes as a “ransom” as the gospel text puts it, for the common good of the people of God.
The extract from the Second Letter to Timothy (2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14), enunciates that the overseer of the Christian community, as you will become, Fr Liam, is entrusted “to look after something precious” (v.14). As the Second Vatican Council distils that task, as bishop you are tasked with proclaiming the Word of God, with seeing to sanctification of life through the worthy celebration of the liturgy and sacraments and with governing the community of the Church. The lines from this Letter to Timothy call us, and in particular they call you, as a bishop, Fr Liam, to bear hardships for the sake of the Good News (v.8,), the heart of that “something precious” that is entrusted to us.
Exercising the ministry of bishop, as a servant-leader, my dear sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ, is a vocation. It is a response in faith and in priestly lifestyle to the God revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Pursuing that vocation encompasses the pursuit of professional skills and competence, yet it requires the bishop to go beyond the realm of professional codes and to undertake a self-sacrificing surrender to God and his people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As ever in former centuries, yet particularly in our contemporary socio cultural context, bishops are called to be heralds and sentinels of the Holy. It is the bishop’s responsibility to ensure that the Christian community recognises the presence of the Absolute, the irruption of the divine, in human history in the historic and personal event of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a paramount responsibility of the bishop to witness to the mystery of God, the saving mystery of the divine plan of salvation, given a personal, relational dynamic through the incarnation and life of Jesus of Nazareth and continued and kept alive for us in the liturgy and sacramental prayer of the people of God, the Church. Mindful of the pivotal role of the bishop from the earliest Christian centuries in presiding at the Eucharist, in caring for the celebration of the liturgy and thus assuring the communion (in Greek, koinônia) of life in the Church, it is worth remembering that the strength and the attraction of the Church is found in the sacred liturgy. Where and when the liturgy is celebrated with fervour and in all its beauty, we experience the sources of our faith and its redemptive impulse and vision of the world. The liturgy itself is central element of evangelisation and indeed may become the lightening-rod for evangelisation in a society impoverished culturally, morally and spiritually by religious indifference.
As a bishop for and with the community of believers, as St Augustine said of himself as bishop, together with his people the bishop of today is called to apply the good news of the gospel in such a way that he is a herald of human dignity and its attendant rights and duties. Indeed it is his mission in Christ to be the sentinel of the absolute dignity of each person. He is called to be guardian and herald of the constitutive mystery of human personal identity which cannot be reduced to, nor understood merely as an object, an ideal or an idol . His it is to proclaim that each human person is a gift, a gift and a mystery to herself and himself, a gift in the image of God who also transcends our categories of knowing. Looking after that “something precious” alluded to in Second Timothy also entails heralding that enfleshed, concrete, yet mysterious, transcendence which each person carries in their body, mind and heart. This is a vital service to society as we citizens, and believers, address seminal issues of human identity and dignity in the years ahead.
In view of this vital component of the office and mission of the bishop in our global and interdependent village, the bishop has also to provide for the Church’s competent and skilled participation in public discussion of the groundbreaking anthropological and societal issues of our time. In this regard opening a new furrow of involvement on the part of Christian men and women and of groups combining religious faith with empirical and professional knowledge and insight is a sine qua non for the work of evangelisation in this country as elsewhere. The urgent need for a proactive Catholic intelligentsia – the critical voice of articulate, active, self-confident Christian Catholic women and men – is fundamental to the renewal of our knowledge and appreciation of the beauty of spiritual dynamism of the Christian faith and heritage. It is a yeast for the renewal of the Church in this country. That voice is among us Liam, as you know. Let’s work with all to create and foster a space for its confident, free expression.
So, Fr Liam, you have graciously accepted to open a new and demanding phase in your priestly ministry. Today is a day for celebrating God’s graciousness at work in the total mystery of your life and the generosity of your response to this His further call to you.
It is also an occasion when I and many of you, my dear friends, would wish to record our thanks to Bishop Joseph Duffy for his immense contribution to the life of the Church that is in the diocese of Clogher over thirty one years of service as bishop, spanning the closing decades of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first. His work to foster the Christian faith, ecumenical relations among the Christian Churches and communities in the decades of the Troubles, his guidance of the Clogher Historical Society, and his fostering of the arts and culture, especially religious art as exemplified in this cathedral, will occupy historians of a future generation. A bishop, charged with the oversight of a local Church, shares in the pastoral care of the universal Church. In this arena there emerged the Clogher mission to Kitui, under Bishop Duffy’s direction and it is a joy that Fr Francis Kimanthi represents the Church of God in Kitui here among us today. For the Irish Bishops’ Conference Bishop Duffy’s work in several departments of the Episcopal conference, was influential and formative. His work for numerous years on the new and little understood interface between Christian faith and the project of European integration was pioneering and of significance for both Church and society. For all of this and much more, we thank you, Bishop Joe, and we wish you God’s blessing and many years of fruitful scholarship and research in the years ahead.
- St Ignatius of Antioch, Letters – Smyrn, VIII,2; Magn. VII ,2; Philad, IV,1
- For the background to some of these thoughts I am indebted to addresses given by the philosopher Jean-Luc Marion and Mgr Claude Dagens, members of the Académie francaise on 21 January 2010 on the reception of the former as a member, cf La Documentation catholique, no 2442.
Fr Noel McConnell, Media Liaison Officer, Diocese of Clogher 00353 (0) 877860730
Martin Long, Communication Office, Maynooth, 00353 (0) 86 172 7678