Address by Bishop Francis Duffy, Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnois, at his Episcopal Ordination Mass in Saint Mary’s, Pro-Cathedral, Athlone, Co Westmeath, in the Diocese of Ardagh & Clonmacnois
“The Episcopal motto I chose is from Saint John’s Gospel ‘I have come that they may have life’. I chose it because each human life is so important” – Bishop Duffy
Some weeks ago the children in a school in the parish where I was working drew congratulation cards for me. One in particular caught my eye. It had a dark storm cloud with a yellow zigzag fork of lightning coming from it. The teacher asked what was the significance of the streak of lightning; the reply was ‘when we heard the news we got a shock’. I thank the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, for imparting that shock with great gentleness and encouragement last July! I thank him also for his on-going steady support.
During today’s ceremony Bishop Colm O’Reilly passed on the Bishop’s staff, symbolising the role of the shepherd caring for his people. I thank him for his warm welcome, his encouragement and his kindness to me over the last two months. I am conscious that I am following in the footsteps of a very caring and pastoral leader. Bishop Colm’s wise counsel and assistance have been invaluable to me. May I add that he is a much loved pastor of deep faith, strong substance and compassion, and we are all greatly indebted to him for his selfless service to the diocese comprising over thirty years as bishop and twenty-three years as priest.
I am particularly glad that a fellow Cavan man, and formerly a priest and teacher of the Diocese of Kilmore, Cardinal Seán Brady, is here with us today as the principal ordaining bishop. I thank him too for his leadership and for his gentle and thoughtful support.
I thank all those who helped to organise this ceremony and all who participated in this beautiful liturgy of ordination. I thank our outstanding choir and our insightful homilist Father Peter Burke. Thanks to the diocesan office and the committee here in Athlone for coordinating all the plans: invitations and publications, stewarding and car parking. It is very heartening to witness the enthusiasm and care with which they have prepared today’s event. I am very grateful to them individually and collectively. In my address in July I mentioned that the diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois has a long and proud history and that it is also a modern diocese. So it is good that advances in information technology enables many to follow the ceremony on the internet and also in ‘The Little Theatre’ next door and in the Cathedral Centre, Longford. I thank iCatholic and the Dominican students for making this possible.
I wish to take this opportunity to welcome the listeners of Shannonside/Northern Sound Radio, and to thank the station for broadcasting today’s Ordination Mass. I also wish to acknowledge Midlands 103 Radio for reporting on today’s ceremony. I welcome all local and national media representatives here today, and I look forward to a long and fruitful working relationship with you all.
I am very happy that many significant people in my life are here today. My mother and my family, my friends, priests of Kilmore led by Bishop Leo, who for me has been an inspirational leader. Also here are the religious, colleagues from the schools in which I worked, and friends from the communities where I lived; people from Saragh, Carrigallen and Cliff Erna, where I served in the last four years, classmates, and the stalwarts from the diocesan office in Cavan and in Longford. I welcome the bishops who have come to the heart of Ireland for today’s ceremony. I also greet and warmly welcome here today the representatives of the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church.
The Episcopal motto I chose is from Saint John’s Gospel: ‘I have come that they may have life’. I chose it because each human life is so important. In thinking of life we inevitably think of those who matter to us. Ordinary daily life, around the kitchen table, at work, at recreation, with all its joys, pressures and possibilities, is where our faith and on-going relationship with Jesus Christ can bring the glow of hope that can transform our actions and our living. Today happens to be ‘Day for Life’ with the theme ‘Care for Life: It’s Worth It’. This is a pastoral letter to the faithful of Ireland from our bishops. It holds up the vision that no person should ever be marginalised or set aside. When I think of life I think of the great ability we can have to lift hearts and especially the hearts of those who are in dark places, maybe facing difficult choices or feeling abandoned, alone or of little worth or struggling financially, as many are. I think of those whose passion for life and whose sensitivity to others conveys the message that life is worth living, the message of Jesus Christ.
Today too I remember and share the country’s shock and revulsion concerning the attacks on two innocent children here in this town as they played last weekend. My prayer today is for the young victims, their families and local communities.
Finally, I end where I hope to begin, with the people, priests and religious of Ardagh and Clonmacnois. Two years ago an open-day was held at Saint Mel’s Cathedral. Several thousand passed through, many were tearful and sad to see the devastation that had been visited on their local church, their Cathedral. On Sunday last up to five thousand people came to visit Saint Mel’s Cathedral. The mood was different, more upbeat and hopeful because progress was visible and a restoration in sight. The plans for the future are in good hands with Bishop Colm and the Restoration Project Committee and we all look forward to the reopening at the end of next year. For me it is an immense privilege and joy to be bishop of this wonderful diocese. I thank the people of Ardagh and Clonmacnois for the welcome I have received. There are representatives here from the forty-one parishes of the diocese. I greet you warmly and look forward to being with you in your parishes. On Tuesday last I met the clergy as a group; I thank them for their friendly and hearty welcome. I am eager to continue and build on the good work that the faithful and talented clergy of this diocese and their parish communities have accomplished.
I am conscious that I need to listen, and to engage with, the people, priests and religious so that together and with God’s help we can continue to build up the ‘People of God’ in Ardagh and Clonmacnois. I look forward with great joy and enthusiasm to joining with you and to working and living among you in our mission of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Saint Mel, pray for us. Saint Ciarán, pray for us.
- See the full text of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference 2013 Day for Life Pastoral Message, Care for Life: it’s Worth It, on www.catholicbishops.ie in the Irish, English and Polish languages
- See below for a summary of the life and ministry of Bishop Francis Duffy:
Life and Ministry of Bishop Francis Duffy
Francis Duffy was born on 21 April 1958 in the parish of Templeport, Co Cavan to parents Mary Catherine Dolan and the late Frank Duffy. He is the oldest of four children. Father Francis attended primary school at Munlough National School, Bawnboy and completed his post-primary education at Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan. Francis studied for the priesthood at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth and was ordained a priest for the diocese of Kilmore on 20 June 1982 in Saint Mogue’s Church, Bawnboy, Co Cavan by Bishop Francis MacKiernan. For eleven years Father Francis was on the teaching staff of Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan, where he taught history, religion and Irish. Father Francis was appointed principal of Fatima and Felim’s Secondary School, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim in 1996. After twelve years as principal Father Francis was appointed Diocesan Secretary and Chancellor. He had the additional responsibilities of financial administrator, communications officer and archivist. Since 2009 Father Francis has been resident priest in the parish of Laragh, Co Cavan where he has remained until his episcopal ordination today as Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.
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