Episcopal Ordination of Father Alphonsus Cullinan as Bishop of Waterford & Lismore

12 Apr 2015

“We are called to step out from the doors of the Church to bring Christ to all we meet.  This is our mission: to be filled with Christ and to bring Him to others.  Christ has no body now but yours and mine” – Bishop Cullinan


Please see below details of the Episcopal Ordination Mass of Father Alphonsus Cullinan as Bishop of Waterford & Lismore which will be celebrated today at 3:00pm in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Barronstrand Street, Waterford:

  • In attendance
  • Liturgical roles for the Episcopal Ordination Mass
  • Words of greeting by the chief celebrant Bishop William Lee, Bishop Emeritus of Waterford & Lismore
  • Homily of Monsignor Michael Olden
  • Words of gratitude from the new Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan
  • Life and ministry of Bishop Cullinan

In attendance

Family and friends of Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan; Mayor of the City and County Council; Mayor of the Metropolitan area; Mayor of the Comeragh Electoral Area; Mayor of Clonmel Borough Municipal District; President Michael D Higgins and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be represented at the ordination; local public representatives from Waterford and Tipperary constituencies; representatives of Church groups in the diocese: chairpersons of Parish Pastoral Councils, parish youth representatives, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Accord, CURA, Family Ministry, Knights of Columbanus, Knights of Malta; representatives of local civil society: Civil Defence, Chief Superintendent of An Garda Síochána; and, representatives from primary and secondary Catholic schools within the diocese.

Liturgical roles for the Episcopal Ordination Mass

The Chief Ordaining Prelate will be Bishop William Lee, Bishop Emeritus of Waterford & Lismore, who will be assisted by Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly, Archbishop of Cashel & Emily, and the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown.  The Apostolic Mandate from His Holiness, Pope Francis, will be read by Monsignor Nicholas O’Mahony PP, the Administrator of the Diocese Waterford & Lismore.  The sermon for this ordination ceremony will be preached by Monsignor Michael Olden.

Concelebrating the Mass will be twenty-nine bishops including: Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland; Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam; priests of the Diocese of Waterford & Lismore; and priests of the Diocese of Limerick.  Other Christian denominations in the Waterford area will be represented at this Mass including from the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; the Methodist Church in Ireland; the Russian Orthodox; and the Coptic Churches.

Local city bands will perform outside the Cathedral before the Mass begins.  The choir for the ceremony will comprise the Waterford Cathedral Senior Choir, Cathedral Youth Choir, members of the Waterford Male Voice Choir, to be accompanied by organist Cecilia Keogh.  De La Salle College Choir and the joint Cathedral’s Gospel Choir will also sing at the ceremony and the Waterford City Brass Band will also accompany the choirs for some of hymns.  Members of the Bishop Cullinan’s family will sing the Psalm.

Words of greeting to the faithful by the chief celebrant Bishop William Lee, Bishop Emeritus of Waterford & Lismore       

We have come together this afternoon in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Waterford, the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral in Ireland, to celebrate the Eucharist and to invoke the blessing of the Holy Spirit on Fr. Alphonsus Cullinan, called to the office of Bishop in this diocese of Waterford & Lismore.

Today I welcome all of you to the Ordination.  We are delighted to be joined on this grace filled occasion by so many of you from near and far.  On this special day a very warm welcome to you Father Phoncie as our new Bishop!  A welcome also to your family, relations, friends and your priest colleagues from the Diocese of Limerick.  I welcome Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kiernan who is representing the President of Ireland, President Michael D Higgins, and Commandant Kieran Carey representing An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD.  I welcome His Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown; Archbishop Eamon Martin of the Archdiocese of Armagh; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of the Archdiocese of Dublin; Archbishop Michael Neary of the Archdiocese of Tuam; and, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly of the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly as well as bishops from so many dioceses in Ireland.

I welcome members of the Oireachtas and local civic representatives.  On this special day for the diocese of Waterford & Lismore I want to greet and welcome Reverend Maria Jansson, Church of Ireland, Dean of Waterford, who is representing Bishop Michael Burrows.  I welcome Reverend Sahr Yambusu, representing the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches.  I welcome also the representatives from the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Society of Friends.

At the heart of our community here today are the people of Waterford & Lismore, lay, religious, and priests, whom I greet and welcome very warmly.   We are gathered to welcome with joy and hope our new Bishop-elect Father Phoncie, to thank God for him and to pray for him with loving hearts.

This is truly, a historic day for all of us.  We are privileged, Father Phoncie, to have you as our bishop and you are certainly privileged to be entrusted with the care of the diocese of Waterford & Lismore.  Our prayer for you today and in the years to come is that you will be touched, ever more deeply with the joy that comes from sharing with others what your faith in Jesus Christ means to you.  We pray too that you will be richly blessed through being a member of the community of believers of Waterford & Lismore.  You will discover in time that you have been called to serve in this diocese people – priests, deacons, religious and lay – who are deeply devoted to the Lord and to the Church which they love and who will be your greatest source of strength as their bishop.

We celebrate the Ordination on the feast today of the Divine Mercy – Divine Mercy Sunday.  From the moment of his election to the Papacy, Pope Frances has captured the world’s attention through his simple message of God’s boundless love and mercy.  His words at his very first Sunday angelus blessing were “Mercy is God’s greatest message”.  And just days ago the Pope announced a ‘Holy Year of Mercy’ celebrating God’s forgiveness.  This Holy Year begins in December of this year.  Pope Francis keeps emphasising this mercy of God and I quote, “What a beautiful truth this is for our lives, this mercy of God.  God’s love for is so great, so deep.  It is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand, supports us and lifts us up.  How beautiful is the loving gaze of Jesus on each of us – how much tenderness is there.  Brothers and Sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God”.  It is that mercy we celebrate today.

As always, when we come to the Eucharist, our first act is to open our hearts to receive the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.  As we acknowledge our sins we ask Him now to fill our hearts with His mercy and love.

Homily of Monsignor Michael Olden

I begin by saluting the presence of Bishop William Lee and by thanking him for the years he has given to this Diocese of Waterford and Lismore, years of hard work and very good example.  Today in this ceremony the torch of leadership is passed from one fine man to another.  It must be a nostalgic occasion for the man who is standing aside.  We all thank him for all that he has done and we wish him to know that we are very pleased that he will be remaining amongst us.  May the future years bring him peace and joy.

We warmly welcome our new Bishop and we pray that he will be very happy in the years ahead.  Since the Reformation of the 16th century, he is the 26th Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.  He is the second Limerick priest to ‘take possession’ of this See.  The first was Peter Creagh, Dean of Limerick, who was Bishop of Waterford & Lismore from 1745 until 1775.  He lived, not in Waterford, but in Carrick-on-Suir.  His was a troubled episcopate though he himself was a very spiritual person.  He felt compelled to condemn the activities of the Whiteboys who were prominent in the diocese, especially in South Tipperary.  In a very particular way he had trouble with Father Nicholas Sheehy, who was Parish Priest of Clogheen and who was a most popular supporter and champion of the Whiteboys in their battles with the landlords.  Sheehy was put on trial, found guilty, and hanged in Clonmel on 15 March 1766.  The people in their thousands protected and vented their anger on the civil magistrates who had conducted the shabby trial.  They also included in their anger Bishop Creagh who was, at this stage, a frail old man, and his Vicar General and successor, William Egan, Parish Priest of Clonmel.

I mention this unhappy situation to dwell not on the conflict, but on contrast.  I am happy to assure Bishop Alphonsus that there will be no angry noises tonight or any other night on the streets of Waterford City, Clonmel or Carrick-on-Suir, Dungarvan or Cahir as he comes amongst us as our Bishop.  We welcome him warmly and we want him to be happy and unworried in our midst.  We fervently want him to be ‘one of us’.

In coming to Waterford & Lismore, Bishop Alphonsus is entering into a Christian legacy that stretches back a long way, even to pre-Christian times and long before dioceses or parishes came into existence in the 12th century.  In this area of the south east it is reckoned that at least 60 people were revered as Saints in the Irish way ever before dioceses were established.  Most of them were founders of early Celtic monasteries, some male, some female.  There was Saint Declan of Ardmore, one of the four saints of Ireland reliably considered to be before Saint Patrick’s time.  There was Saint Carthage or Mochuda of Lismore, a Kerryman, who began the renowned monastic and university centre of Lismore in the 7th century.

The Vikings, who established their port and eventually their settlement at Waterford and who become Christianised, took as their patron Saint Odhran or Otteran of Iona.  To this day, the great cemetery on that historic Scottish island is named Saint Oran’s cemetery.  The Vikings knew Iona well as they had hugged its coastline many times on their way to Ireland to other places.

Declan, Carthage and Otteran are the three patron saints of the diocese.

The Diocese of Waterford and the Diocese of Lismore had an uneasy relationship with each other between 1200 and 1363.  Waterford was small but growing in population and power.  Lismore was very large and ancient and Gaelic.  There were saints and some hefty sinners on both sides of the divide.  It has to be said that most of the blame lay with the bishops and clergy and people of the Waterford diocese.  We read of many raids on the Cathedral of Lismore.  At various times Bishops of Lismore were attacked and taken prisoner.  But it was not all one-sided.  A bishop of Waterford who had the dangerous name of David the Welshman was killed by members of the O’Faolain family in 1209.  The O’Faolains were strong supporters of the bishop and Diocese of Lismore.  Negotiations, strongly encouraged by Rome, dragged on for nearly 200 years.  Eventually the two dioceses were united in 1363.

Our new bishop has come to this Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity to receive the sacrament which will equip him for the work which lies ahead.  This Cathedral is the oldest post-Reformation Catholic Cathedral in Ireland.  But, even so, it is still rather young.  Our original Cathedral stood where Waterford’s first diocesan bishop, Malchus, established it more than a thousand years ago.  It stood on the hill about half a mile from here, where the Church of Ireland Cathedral now stands.  At the time of the Reformation in the 1530s the Catholics of Waterford were ejected from it.  Since then they only succeeded in repossessing it on two occasions: one for only about a month when news reached Waterford that Queen Elizabeth I had died in 1603.  The second repossession took place in 1642 and lasted about eight years.  This was the time of the Confederation of Kilkenny.  It ended when General Ireton, son in law of Oliver Cromwell, captured Waterford in 1650.  We read that the Cathedral was packed by rejoicing Catholics every day during those heady years.  It was in that Cathedral that the famous Nuncio, Gian Battista Rinuccinin, presided over synods and ceremonies.  It was there that he consecrated, not one, but seven new bishops on 19 March 1648.  And it was in Waterford that he received news from Italy that this mother had died.  Together with many bishops, he celebrated a requiem Mass for her.

From 1650 until 1793 there was no Catholic cathedral in this diocese.  Times began to improve as the 18th century came to an end and took the Penal Laws away with it.  This Cathedral in which Bishop Alphonsus is being ordained was built in 1793.  Many changes, some quite drastic, have taken place in our building over the years.  But it has always housed its High Altar and its Chair or Cathedra for its bishop.  The most significant work and the greatest act of leadership which the new bishop will perform in the years ahead will take place at the Altar when he celebrates the Eucharist.  Sure, he will preside and perhaps deliver very significant statements from his chair; sure, the Cathedral gets its very name from the Cathedra or Chair which is specially assigned to the Bishop.  But it is the Eucharist which takes precedence over everything else.  The most significant work which our Bishop will have to do and the greatest challenge he will have to meet is to ensure that the Eucharist will be celebrated throughout every part of our diocese.  From the bishop and the Altar and Eucharist of this Cathedral will go forth the bonding message of Jesus Christ to his followers in all the parishes and churches of our diocese.  He will be the principal Minister of the Eucharist and it will fall to him to encourage us priests and the ‘People of God’ to deepen our faith in Jesus Christ and to cherish the Eucharist as the nourishment and the bond of unity we so deeply need on our pilgrim journey and in our pilgrim work.

On this blessed day in this historic place let us tell our new bishop that what we will be seeking from him in charity will be gentle prayerful leadership rather than hectic management.  We will welcome his repetitious – yes repetitious – and gentle reminders as to how we should seriously follow Jesus Christ, and how we should, with conviction and with deep respect, encourage other people, perhaps people in our own families, to find faith in a personal God who is loving and forgiving and understanding towards all who turn to him.

In conclusion, I would ask him not to be a man of too much worry.  It should always be a consoling reassurance to him that he has been carefully chosen for his responsibility by serious and knowledgeable people who have advised Pope Francis that he has the qualities, the virtues, the goodness and, very importantly, the imagination which are needed in all dioceses at this time.  He will have the goodwill and cooperation of priests and people.  As in the way of all flesh, we may sometimes let him down.  In advance we ask for this forgiveness.  May we find in him the forgiveness and understanding which the apostles found in Jesus when they were a disappointment to him.  On this day, Divine Mercy Sunday, a relationship is born between Bishop Alphonsus and the people of this diocese, a diocese with a varied and sometimes colourful history.  May every home and heart in Waterford & Lismore, be encouraged by that relationship.  May all of us, bishops, priests, people, work seriously and happily together as member of the Pobal Dé.


Words of gratitude from the new Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan

The words of Saint Augustine come to mind today:  “For you I am a bishop, with you, after all, I am a Christian.  The first is the name of an office undertaken, the second a name of grace.” I am humbled to have been chosen for this task as bishop but I do not walk the way on my own.  We, all of us, walk together, trusting, not in our own strength but in the power of God.

The Jesus I know does not reject us but is continually on our side, welcoming us.  He does not only welcome winners, or perfect people or just make us feel good.  He welcomes everyone.  He is with us.  He proves this by being born in a simple stable and living an ordinary life working in a carpenter’s workshop most of His life and proves it further by dying on the Cross.All this fills my heart today.  I sense immense gratitude to God for His faithfulness.  I know that I am a sinner, yet I experience the love and mercy of Jesus in this deeper call to service in His Church.

I pray that I be a worthy successor to Bishop Willie Lee.  We all thank him, for his whole-hearted dedication to the diocese over the past twenty years.  We pray for God’s blessing on this next stage of his ministry.

On this first occasion of speaking as your Bishop in this Cathedral I warmly greet the family of our diocese: laymen and women, religious, seminarians, our deacon, and priests.  Thank you for the kind and hospitable welcome that you have already shown me.  To all the priests of the diocese, I want to say how much I look forward to meeting you personally and getting to know you; know that you always have my support.  You do a great job in the day-to-day bits and pieces of parish life.  The fact that I am your bishop will not prevent us, I hope, from being brothers.  As I stand here with this crozier – a replica of the beautiful Lismore crozier I am reminded of what it signifies – the shepherd doing his work and as Pope Francis has famously reminded us – we should know “the smell of the sheep”!

It is a great joy to have our deacon Shane with us; you are a sign of hope and of the generosity of our young people.  I am convinced that there are many more, who with the right encouragement, can be helped to make life commitments in the Church whether that be to marriage, religious life, the permanent diaconate (and we look forward to the ordination of Lazarus later in the summer), or the priesthood.  Let us all continue to pray and work in promoting these vocations.

From my youth I knew a kind of dialogue with a living God thanks in large part to my parents and to countless others along the way.  This dialogue continued into priesthood and the ‘yes’ I make today is part of the ‘yes’ I made in 1994 in Saint John’s Cathedral in Limerick where I was ordained a priest.

Each person is made for God and by God. Each of us is a beloved child of the Father, and called to be with Him forever.  This day – Divine Mercy Sunday – is a wonderful day, a day chosen by the Lord himself to tell the whole world of his limitless mercy and love.  No matter who we are or what we have done in the past, God’s heart is aching until we turn to Him in complete trust.  Let us not be proud or stiff-necked or think that we can ‘go it alone’ and live without God.  This will only lead to confusion, darkness and sin.  And as we look around our country today we can see so many signs of this.  We need God.  How many among us seek fulfilment and meaning in all sorts of places, in the wrong places, in a kind of desperate search for inner peace?  And cut ourselves off from the vine and wither on the ground.  While, all the while, that fulfilment and meaning and peace are waiting for us all in the heart of Jesus.  Let us go to Jesus and speak with Him who is waiting for us all the time – like the father of the prodigal son watching out to see his son return.  And when we speak with Him, build up a relationship with Him and are filled with Him, then we can go out and tell the world about Him and go to those who – even if they seem far from Him – are equally God’s children and brothers and sisters of the Lord, and of ours.  Out of love of Jesus we put ourselves at the service of others especially those most in need in our society: the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, those who feel alienated from God, and those on the margins.

We reach out to those who have turned away from the practice of the faith, many of whom are in our own families and parish communities.  How can we walk with them in a way that will help them to see once more the beauty of following Jesus?  We are called to step out from the doors of the Church to bring Christ to all we meet.  This is our mission: to be filled with Christ and to bring Him to others.  Christ has no body now but yours and mine.

I know that there is much that I have to learn about our diocese, our people and about being a bishop.  There is much I do not know.  But I do know that God is in charge and God has a plan for us all.  Little did my father think as he walked the streets of Waterford over seventy years ago while studying in De la Salle Teacher Training College that one day a son of his would be bishop of this historic and beautiful diocese!  God indeed has a plan.  He knows what He is about.  Have we the courage to trust in Him?  Another thing I know is me being your bishop is part of God’s plan.  With His help, and your prayers, may I fulfil His plan.

As we begin this work we seek the loving intercession of Our Mother Mary and our diocesan patrons: Declan and Otteran and Carthage, and also of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, and indeed we ask the help of all those many unnamed saints whom we have known who are gone before marked with the sign of faith.

So let us walk together and in the words of the brave young Donal Walsh so we can “climb God’s mountain.”  Go raibh maith agaibh agus beannacht Dé oraibh go léir.


Life and Ministry of Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan

Alphonsus Cullinan was born in Lahinch, County Clare in 1959 to Christy and Rita and has four sisters and five brothers.  Father Cullinan is a priest of the Diocese of Limerick.  His family moved to Limerick city where he attended the Salesians for early education, John F Kennedy National School and the Crescent College Comprehensive (SJ) for his secondary education.  From 1978 to 1981 he attended Mary Immaculate College of Education Limerick qualifying as a primary teacher (B.Ed) in 1981, and taught for six years in Castleconnell, County Limerick.  Alphonsus worked part-time during that time for four years with the Bunratty Castle Entertainers before going to Spain where he taught English for two years in a school in Valladolid.  Thereafter, between 1989 and 1995, he studied at the national seminary in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he completed an STL (Licentiate in Theology).  Alphonsus Cullinan was ordained a priest by the late Bishop Jeremiah Newman in 1994 in Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick, and was appointed curate in Saint Munchin’s Parish Limerick city where he ministered from 1995 to 1996.  Father Cullinan’s next appointment was as chaplain to the Regional Hospital in Limerick, ministering in the hospital from 1996 until 2001.  Father Cullinan studied for his doctorate in moral theology in the Alfonsianum in Rome from 2001 until 2004.  On his return to Ireland Father Cullinan was appointed chaplain to the Limerick Institute of Technology for seven years from 2004 until 2011.   Father Cullinan’s most recent appointment was in 2011 as Parish Priest of Rathkeale in County Limerick.  On 12 April 2015, Father Cullinan was ordained Bishop of Waterford & Lismore by his predecessor, Bishop William Lee, in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Barronstrand Street, Waterford.

Notes to Editors

  • Pope Francis appointed Father Alphonsus Cullinan as Bishop of Waterford & Lismore on 2 February 2015
  • Today’s Mass will be broadcast live from 3.00pm by WLRFM (Waterford Local Radio, frequency 95.1 – 97.5FM) with commentary by Billy McCarthy, and will be webcast on the diocesan website waterfordlismore.com
  • Following the conclusion of the Mass, and at the front door of the Cathedral, Bishop Cullinan will greet in person everyone who attended the Mass.
  • Media representatives will have an opportunity for photographs and brief interviews at this time.
  • Photographs from the ceremony will be available to media by contacting the designated photographer John Power on + 353 (0) 86 8797525.
  • The Diocese of Waterford & Lismore has 45 parishes and 85 churches.  The diocese includes County Waterford and part of Counties Tipperary and Cork.


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office – Martin Long in Waterford +353 (0) 86 172 7678