Homily notes and bishop’s remarks from the Episcopal Ordination Mass of the new Bishop of Killaloe, Bishop Fintan Monahan

25 Sep 2016

Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul, Ennis, Co Clare, Diocese of Killaloe

Bishop-elect Fintan Monaghan will be ordained Bishop of Killaloe at 3.00pm Mass this afternoon in Ennis. Please see below the homily notes of Canon Brendan Kilcoyne for the ceremony and, separately, the text of the final remarks by Bishop Fintan Monahan. Please note that this material is embargoed until 3.00pm today:

Homily notes of Canon Brendan Kilcoyne for the Episcopal Ordination of Most Rev. Fintan Monahan, Bishop of Killaloe

1. Sirach: “Let us now praise famous men and our fathers in their generations”. In the words of Yeats to the poets of Ireland: “Cast your minds on other days that we in coming days may be still the indomitable Irishry”. Our indomitable fathers.

2. Contrast mandate with Gospel: Disciples gathered fearfully. Absurd, fragile safety of little room in maelstrom of hostile world. And here we are. This room is grander; we became used to some comfort. The fear, however, is original and familiar.

3. Today, here, you might be forgiven for fear. No easy time to lead. In spiritual terms, certainly in religious terms, a lunar landscape. A world which listens less and less to anything, least of all a Church so terribly weakened by its own betrayals. Broken hearts and dreams. Broken faith.

4. But, was faith ever so impervious to danger? Was there ever an easy time to follow Jesus Christ? Is that the stock we were bred from? The historical crucible in which we were formed? Isn’t the Burren, to develop the metaphor, an example of how life can root and flourish in the hardest landscapes? Our communal faith history was never for the faint-hearted.

5. Can a whole faith community over time develop shared skills and even a common genius? I say it can. I believe we are a people with a genius for the spiritual. A people drenched in the Logos, the creative word. I believe that even as our country has become less and less religious the disproportionate number of writers and poets proves my point. We were not mastered by our hard, stony little fields. Neither will we be robbed of our thirst for life, our suspicion of something more to be had, our divine unease, by a smooth-talking, facile society which dresses up in pretty words and smug, confident phrases a reality of futureless despair.

6. The late Professor Patrick Corish: best description of 19th century Irish peasantry (from whom most of us are descended) was given in book title by Walter Macken: The Silent People. They said nothing. A few, mostly anonymous poets; a handful of haunting songs and airs. Their lives, loves, suffering marked by little more than the rough blank stone grave – markers which pock-mark the older country cemeteries.

7. Knock (in diocese we share). A living iconostasis. Using no words. Yet perfect communication. Silent love before the silent suffering . Almost like answer given by parishioner to Saint John Vianny: “I look at him and he looks back at me”. Public, communal, historic prayer. A divine conversation at the gable of a church.

8. And now, well over a hundred years later, the Church is tired. The end of something huge. The exhaustion of a new beginning. After two centuries of resurgence, growth and abundance the land, so to speak, is exhausted. How does faith respond to a challenge like this?

9. Yeats in ‘Sailing to Byzantium”. “An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress…”

10. We must go back to Christ, who makes all things new, and start again. Let him breathe on us. Let the Holy Spirit renew our courage and our failing strength.

11. Because it comes back to this. It will always come back to this. The question is one of faith. The battle between despair and faith. Do we still believe? Do we believe in this world, that it is real and true and fundamentally good? That the core of that reality is a God who knows and loves us? That, in the words, of Julian of Norwich, all shall be well?

12. Our faith is not simply a matter of identity, but of urgent, life-giving, essential truth. It may not make you always feel you belong. You, a poor man or woman who own shares in a cosmic future. Quite the opposite of belonging, sometimes.

13. If priests and bishops have a central challenge and opportunity before them now it is to be, in Yeats’ words elsewhere, “singing masters of my soul”. You must lead us back to Christ. We need personal experience of God, not endless talk about him. Faith seeking understanding, not alleged understanding blathering on about faith. Thomas à Kempis, the author of The Imitation of Christ, says that it is better to experience contrition than to be able to define it. We are like somebody who has had a terrible accident or a stroke. The simplest things must be relearned. We have to learn all over again, in a new world, how to pray, to teach, to preach and to live this faith.

14. But have courage. The diocese you will lead is littered with the physical remains of faith beginning, growing, endlessly reforming. A cycle of birth, death and birth again. Killaloe, Iniscaltra, Birr. Terryglass, a centre of the great reform of the Ceili De, Lorrha, and the great mediaeval foundations of Ennis and Quin, o name only a few. It’s not as if we haven’t been here before.

15. And now you will become ‘Comharb’ of Flannan, in a direct line of succession, and lead the believers on this new, long stage of the journey. You are to join “our fathers in their generations”. You are to be our souls’ newest “singing master”. What is to be said?

16. I say this, in the presence of God, the bishops and clergy and the faithful whom we serve. I say it as a priest and as a descendant, like yourself, like so many here today, of the forgotten ones, those of unremarked lives and unmarked graves who nevertheless managed to pass on to us physical life and the secret of life eternal. The eloquently Silent People. This people will not be led by soft, easy words and passable example. Again, to paraphrase Yeats, we are no small people. We are of the spiritual stock of Patrick, Flannan, Jarlath and Columbanus and we will not be led by small men. We will not be ruled by a careful, calculating, mediocre spirit. To enter into this journey, this faith, in the words of Eliot, “…costing not less than everything…” we must be led by those who know the price of such leadership and are willing to pay. If you want us to follow you must lead from the front. We will follow that. We will follow a saint.

17. Saint Bernard once said that the Church had lots of channels for grace, but a channel merely transports and exhausts itself. The Church, he said, needed reservoirs. A man needs to be very holy for life in a hard land, as you will need water not only for yourself but for others also. I wouldn’t talk like this to you, in front of everyone here, if I didn’t know, after some twenty years of friendship, that you can do this, that you are well on your way, that you will keep faith with us who follow on.

18. The Mandate has been read. The time has come. Remember, as you are about to be irrevocably changed, the people from whom you come. Those people of faith unconquered by despair. “Cast your mind on other days, that we, in coming days, may be still the indomitable Irishry”.

· Canon Brendan Kilcoyne Vicar Forane, is Parish Priest of Athenry, County Galway, in the Archdiocese of Tuam.

Address by Bishop Fintan Monahan, Bishop of Killaloe

Fáilte – Welcome
Tá sé de phribhléid agam ag an bpoinnte seo fáilte a chur romhaibh arís anseo ag an Árd-Eaglais álainn seo in Inis, Condae an Chláir. Is mór agam an oiread sin daoine a fheicéail anseo inniu, go háirithe daoine a chuidigh go mór liom in aon bhealach ’theacht go dtí an lá mór seo.

A warm personal word of welcome to all you many guests from the diocese of Killaloe, from the Archdiocese of Tuam and much further afield. It is so wonderful to see so many taking the time to join in this special occasion here in this beautiful Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul here in Ennis.

Humility and Faith
I am still getting over the shock and surprise of being chosen by His Holiness, Pope Francis, to be your Pastor in this beautiful, historic and expansive diocese of Killaloe! I come here today with great humility, acutely aware of my own limitations and unworthiness to take on such a great and challenging role. It is indeed a great honour for me personally and it is only with great faith in the presence of the Lord to lead and guide me along with the great support of the wonderful and welcoming community in this diocese that I would even dream of taking on such an enormous task.

It seems though that I have arrived only in the nick of time … I recently heard from the Catholic Communications Office in Maynooth that it received a media query in the early summer asking “when will a new bishop be appointed to Killaloe because this is the longest time”, according to the journalist, “since Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland that we here in the diocese have been without a bishop?!” To me this is definitive proof – as if it were ever needed – that we possess very long memories in this part of the country!

Episcopal Motto
The Episcopal Motto that I have chosen is Críost liom, Críost romham as Lúireach Naomh Pádraig (Christ be with me, Christ be before me) from the beginning of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate. I am reminded of the line from the psalm “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain does the builder labour”. With Christ at the centre of all that we do – anything is possible in faith terms for us personally and as a diocese!

Thanks to Organising Committee
Sincere thanks to the many who have diligently and pains-takingly prepared for this big occasion today. The committees under the guidance and leadership of diocesan secretary Father Ger Nash and Parish Priest, Father Tom Hogan did great work in preparing for today’s liturgy along with so many people who have taken part. Some details of who is involved are printed on the booklet. To all who did so much I am deeply grateful. Thank you to Canon Brendan Kilcoyne, a friend of many years for his inspiring homily today! Thanks also to the staff of the communications office in Maynooth for their assistance today as always, and to the diocesan communications officer Father Brendan Quinlivan for his great expertise and support.

Specific welcomes
A big welcome to my immediate family, Mam and Dad, Tom and Peg, Caitriona and Dom who have been such an outstanding rock of support, help and encouragement always. Thanks to the many close friends and neighbours who have been available always through good times and bad and without their help and assistance I would not be here today.

Welcome to Clergy
Welcome to Bishop Willie Walsh who was bishop of Killaloe from 1994-2010 and the ordaining metropolitan Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly who was bishop of Killaloe from 2010-2015. Welcome and thank you to Father Des Hillery who was the diocesan administrator for over 18 months along with being Parish Priest of one of the busiest parishes in the diocese, Nenagh town. Welcome to His Excellency, Archbishop Charles Brown, the Papal Nuncio; His Grace, Archbishop Eamonn Martin, Primate of All-Ireland; the consecrating bishops, and especially to Archbishop Michael Neary, to the concelebrating priests, the religious, lay groups and to each and every one of you.

Tuam Groups
Welcome to the priests of the Archdiocese of Tuam with whom I have worked so closely over the past twenty-five years along with parish representatives from various places I have served. I enjoyed every minute of my time in the Archdiocese and will certainly miss it in many ways.

Meeting in Rome
Just last week I attended in Rome what is often called a “baby-bishop’s course” and, as part of that, I had the privilege and delight to meet Pope Francis. Even though the Holy Father has little English and I have even less Italian – in our conversation we agreed to pray for each other and those to whom we minister. It was a most humbling experience to be asked in person by the Holy Father to pray for him personally!

I didn’t manage to invite him to include Killaloe in his itinerary if he decides to come to Ireland as part of the World of Meeting of Family celebration which will take place in Dublin on 22 – 26 August 2018, but I will have another opportunity to speak to Pope Francis during the Irish bishop’s Ad Limina visit to Rome in January, please God! We wait in hope!

Recent events in the Church
It’s been a busy and wonderful year in the Church as we celebrate the Year of Mercy that has captivated the interest of so many. We had the recent Canonization of Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa, a saint for our day who spoke of the dark struggle, challenge and huge effort that is part of each and every Christian’s faith journey. As part of the preparation for the great gathering of families in 2018, Pope Francis gave us his most recent apostolic exhortation on love in the family, The Joy of Love, to nourish us in spirit.

Challenges / Objectives
As bishop of the diocese here in Killaloe there will be many challenges, priorities and points of focus, vocations promotion, care of the clergy, faith renewal, evangelization, continuing and expanding the great involvement of laity, youth ministry, religious education, safeguarding children in the Church, the protection of life, family ministry, liturgy, Eucharistic Adoration, bridging the east-west socio-economic divide which exists in Ireland, the role of Church in contemporary society, the falling away of sacramental practice, finding new ways to communicate the joy of the Gospel. Pope Benedict in recent years spoke of the future of the Church in Europe as being a “creative minority”. Please God new and creative and dynamic ways will be found to live and address these great challenges and opportunities. All to be addressed with faith in the good Lord’s presence and with the great support so palpable from so many there in Killaloe and elsewhere!

Support and welcome from the people here in Killaloe
Since announcement day on 29 July I have really hit the ground running with so many meetings of various different groups around the diocese, laity and clergy and have gained a good level of familiarity with the new diocese. To revisit and paraphrase that well used phrase – a lot done, much more to do! The level of warmth and support and welcome has been outstanding and for that I am deeply grateful and encouraged as I embark upon a new chapter in my ministry to Christ. On this special day may I ask you please to remember me in your prayers, as I will you.

Gach ní ar do Shon-sa
Is cuimhin liom nuair a bhí mé i mo shéiplíneach ar an Tulach, Baile na hAhann, blianta ó shin, bhí sár-mhúinteoir Teagaisc Chríostaí i Scoil Náisiúnta Cholmcille. Bhí paidir bheag aici chuile lá mar ofráil na maidne “Gach ní ar do shon-sa”. Gach ní in onóir agus mar ghlóir do’n Tiarna Dia. Gach ní ar son Íosa Chríost. Críost linn, Críost romhainn ar fad. Dia go deo linn inniu agus i gconaí!

Notes for Editors

· Features of the Ordination Ceremony, Celebrants, Preacher and in attendance

At today’s Ordination Mass the Chief Ordaining Prelate will be Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, who will be assisted by Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam and the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown. The Apostolic Mandate from His Holiness, Pope Francis, will be read by Father Albert McDonnell, Chancellor of the Diocese of Killaloe. The sermon for this ordination ceremony will be preached by Canon Brendan Kilcoyne Parish Priest, Vicar Forane, Athenry, Co. Galway. Concelebrating the Mass will be over twenty bishops including: Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Bishop Willie Walsh, Bishop Emeritus of Killaloe; priests of the Diocese of Killaloe; priests of the Archdiocese of Tuam and classmates of Bishop-elect Monahan. Other Christian denominations in the area will be represented at this Mass including Bishop Kenneth Kearon, Church of Ireland Bishop of Killaloe and Limerick; Rev Shannon de Laureal, Leader of the Methodist Church, Midlands and Southern District; Pastor Chinwe of the Evangelical Church and Madge Rainsford, Chairman of the Baha’i Community Ireland. Ennis Brass Band will perform outside the Cathedral before the Mass begins. The choir for the ceremony will be made up of the choirs from Ennis, Nenagh and members of the Killaloe Diocese Music Ministry Programme as well as Youth Choirs from Clarecastle/Ballyea and Cistercian College Roscrea. Liturgical movement will be featured from students of Saint Anne’s Special School in Roscrea.

In attendance:
Family and friends of Bishop-elect Monahan; local and national public representatives from the constituencies and local authorities that form part of the diocese; representatives of Church groups in the diocese; chairpersons of Parish Pastoral Councils, parish youth representatives, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Accord, CURA, people involved in Pastoral Planning, the Red Cross; representatives of local civil society: Civil Defence, Chief Superintendent of An Garda Síochána; and, representatives from primary and secondary Catholic schools within the diocese.

· Media centre, broadcasting and photographs
Media centre and broadcasting
Journalists attending the Ordination Mass are asked to contact the Catholic Communications Office in Maynooth for accreditation. From 2:00pm today a dedicated media centre will be open in The Ennis Parish Pastoral Centre located about 30 metres from the Cathedral. Martin Long of the CCO will be available to brief journalists at this time. There will be a live feed from the Cathedral to the media centre and it will be open from 2.00pm until 6.00pm. Hard copies of the Mass booklet (which contains details of the Mass, the biography of Bishop-elect Monahan, and an explanation of his Episcopal Coat of Arms); copies of the welcoming remarks of the new bishop; and copies of the homily notes of Canon Brendan Kilcoyne will be available in the centre. The Mass will be webcast on the Killaloe Diocesan Website www.killaloediocese.ie

A reserved area within the Cathedral has been designated for a limited number of photographers. Louise Brooks has been appointed as the sole mobile photographer within the Cathedral during the Ordination Mass. Media are invited to contact Ms Brooks on 087 991 7465 or 065 682 1666 to obtain photographs for publication purposes. At the end of Mass, and at the front door of the Cathedral, Bishop Monahan will greet the faithful. Media representatives will have an opportunity for photographs and a brief ‘door-step’ interview at this time.

· Life and ministry of Bishop Fintan Monahan
Bishop-elect Monahan’s appointment as Bishop of Killaloe was announced by Pope Francis on 29 July 2016. He was born in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on 23 January 1967 to parents Tom and Peg Monahan and has one brother, Seán, and one sister, Caitríona, who is married to Dominic. From 1980-1996 the family lived in Carraroe, Co Galway where his father was principal teacher at Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin, An Cheathrú Rua. In 1996 the family moved to Castlegar, Galway City, the native home of his mother. Primary education was in Tullamore and secondary education was in Carraroe and in 1984 he started studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Tuam in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. In 1987 he completed a BSc in Maynooth University, a BD in the Pontifical University in 1990, an STL in Biblical Theology in 1992 and a Higher Diploma in Education in NUI Galway in 1993. Bishop-elect Monahan’s ordination to the priesthood was in Séipéal Mhic Dara, An Cheathrú Rua on 16 June 1991 by the late Archbishop Joseph Cassidy RIP, the former Archbishop of Tuam. While studying for the Higher Diploma in Education he was curate in An Tulach, Baile na hAbhann, Conamara from 1992-1993. From 1993-2006 he taught science, Irish and religion at the diocesan college, Saint Jarlath’s College in Tuam, along with coaching basketball and hurling. In 2006 Archbishop Michael Neary appointed Father Monahan as chaplain to Saint Jarlath’s College and diocesan secretary. During that time he also worked in the area of communications, vocations promotion and served as editor of the Tuam Diocesan Magazine, New Dawn. In 2013 he was appointed to the Council for Communications of the Irish Episcopal Conference. Bishop-elect Monahan is a fluent Irish speaker and enjoys the outdoor life, hill walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and gardening.

· Diocese of Killaloe
The patron saint of the Diocese of Killaloe is Saint Flannan and his feast day is 18 December. The diocese was established in the 7th century and comprises parts of the counties of Clare, Tipperary, Offaly, Limerick and Laois. It is part of the ecclesiastical province of Cashel. In geographical terms it is one of the larger dioceses in Ireland taking in approximately 4,500 square kilometres stretching from the Atlantic seaboard in West Clare to the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Co. Laois. The Catholic population of the diocese is estimated at about 120,000. Tradition has it that the diocese was established originally in 639 by Pope John IV who consecrated Saint Flannan as the successor of Saint Lua or Molua as bishop. Saint Flannan is reputed to have been the son of Theodoric who was King of Thomond. The Synod of Ráth Breasail in the year 1111AD marked the transition of the Irish Church from a monastic to a diocese/parish based structure. The boundaries of the Diocese of Killaloe as we know them today were largely established at that time. The Synod of Kells in 1152AD makes reference to the Diocese of Roscrea which was made part of the Diocese of Killaloe some time in the 1160’s. Also referred to at the Synod of Kells is the Diocese of Scattery Island which became part of Killaloe during the 12th century. The diocese today comprises of 58 parishes with about 100 priests working and ministering to the people and communities of the region. The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter & Paul, and the seat of the bishop, are both located in Ennis, Co Clare.


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678