Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Tom Deenihan as the new Bishop of Meath

04 Sep 2018

Archbishop Eamon Martin’s words of welcome for today’s Episcopal Ordination of Monsignor Thomas Deenihan as Bishop of Meath

  • Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Diocese of Meath – Sunday 2 September 2018

Dear Brothers and sisters,

As I stand here and look out at this great congregation gathered in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, I cannot help but think back to exactly this time last week when I stood on the sanctuary near Pope Francis at the beginning of the closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families.  That gathering was truly a family of families; people from all over Ireland and from more than one hundred countries of the world gathered to praise and worship God with our Holy Father himself. 

Our gathering today is also a family of families – I think especially of Canon Deenihan’s immediate and extended family members as well as Bishop Buckley and those gathered from the parishes and dioceses of Cork and Ross and of Bishop Smith and all the representatives here from the Diocese of Meath.  Today this family of families rejoices and prays together as we prepare for the Episcopal Ordination of Canon Deenihan. 

Last Sunday, when speaking to the bishops of Ireland at the end of his visit, Pope Francis encouraged us, as bishops, to be fathers and shepherds of our people.  He reminded us to be fathers and shepherds of prayer, of hope and of mission so that we can lead the family of families that is the people of God with wisdom, faith and charity.  In today’s ceremony I encourage you to pray for your bishop elect.  Being a bishop today, conscience of our own personal unworthiness and sinfulness, we realise that is only by God’s grace that we can be true fathers and shepherds.  During our Mass today let us pray in thankfulness for the Episcopal Ministry of Bishop Michael Smith who has led the faithful in this diocese as a bishop, for thirty-five years. 

I wish to express my deep gratitude to Bishop Smith, the longest serving bishop in Ireland.  He is highly respected by his brother bishops and I know, that you the people and priests of this diocese, have greatly valued his commitment and leadership and personal warmth and generosity of spirt as your father and shepherd.

As a relative newcomer to the Bishops’ Conference I myself have valued highly his great wisdom and his warm personal encouragement.  I pray God’s blessings on him and wish him good health and happiness in his retirement. 

I hope and pray that your new bishop will have good health and wisdom to guide you in a similar way in the years to come.

Brothers and sisters I welcome Cardinal Seán, my brother bishops and priests, diocesan and public representatives from Meath and Cork and Ross dioceses and representatives of other Christian traditions and, above all, I welcome you the faithful people of this diocese.

Yesterday on the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation Pope Francis reminded us of the importance of water, particularly the water of life which Jesus Our Saviour has promised all those who follow him.  Thinking back to our patron Saints Patrick and Finian, who first came to baptise the faithful in this region, and united as a family of families baptised in Christ, let us call to mind our sinfulness and God’s mercy and compassion during the Rite of the sprinkling of water.                                                        

Homily preached by Father Denis McNelis for the Episcopal Ordination of Monsignor Thomas Deenihan as Bishop of Meath

From Cork to Meath …

For someone from Cork moving to the Diocese of Meath, it must nearly seem like emigrating. Monsignor Tom on the day of the announcement of your appointment you were worried that people up here might not understand your Cork accent. I think we will be fine. There will be no need for us to be ordering the box set of theYoung Offenders or anything like that. You might have to speak slowly for the first year or so! In fact it may be more difficult for you to become accustomed to the accents of our diocese. Our accents are not only from Meath and Westmeath and Offaly, but also from Longford, Dublin, Cavan and Louth.

But, it’s not only accents from those places that we hear today in our diocese – we have people of so many nationalities and sisters and brothers, and priests too who are serving with us now from Africa, Romania, India, you will find here a diocesan church that embraces a lot cultural differences. They have brought their gifts and talents and sometimes a fresh perspective on life that is very helpful to us. We have welcomed them as surely as we welcome you now.

We give thanks for Bishop Michael’s service to us and among us. He has served the people of God here for almost 35 years as a bishop, for a great many he is the only bishop they’ve known. Grateful for his service and his witness, we wish him a long and happy retirement.

Monsignor Tom I know you will bring a wisdom and perspective that is good as you move to Mullingar. However not all Corkonian phrases will translate…I know that there is a Patrick Street in Cork. And I have been told that there is a phrase that is used in Cork that conveys strolling and socialising on that street.

There is also a Patrick Street in Mullingar. But there will be great confusion if Irene or Fr. Joe, your secretaries, start telling callers that you’re not at home but rather down the town Doin’ Panna.

We can’t allow ourselves to see difference as problem.

Monsignor Tom, be sure of our prayerful support. There are bound to be things that you might notice as being different here, and indeed, even simple things may seem strange for a while. Even at Mass: When we sit. When we kneel. When we stand.

But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to see difference as problem. That was what happened to people in Jesus’s time. In today’s Gospel it seems that the Pharisees and scribes, want to pick a row, an argument with Jesus. It is all because of their tradition and Jesus’s different approach. Over recent Sundays we have heard from John’s Gospel about how people were grumbling about Jesus. Jesus is not like them, he is different. They don’t like what he’s doing! They definitely don’t like what he’s saying! He doesn’t conform.

One week it’s: “the Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus.” Another week, it was: “then the Jews starting arguing with one another”. Then last week, we heard that “even the followers of Jesusfound his language and teaching intolerable”. And, “Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining”.  Change is difficult.  Sometimes we have to learn again how to live with each other and have our different views, and debate them and move on.

A new rabbi came to take up his teaching position at a synagogue one time. Everything went very well until it came to a particular prayer that was to be said. Just before the prayer, the people on the left hand side of the synagogue sat down, while all those on the right hand side of the synagogue stood up. That was strange enough for him. But then the crowd on the left started shouting at the crowd on the right telling them that they should sit down. Angrily, the people on the right hollered back – that the left should stand up. And on and on this went.

Both sides claimed that they were the ones being true to the tradition. The following week – the same thing. The rabbi decided he would delve into the past to find out what the original practice of the synagogue had been. He visited an old man to see what his recollection of the situation might be.

So he asked him: “Tell me, O wise man, is it the tradition of our synagogue for the people to sit for the prayer?” The old man scratched his beard and said: “Oh no, that’s not the tradition”. Pleased with the answer, the rabbi smiled and said: “Ah, so the tradition is to stand”. The old man raised his hand, “Don’t be so hasty”, he said, “Neither is it the tradition to stand”.

Confused, the Rabbi says, “Can you be of no help to me at all? For weeks now, they have being doing nothing but arguing and shouting at each other!” “Arguing and shouting”, laughed the old man “YES! That is the tradition”.

It is a simple and fundamental human reality, that people complain and protest, children fight, politicians argue, church leaders take different positions, nations dispute. It’s all part of life. So, it’s no surprise really today, that when the Pharisees and scribes notice that the followers of Jesus are not following what is considered to be the proper practice, they are not happy, and they take Jesus to task.

The traditions of the elders, were very often traditions of an outward observance

that were supposed to reflect an inner reality. But the problem arose when the outer façade bore no resemblance to the inner reality. This was why they clashed with Jesus. The call to change, to adapt, to accept, to move from a self-centred, long held position, is hard.

Yet, Jesus makes it plain that all these things are essential for the kingdom of God to flourish. Life’s situations can cloud our vision, and while seeing as Jesus sees is necessary, it’s not always easy.

The tools of the ministry…

Very shortly now, following a long-standing tradition, Tom will receive the book of the Gospels, his mitre, his ring, his crozier in addition to his pectoral cross. These are not just nice vestments and objects of beauty. Neither are they only symbols of authority. They are tools of ministry and reminders of the love which should be in every bishop’s and every Christian’s heart. They are an outward sign of an inner reality.

The book of the Gospels is held over Monsignor Tom’s head during the prayer of consecration. It is as if the words of the Gospels will drop down and permeate

his whole being. Remember the final words of the Papal Mandate read a few moments ago:

We encourage you then, beloved son, to exercise attentively the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel, which is the very reason for the existence of the priesthood.

Bishop Tom will receive the mitre which in pre-Christian times was a gold headband that reflected the sun, but which, in today’s giving, is accompanied by our prayer that it is the new bishop’s LIFE that should brightly shine.

The ring – the sign of the loving relationship, that covenant of fatherly love, of the bishop for his people. This commitment is eternal, immutable and everlasting. It is a commitment, a covenant, that no amount of argument or dispute can sunder.

And the crozier, the Pastoral staff, an aid to you as you begin your pilgrimage as chief shepherd. Bestowing the crozier to a new bishop is a reminder of the mission entrusted to the bishop. The staff recalls the staff of Moses who led God’s people safely through the Red Sea. It is the staff of the Good Shepherd… who seeks and searches for the lost and the wounded, those who are have been hurt. It is the staff that is used to keep the wolf at bay, to protect the little ones from danger.

Today, there are so many people who are struggling, people at their wits ends, people barely keeping their heads above the water. Stretch out your staff and let them take hold. And bring with you always the cross of Christ – the cross that will be close to your heart. Remember that Christ’s approach was different. It was his goodness and mercy that brought him suffering. But it was Christ’s suffering and death that changed everything. It was his giving totally of himself that changed the world. When we all give totally of ourselves we will ensure that all are cared for and loved as brothers and sisters of one family.

Tom as you set out as our bishop on these sometimes calm, sometimes turbulent waters of the Church, may God grant you every good grace from above.

May Mary, the Star of the Sea, be your guide.

May Christ her Son, who reaches into the depths, illuminate your heart

so that with you as our bishop, we, priests, religious, and lay faithful,

may proclaim together how close the Lord our God is to us all.  Amen

  • Fr Denis McNelis is the Parish Priest of Laytown-Mornington in the Diocese of Meath

Address by Bishop Tom Deenihan at the Mass of Ordination

I officiated at a wedding recently where I commented during the homily that there was a tendency to see a wedding more as the end of a journey than the beginning of one!  That quotation also came to mind when I was preparing these few words.

The last few weeks have been memorable in many ways. 

For the priests and people of the Diocese of Meath, they have signalled the end of the episcopacy of Bishop Smith.  There has been much affection, and justifiably, for Bishop Smith who served this Diocese faithfully as a bishop since 1984.  Today, I would like to thank him for his pastoral care of this diocese and for his kindness to me over the past few weeks.  May his retirement be long and happy and blessed with good health and I hope that he will always feel welcome here in the Cathedral and at Diocesan celebrations.  I know that I will be relying on his counsel too in the months ahead and I thank him for being one of my co-consecrators.

For me, this summer has been remarkable.  From my contact with the Papal Nuncio in June, until today, I have experienced a range of emotions: fear, unworthiness, apprehension and a certain calmness that comes from a combination of faith and the support of family, friends and colleagues in the priesthood both in Cork and in Meath.  The words in the Papal Bulla or Mandate of Appointment, ‘do not let undue anxiety deter you…’ have been a reassurance and important for me.

I would like to thank Archbishop Okolo for his kindness over the past few months.  His wise counsel and sense of joy was very much appreciated as is his presence here today as Pope Francis’ representative amongst us.

I would like to thank Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Metropolitan, for Officiating at today’s Ordination.  Archbishop Eamon is a man of tremendous energy and commitment with a huge workload.  I appreciate his time, encouragement and the effort he put into today’s liturgy.

For fifteen years now, I have worked with Bishop Buckley in Education and as Diocesan Secretary in Cork and Ross.  He has been a remarkable pastor and I hope I will bring some of his pastoral concern for the people of the Diocese with me to the Diocese of Meath.

I appreciate the presence of Cardinal Brady and the other Bishops who concelebrated today.  Over the past few weeks, I have received many letters and kind words from those who have travelled this road before – they were appreciated.

Since my appointment on 18 June, I have been blessed with the support, friendship and hospitality of Fr Padraig McMahon, Fr Paul Crosbie,  Fr Joe Campbell and Ms Irene Connaughton in Bishop’s House.

Today’s liturgy was uplifting, joyful and has been the result of much work and preparation.

I would like to thank Will Woods and Dervilla Conlon for organising today’s music.  Their input, along with the Cathedral Choir, the Cathedral Choristers and that of Mr. Gerard Lillis has ensured that today’s celebration was uplifting and joyful.

I have been an admirer of the liturgical music of Fuamlaoi and, specifically, Ronan McDonagh for a long time.  Ronan volunteered his talents today and as well as having composed many of today’s pieces, his playing of the Uilleann Pipes was riveting and added hugely to the beauty of our liturgy today.  Ronan is overdue in launching his next CD of Irish Church music and I will be insisting, insofar as I can, that it takes place here in Mullingar.

Thanks too to Fr. Denis McNelis for his Homily today.  I encountered Fr. Denis over the years when he was Vice-Chair of CPSMA.

I have the joy of officiating at a priestly Ordination in three weeks.  Our Deacon today, Fergal Cummins, will be ordained on September 30th.  That will be a day of great rejoicing for the Diocese because an Ordination means a priest for a parish.  We must all keep vocations to the fore in our prayers and in encouraging those who may be called to priesthood or religious life.  If Christ personally invited his followers to follow him, why should we think it would be different in our day?  We must, all of us,  give that word of  invitation and encouragement.

So many others contributed in terms of serving, stewarding, volunteering and in so many other ways.  I cannot thank you all but you are all very much appreciated.

I want to welcome those who have travelled to Mullingar this afternoon.  Foremost, I want to welcome my own family, particularly my mother, sisters, brother, niece and nephews.  I am delighted that my mother, Phil, has been part of our celebration.  We are missing my father today but the communion and litany of the saints is a consolation.  I must acknowledge also the presence of my uncle, Brendan, who is a priest in South Africa and who is home on holidays. 

I appreciate the presence of so many priests from the Diocese of Cork and Ross where I worked for the last 27 years. I enjoyed my time in the Cork and Ross presbyterate and appreciated the friendship and kindness that I experienced there.

I acknowledge too the presence of the clergy from Meath and I must record the kindness, words of welcome and hospitality that I encountered here since June.

I welcome the presence of my colleagues from Maynooth, both from Saint Patrick’s College and the Columba Centre led by the President Professor Michael Mullaney.

And I appreciate the prayers and good wishes of the representatives of the other Christian Denominations, particularly Bishop Pat Storey of Meath who is unavoidably absent and Bishop Paul Colton of Cork, Cloyne and Ross as well as Canon Alastair Graham and Father Kyrillos of the Romanian Orthodox community.

I have been fortunate in my parochial appointments – I spent much of my time attached to the vocational school and parish of Bantry and Kealkil.  There I encountered a faith community and friends  that were supportive, appreciative and had a healthy mixture of faith and wit.  Until last June, It was my hope to finish there as Parish Priest.  I particularly appreciated the friendship and hospitality I experienced there over the years and to the present in Bantry and Kealkil from former parishioners, friends, school colleagues and Past pupils, many of whom travelled today.

I, and I hope you, have found today’s celebration to be joyful.  That word ‘joy’ is critical to what we are and to what we believe as Christians.

Be it as Bishops, Priests or Deacons, our Ministry must be joyful.   Pope Francis referred to this inEvangelii Gaudium (85) when he stated that one of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism that can turn us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, sourpusses’!

As I begin my new Ministry as Bishop of Meath, pray with me and for me that I and all who minister in this diocese will treasure and foster that sense of Joy that transcends our own worries, failings and shortcomings and enables us to reach out to others.

I am particularly conscious of my role in supporting, as best I can, that spirit of joy in the priests of the Diocese.  They are the men who minister in so many different places, in so many different contexts and in oft difficult circumstances reaching out to those whom they minister to.  It is not always easy being a priest today, like the parable, the priests of Ireland have worked in the noonday sun. They deserve support from their Bishop and Parishioners.

I am reminded by a line in the address by Pope Francis to the Irish Bishops at the end of the World Meeting of Families last Sunday, ‘Whenever you and your people feel that you are a ‘little flock’ exposed to the apparently irresistible onslaught of a culture so often alien to our deepest beliefs and values, do not grow discouraged. As Saint John of the Cross teaches us, it is in the darkest night that the light of faith shines purest in our hearts.’

As I mentioned at the beginning, which is now becoming too long ago, there may be a temptation to see an Episcopal Ordination, like a wedding, as the end rather than the beginning of a journey. A new chapter begins for me and, I suppose for the Diocese today.

Can I conclude by quoting a sentence from Saint Augustine of Canterbury that was mentioned to me recently by a colleague, let us ‘take care of each other in love on the journey’.

May God be with us!