Homily of Monsignor Cathal Geraghty and address of Bishop Michael Duignan for his Episcopal Ordination as Bishop of Clonfert

13 Oct 2019

The celebration of Mass for the Episcopal Ordination of Father Michael Duignan as the new Bishop of Clonfert will take place at 3.00pm today in the Cathedral of Saint Brendan, Loughrea, Co Galway.  Please see below the texts of the homily for the Mass, which will be preached by Monsignor Cathal Geraghty PP, and address of Bishop Michael Duignan as the new Bishop of Clonfert.  Please note that this material is embargoed for publication until 3.00pm today.

Homily of Monsignor Cathal Geraghty PP, Chancellor of the Diocese of Clonfert at the Mass for the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Michael Duignan as Bishop of Clonfert                     


I welcome you to our Cathedral for a most important occasion in the history of our diocese.  I hope you won’t think that I am biased (but maybe I am!) when I say you are in a building of unique beauty which reveals itself over time as a true picture catechism.  Saint Brendan’s Cathedral has been described as the jewel in the crown of the Celtic revival.  The decoration of the Cathedral was hugely influenced by the international arts and crafts movement of the late 19th century.

I extend a hearty welcome to Father Michael Duignan who today will be ordained as our bishop.  I hope that Father Michael will over time become as biased as I am about this place.  He will preside over the Sacred Liturgy in this sacred place and see the glory of God revealed through the hands of the artists and sculptors whose work is designed to draw us closer to the Mystery we celebrate here every day.

I especially welcome Father Michael’s mother, Mona, his brother and sisters and other members of the Duignan family.

Father Michael is a product of the family that formed him in the practice of the faith, accompanied him on his journey to priesthood and supported him in the living out of that priesthood.  I welcome his friends here too and his priest colleagues from Elphin Diocese and beyond; because you have all had a hand in making him the priest he is and the one chosen for the office of bishop.

Recently I visited an elderly nun in Dublin.  She is a native of our diocese, from Kilrickle and has been a sister of Notre Dame des Missions for over 70 years.  At one stage in her life she worked with Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin.  She recalled a talk he gave in 1961 as part of the Patrician Year celebrations.  She was deeply impressed with his words of thanks to Irish parents who had supported their sons and daughters in becoming priests and religious brothers and sisters.  She quoted him as saying that good Catholic families were the first seminaries and noviciates and that parents were the first formators for young people contemplating the priesthood and religious life.  The most interesting thing about her telling me this story is that at ninety-six years-of-age, she still recalled the gratitude she felt for his acknowledgement of her parent’s role in her vocation as a religious sister.

As Father Michael stands before us today ready for ordination as bishop of our diocese we are grateful to Michael’s late father James, his mother Mona, to the Duignan family and to all who have had a hand in his formation and priestly life.

We are all well aware that vocations to the priesthood and religious life have more than declined in recent years.  Many causes have been suggested, some have more credence than others, but I think there is a case to be made that a step towards being more positive about a religious vocation could be found close to home, in fact in the home.

We often encourage family prayer.  People in this diocese are very familiar with Bishop John Kirby’s call for five-a-day.  Five minutes where the family pray together.  If parents included a prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life they would at least be showing their children that it is a worthwhile  and appreciated calling.  To use a phrase that I have used before: vocations come from God, are nurtured in the family and fostered in the community, we all have our part to play.

Today is a great day in the life of the Diocese of Clonfert and a great day in the life of the Church.  As well as a new bishop in Clonfert, there were four new saints canonised in Rome earlier today.  One of them was Saint John Henry Newman who is remembered in Ireland for his role in founding the Catholic University in Dublin in 1854.  With all this happening today there is a little confusion in the locality however.  I say this because a man told me during the week that he was looking to the canonisation of the new Bishop of Clonfert.  I replied to him saying that we’d have to wait and see how he turns out before we put him forward for canonisation!

When His Excellency Archbishop Okolo stood here on 16 July as the representative of the Holy Father Pope Francis and announced the name of our new bishop, he paid tribute to Bishop Kirby whom he said was unique in the world because in his 81st year he was the only bishop in the world still presiding over a diocese as bishop.  On behalf of the priests, religious and people of our diocese I thank Bishop John very sincerely for his dedicated and gentle guidance, for his humanity and humble leadership and for his continued commitment to ministry in our diocese evident once again by his decision to take on a new role as Parish Priest in Cappataggle and Kilrickle.  We look forward to your continued presence among us.

On that day when Father Michael’s name was announced here in the Cathedral as our new bishop there was a great welcome for him from all present.  When Bishop Kirby said, “The good news is that, despite the prognostications of some, the diocese will continue to have its own identity and its own bishop.  Moladh go deo le Dia”, there was by spontaneous applause from the congregation and so again today we say ‘Molodh go deo le Dia’.

It is hugely significant for a small diocese like Clonfert that the Holy Father has sent us a new bishop; we appreciate it because we are proud of our faith tradition in this diocese and conscious that talk of our demise was coming from without not from within.  We have a rich heritage on which to build and we have a great closeness to our bishop.  The Clonfert family may be small but we are mightily proud of our identity, our history and our tradition.  We look forward to building on that tradition, making new history, encouraging vocations, building up the family of God, enriching the community, deepening the Faith and continuing to express our identity under the leadership of our new bishop, Michael Duignan.

Bishop Kirby waited patiently for a successor and today he will ordain his successor.  There is great significance in the fact that Father Michael asked Bishop John to be the Principal Ordaining bishop.  It is a visible expression of Apostolic Succession.  The laying on of hands confers the ministry of bishop and continues an unbroken line from the Apostles appointed by Christ Himself to Michael Duignan who becomes our bishop today.

This is not something that Father Michael chose for himself.  There was no job application filled in.  The position was not advertised and interviews were not held.  That is not how a bishop gets the job!

Father Michael chose to be a priest of Elphin Diocese; it was the Holy Father who chose him to be the Bishop of Clonfert.  The process is a complicated one.  I am not going to explain it now, we haven’t the time!  Suffice to say that after much work by the Papal Nuncio, and of the Congregation of Bishops in Rome, the Holy Father chose Father Michael Duignan.  Now a new chapter opens in the history of our diocese and in the life of Michael Duignan.

At a personal level Father Michael has to make the sacrifice of uprooting himself from his native diocese, leaving behind what is familiar to him and venture into unknown territory.  Michael, I hope that you will be happy in our midst.  You will have a group of very loyal and hardworking priests to support you.  You will have opportunities to get to know the people of Clonfert and discover a very welcoming and hospitable people who will soon make you part of the Clonfert family and hopefully in a short time you will find yourself at home here.

Last week in Rome Pope Francis ordained four new bishops and told them that a bishop is first and foremost an apostle, not an administrator who doles out dull discourses.  In his homily at the Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica the Holy Father said, “Proclaim the true word, not boring speeches that no one understands.  Proclaim the word of God.  Remember that according to Peter, in the Acts (of the Apostles); the two principal tasks of the bishop are prayer and proclaiming the word.”  Speaking off-the-cuff, Pope Francis also reminded the new bishops of the task of “closeness to God in prayer, closeness to their fellow bishops and priests and closeness to the people of God”.  “Do not forget” Pope Francis said, “that you have been taken, chosen from the flock.  Do not forget your roots, of those who have transmitted the faith to you, who have given you your identity”.

In conclusion, and I know you are saying inwardly, Thank God!  I want to add a final word from today’s second reading where Saint Paul writing to Timothy while imprisoned says “… they cannot chain up God’s news.”  This is a timely reminder to us of the mission of all the baptised to be witnesses to the Word of God in our world even when we find it difficult to do so.  To be His voice and speak the truth, to be His ears and listen to the needs of our brothers and sisters, to be His hands and help the needy, to be his heart heal the hurt.

There is a view among those who seek to influence the direction of Irish society today that the Church and particularly the Catholic Church should keep its opinions to itself.  The role of leadership in the Church therefore is a difficult one.  For so many years the wind was to our backs and it was generally accepted that the Church was proclaiming a message worth hearing.  But things are different now, it is more difficult.  We are facing into a headwind and the place of the Church in the public square has been greatly reduced.  In a climate like this we need to be courageous and face up to the challenge if we believe that our mission is to proclaim the Good News of Christ in our world.  Saint Paul says “God’s news cannot be chained up”, therefore we need to be His witnesses, to be compassionate in our presentation of the gospel and to be a light in the darkness bringing the message of hope.  When the bright light of gospel values are dimmed in society it might well be the time to put on the ‘high-vis’ jacket and be the light that shines in the darkness.  We have a worthwhile message to impart.  Let us find the ways and means of making the words of Christ heard over the clamour that seeks to drown God out.

Father Michael, may God give you the strength you need, May the Holy Spirit guide your words and actions.  May Our Lady of Clonfert keep you under her special care and may you walk wisely in the footsteps of Saint Brendan as Bishop of the Diocese of Clonfert.  Amen.

Monsignor Cathal Geraghty is Parish Priest of Loughrea, Co Galway.

Address of Bishop Michael Duignan at Mass for his Episcopal Ordination as Bishop of Clonfert


Moladh go deo le Dia!  Praised be Jesus Christ!

What a beautiful, prayerful and uplifting liturgy we have celebrated!  What wonderful ritual and ceremony deeply rooted in our Christian tradition!  Here today the Church in the Diocese of Clonfert has gathered as one.  Earth has been united with heaven.  God has been truly worshipped and we are better because of it.

Moladh go deo le Dia!

My sincere thanks to all who prepared the liturgy and to all who participated in it – our altar servers along with the various ministers and ushers.  Míle Buíochas to our Master of Ceremonies Father Michael Byrnes and his assistants.  Thank you to Marcella Fallon and Isabelle Mulkern in the diocesan office and to Rhona Horgan and Ann Casserley in the sacristy, the Loughrea Cathedral Parish Council, the Cathedral parish staff and the Knights of Saint Columbanus.  Thank you to the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master for their assistance too.  A special thank you to Elizabeth Keane and the Cathedral Choir along with Mr Tom Murphy and the Grey Lake Quartet for the magnificent music which made today so very special.  Thanks to Saint Ita’s Primary School Band for their music before the ceremony.  Thanks to Monsignor Cathal Geraghty for his thought-provoking homily and for all his work in making these celebrations a reality.

Moladh go deo le Dia!

Clonfert is a diocese with a rich spiritual tradition dating back to Saint Brendan the Navigator and that great era of the early Irish saints.  I would like to thank the people, priests and religious of the Diocese of Clonfert for the warm welcome I have received since the announcement of my appointment some months ago.  Today, in a very real way, I add to the blue and yellow of Roscommon and the black and white of Sligo, the maroon and white of Galway which will now be my new home.  I look forward very much to walking with you on the journey of faith that opens out before us.  Please God, to quote one of our contemporary saints, Teresa of Calcutta, together we will do “something beautiful for God”.  The presence of the priests and people of the Diocese of Clonfert who have come here today in such large numbers is deeply appreciated.  The effort of so many who have come from further afar or who have travelled long distances is also appreciated.  I greet all those who are joining us on the world wide web, especially to the sick and the housebound.

I am honoured by the presence of His Eminence Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland and President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and by the many bishops who are in attendance.  I greet in particular Bishop Charles Hammawa from the Diocese of Jalingo in Nigeria who has some priests of his diocese working here in Clonfert. 

Vorrei anche dire un grande benvenuto al mio amico di tanti anni – Sua Eccellenza Reverendissimo Monsignore Cesare di Pietro, il vescovo ausiliare del Arcidiocesi di Messina-Lipari-Santa Lucia del Mela, in Sicilia, Italia (I also want to say a big welcome to my friend of many years – His Excellency Monsignor Cesare di Pietro, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Messina-Lipari-Santa Lucia del Mela in Sicily, Italy).

I am delighted to have present, representing our brothers and sisters in the Church of Ireland, The Right Rev Dr Kenneth Kearon, Bishop of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Limerick, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Killaloe, Kilfenora, Clonfert, Kilmacudagh and Emly along with The Reverend John Godfrey, Rector of the Parishes of Aughrim and Ballinasloe.

Tá ríméad orm fáilte a chur roimh Chathaoirleach Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe anseo freisin, agus roimh Chathaoirleach Cheantar Bardasach Bhaile Locha Riach, chomh maith leis na Teachtaí Dála, Seanadóirí agus na comhairleoirí áitiúla. Cuirim fáilte mhór roimh ionadaithe an Gharda Síochána leis; agus gabhaim buíochas leo as a gcuid oibre ar fad inniu (I am also delighted to greet the Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, the Cathaoirleach of the Loughrea Municipal District along with local Teachtaí Dála, Senators and Councillors, I would like to greet representatives of An Garda Síochána to whom we owe a word of thanks for their work today).

Moladh go deo le Dia!

A word of deep gratitude to the three ordaining bishops today.  To His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, to Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam and last but not least Bishop John Kirby, who in acting as Principal Celebrant has shown forth in a powerful way the continuity of faith and tradition being handed on from one generation to the next.  Thank you Bishop John and thank you for your warm welcome and kindness to me over the last few months.  I do not think we should let a day like today go by without recording the debt of gratitude the Clonfert diocese owes to you for your over thirty years of faithful ministry as bishop.  I would also like to acknowledge your contribution at a national level as chair of Trócaire and with the Episcopal Conference.  I wish you a happy, long and healthy retirement.

Moladh go de le Dia!

I would like to acknowledge the presence of my family and to thank them for their continued love and support and for putting up with me over the years.  I remember in particular my father James and my aunts and uncles who have gone home to God – especially my aunt Ursula and the late Bishop Christopher Jones. 

I want to pay tribute to the priests, deacons, religious and laity of my former Diocese of Elphin, the staff and students of Summerhill College, Sligo, and the staff of the Elphin Diocesan Office. To these I add Bishop Kevin Doran and thank him most sincerely for his fatherly kindness and goodness to me since he came to the Diocese of Elphin but in particular during the last few months.

Moladh go de le Dia!

I want to applaud the generations of gifted and generous young people whom I have encountered over the years at Saint Angela’s College, Sligo, along with the members of the College staff who are here today.  I would like also to note the presence of principals, teachers and students and all those involved in Catholic education along with those young people present who are participating in the John Paul II awards.

Finally, I want to acknowledge with gratitude the presence of my many dear friends, who over the years have greatly enriched my life.  Friends from other Christian traditions.  Friends from other religious traditions.  Friends who are still friends although we might disagree on many aspects of the church and friends of no faith at all.

Moladh go deo le Dia!

During the liturgy it sometimes crosses my mind as to what the people present are thinking.  Today the thought struck me again as I imagined people thinking: “Why do they do this or that?” … “Is that not a bit odd?” … “That reminds me of when?” … “I love that piece of music”.  Even now I fear some might be thinking “is he going to stop soon?”

At the same time personal thoughts and emotions go through my mind also.  Today I felt at first a sense of shock – “how did this come about that I am here being ordained the Bishop of Clonfert!”  Then I experienced a sense of my own flawed and sinful nature when faced with the enormity of the task that was put before me in that long series of questions at the beginning of the ordination rite.  Thinking of Saint Brendan the Navigator the words of that Fisherman’s Prayer came to mind: “Dear God be good to me for the sea is so wide and my boat is so small” (Breton Fisherman’s Prayer).

Mixed throughout it all was a profound sense of the reality of God – that no matter what life brings, no matter what negativity I hear or read – God exists, God is real.  Jesus Christ is not just a historical figure from the past on the same level as any other historical figure.  Jesus Christ is alive and present as much today as He was on the day He encountered those ten lepers we heard of in the Gospel (Luke 17:11-19).  Far from imposing Himself on us, Jesus gently invites us to embark on a journey of friendship with Him.  In the process we transform our lives and our world for the better.

Moladh go deo le Dia!

I had a great sense, as I have had before, that life is better not worse with Christ.  That Christ’s message is good news indeed. A message, to paraphrase Saint Paul in the Second reading that simply cannot be chained up (2 Timothy 2:9).  Addressing the young people of the world Pope Francis affirms that faith “takes nothing away from you, but instead helps you to find all that you need, and in the best possible way” (Christ is Alive (2019) 131).

I had a profound sense that in spite of my human weaknesses, I was being called as bishop to present this message anew to all that will listen.  God is real, Christ is alive, He is present, He wants to befriend us, forgive us, heal us, free us and make our lives better.  Life lived in friendship with Christ in the midst of the Christian Community is life profoundly enhanced beyond our greatest expectations.  This invitation is not only for the priests or religious or even bishops here – it is for each and every one of us.  Let us hear it again: God is real, Christ is alive, He is present, He wants to befriend each one of us, forgive us, heal us, free us, involve us in the loving community of faith and make our lives better if only we would respond deep in our hearts to his kindly invitation.

Moladh go deo le Dia! 

Praised be Jesus Christ.

Saint Brendan – Pray for us.

Saint John Henry Newman – Pray for us.

Our Lady of Fatima – Pray for us.

Our Lady of Clonfert – Pray for us. Amen.

Please don’t forget to pray for me.  Go raibh mile maith agat – Thank you all so much for your support.


Notes for Editors

Media: At 2.00pm today Martin Long of the Catholic Communications Office will be available to brief attending journalists at the dedicated media centre in the Presbytery (beside the Cathedral, entrance will be signed and located via the side door).  Information including the Mass booklet, the homily to be preached by Monsignor Cathal Geraghty PP of Loughrea and Chancellor of the Diocese of Clonfert, texts of Bishop John Kirby, Bishop Emeritus of Clonfert, and of Bishop-elect Michael Duignan,  the ordination booklet (which contains details of the Liturgy and the biography of Bishop-elect Duignan) and related information on the diocese will be available here.  The media centre will also provide internet access and refreshments. 

Photography: There will be one official photographer for the Episcopal Ordination: Mr John McElroy.  Media may contact Mr McElroy by telephone on 087 241 6985 and/or by email on[email protected] to obtain photographs for publication purposes.  Please note that as space in the Cathedral is limited, no other photographers are permitted.

The ordination Mass will be livestreamed on www.clonfertdiocese.ie, www.loughreacathedral.ie, and on www.churchservices.tv.

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678.