I begin by saying thanks to you all for your participation in our liturgy, those who are physically present and all of you who are with us online via our webcam. I include my family, relations, friends, and the people from around Ireland and the globe – England, Scotland, Holland, Germany, the USA and Australia and, in particular, those from Kilmore and Cashel & Emly. Thank you for being with us and for being with me on my journey.
I appreciate, in particular, all who have prepared for and participated in our liturgy this afternoon:
– Archbishop Eamon Martin who has led our ceremony and I thank you for preaching the homily;
– His Excellency, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, representing Pope Francis – I am grateful for your presence here with us and your kindness over the past few months,
– Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly, for your inspiring support always and as you represent my priest colleagues and people of Cashel & Emly with whom I have shared 31 good years of ministry;
– I thank the ‘Kilmore bishops’ for their presence, Cardinal Sean Brady, Bishops Francis Duffy, Michael Router and Bishop Emeritus Leo O’Reilly. I thank you Bishop Leo, especially, for your welcome, kindly ongoing support and I wish you good health and contentment in your retirement.
– I am delighted to have a representative group of priests from Kilmore, Cashel & Emly, Limerick and Sacramento together with my immediate family, the Hayes’s of Newhill.
– I would like to acknowledge the hard-working planning group who have been meeting throughout the summer months and led by Monsignor Liam Kelly. I would like to thank you Liam for your tremendous dedication to Kilmore diocese and for your time given generously to ensure a smooth transition as I take up my new responsibilities.
– I thank the Cathedral personnel led by Father Kevin Fay, Administrator, the staff and the volunteers here at Cavan Cathedral for their attention to detail in all the preparations for today’s ceremony; those who provided a welcome, our choir, readers, our liturgical dancers and sacristy personnel. A special word for Deacon Thomas Small who will be ordained to the priesthood on next Sunday in Belturbet;
– Our communications/commentary personnel have grafted diligently so as to ensure that everyone could participate in our celebration today – I say well done and I say thank you as well to our local media and to the Catholic Communications Office, to our stewards and all who are helping to keep us safe in these COVID-19 times.
Yes, once again, we say, ‘these are strange times’! We have had to change our plans – I had hoped to have all the cousins, friends, and parishioners of Kilmore here – and now, in caring for everyone’s health, we are reaching out to you online. In fact, we are connecting with more people as we celebrate our bonds with family, friends, and parishioners at home. I am delighted to have almost all my immediate family here, thinking of you Michael and Darragh in Holland and Germany – we know you are with us in spirit and online. It is great to have Stella, Agnes, John, Donal, Kieran, their families and Michael’s family with me today. Home is where I was shaped and formed in Newhill/Borris, Two-Mile-Borris in Co Tipperary and of course, I remember my parents, Dan and Mary Agnes, my late sister Mary, brother-in-law, Donal, Auntie Dakie/Sister Annunciata in a special way today and all our Faithful Departed. We remember those who have died due to COVID-19, all the bereaved and all who are sick at this time. In these difficult times, we find ourselves at ‘home’ – ‘appreciating even more where we have come from’ – home being ‘the domestic Church’.
Of course, COVID-19 is a world-wide phenomenon, we are all in the same situation, struggling to contain the virus and so there is a sense of solidarity in keeping each other safe – we are in this together, learning from each other, though struggling to find a ‘new normal’.
In truth we are all in a time of transition; our old order has not just been disturbed, we have been thrown into chaos, there is no going back to the old order and so we are in disorder. Yes, we are having conversations, discussions, formulating plans and roadmaps, changing them, rewriting them, floundering, coming up with new plans – we are realising that we are not totally in charge of our own destiny.
The chaos brought about by COVID-19 has affected all our plans, my plans, yet I have been hearing a voice saying, ‘it will all work out’!
There have been times that I asked, does that voice know what it is saying? Indeed, as I reflect upon how my life has changed in the past few months, I have asked myself do I know what is ahead? The answer is ‘No’! Is it going to work out for me, for us? Yes. It is a process. Where are we going? I am not sure. We are at a crossroads, a crossroads – we have been called to reflect upon life, our priorities and we have had to make decisions. We are awaiting and entering a time of reorder in our world, as the people of planet Earth – our Common Home, as referred to by Pope Francis inLaudato Si’ and celebrated during September, the Church`s annual `Month of Creation`. We go forward into the unknown, into this disorder or liminal space trusting in the Cross of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus Christ who has been with us from the beginning and who came among us to be with us, as one of us, in response to God’s love for all of us.
On the local level here in Kilmore I have received a great welcome and I know that I am among a people of faith and friendship in our parishes in the counties of Cavan, Leitrim, Fermanagh, Sligo and Meath. I want to assure my family and friends that while Kilmore may be a little further up the road, indeed, the weather may be a little colder – actually, one lady in Tipp told me to bring an extra layered jumper – however, I am assured of warm hearts in the welcome that I have already received. I have been nurtured in Newhill, grown up in the wider family of Cashel & Emly and now I arrive in the family of Kilmore as Chief Shepherd conscious that I need your support and prayers.
God loves us first; it is not a case of us trying to love God or earn God’s love. God loves us through the wonder of all creation, from the moment of our conception, in the love of family and friends and we can be assured, in accord with my chosen motto that ‘Good Lord’, “your steadfast love endures” (Ps. 136:6). The love of God is a constant within the depths of each one of us amid all that is happening around us; it is that spark of the Divine that is within each of us, that voice that says ‘all will be well’ (Julian of Norwich). After all, each one of us is ‘made in the image and likeness of God’ (Genesis 1:27). Thomas Merton speaks of, “the gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me” (in his poem Hagia Sophia) and alerts us to seeing God in the stars at night and in the light within each person we meet.
We are on a journey together, a pilgrim people, sustained by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist: we need to continue to meet in faith, to encourage each other, to hear God’s Word, to have conversations about that Word and to be nourished by Jesus who gave of Himself completely for us. Yes, COVID-19 presents challenges and obstacles for all of us here in getting out to meet each other to celebrate our faith in the diocese of Kilmore. It is my intention to get out among you in our parish communities and I look forward to finding my feet among you. I know of the tradition of faith rooted in the scriptures and expressed in the pastoral planning as promoted by my predecessor Bishop Emeritus Leo O’Reilly will provide the foundation for whatever happens as we remember to depend absolutely upon God’s loving presence among us.
Finally, we are loved by God, sustained by Jesus in the Eucharist and inspired by the Holy Spirit as a pilgrim people on a journey together, called to listen to each other, to draw upon the gifts of each other and to celebrate our place in and responsibility for God’s creation.
I thank you once again for your prayers and kindness to me, particularly, over the past few months, the cards, the texts, messages, and calls. Your support has been tremendous, your excitement and joy uplifting – ye’re absolutely mighty! Now we move to pray the blessings of the Almighty upon ourselves.