In our celebration today we focus on the gift of ministry in our Church.
In doing so, I firstly rejoice and thank God for the outstanding dedication of so many of our priests in the diocese who continue to minister so generously, most especially in these challenging pandemic times. Their witness of presence, prayer and pastoral availability has been a great consolation to so many during Covid restrictions.
I’m so conscious, more than ever these difficult days and in the culture in which we find ourselves of the need to mind and look out for our priests, especially those who may be finding it difficult to minister in a meaningful way due to the isolation of the current lockdown and restrictions.
In the new missal, no longer new now, but relatively so – I have always been taken by the lines from part of the second Eucharistic Prayer:
Therefore, as we celebrate
the memorial of his Death and Resurrection,
we offer you, Lord,
the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation,
giving thanks that you have held us worthy
to be in your presence and minister to you.
To me it would seem that ministry is something that is done to and from each other.
From the healer to the one in need of healing,
from the one who would appear to be together to the one struggling or broken,
from the spiritually enlightened to the one looking for that light of hope,
from God in heaven to the creature here below.
However this idea of us ministering to God is to me a moment of alertness and portrays a lovely aspect of God that I don’t often contemplate – us actually ministering to God, a God who is open to and allows that to happen.
In some ways this prayer at the heart of Mass turns ministry on its head! We minister to each other and in doing so with His great gifts freely given to us minister to God in return. It’s a reciprocal relationship of mutuality, sharing and love.
In ministering to each other we are making flesh or making real ministry to God who is very much part of all we do or say in all our graced efforts.
Ministry by its very definition has serving and attending upon others at its heart and core. The washing of the feet in John’s Gospel that, in non-Covid times we re-enact on this Holy Thursday is the essence of Priestly ministry. The ministry that is special to the ordained is shared in and participated in by his or her own unique and complementary way by all the baptised faithful. This is done in the appropriate manner using the many gifts and charisms for the benefit of the people of God. We rejoice and thank God for the gift of Priestly Ministry on this special day and the many expressions of that ministry in service and caring for each other by the non-ordained faithful also.
In all expressions of this we are ministering not just to each other, but to God as is so beautifully pointed out in Eucharistic Prayer two.
As I said at the start of our celebration, we are joined this evening by members of the group who for the past two years have been preparing to take up roles in Ministry in our diocese. We call them New Ministries for short.
Ministry of Pastoral Care
13 people are training for the Ministry of Pastoral Care. Their focus will be on ministry to those who are vulnerable in our parishes and in our society including the sick, the bereaved and all those who, for one reason or another, may be finding the journey of life difficult. Later, we will bless the oil of the Sick and pray that those who will be anointed with this oil and their families will be supported by the prayer of the Church and by the ministry of priests, religious, pastoral workers and the generous care of family, neighbours and friends.
Ministry of Catechist
Others who join us here this evening are training for the Ministry of Catechist in the Diocese. In all 12 people are preparing for this Ministry. When their training is complete, their role will be to help families, parishes and schools to nurture and grow the seeds of faith in a very different culture to that which they and most of you listening grew up. Later we will bless the oils of Catechumens and Chrism which are used in the Sacraments of Initiation, Baptism and Confirmation. These sacred moments which are so precious to us are but the start of the journey of faith, a journey which needs to be nurtured if it is to grow. The role of our new Catechists will be to serve as companions on this faith journey to parents, to families, to school communities and to all, young or old who will be led by the Spirit to deepen their faith.
Signs of Hope and New Life
We give thanks to God this evening for the sign of new life in our diocese that is represented by these new ministries. As they continue their journey of academic and practical training, I assure each of them of my support and of my commitment to ensuring that the structures of the Diocese will enable them to be effective ministers to the Gospel.
In the Franciscan magazine St. Anthony Brief I came across an poetic reflection by a priest, a ruby Julilarian, known simply as Michael and it is entitled Priest-Ridden. It’s an interesting and I think real perspective and it goes:
I heard the phrase on Irish radio the other day (referring to the phrase Priest-ridden)
And recognised it for what it was
The kind of catch-all shorthand
Which peppers our conversations.
Flattering whatever sensibilities are within range,
With the indiscriminate and thunderous report of a blunderbuss.
Once every Irish mother’s dream, a son in Maynooth.
Gone like the purple veils that once shrouded
Christ and the Saints during Lent.
Gone like the Ireland we knew and remember,
But never want restored.
In Ireland much has changed, mostly for the good.
Not all. Some progress seldom finds the straight or easy path.
The Land of Saints and Scholars no longer,
Yet still the land of stubborn kindness,
The land of dogged heroism,
Where daily miracles still happen.
So I am content as I have ever been,
Nothing more to prove.
Closer to the end than to the beginning,
My default position, Gratitude. Deeply felt.
In commenting on his reflection he further quotes the poet Maya Angelou in saying “I know that love saves us and that it is here to save us all.”
May that love be at the heart of all ministry as we celebrate, savour and thank God for it on this special day, Holy Thursday, the first day of this fresh new month of April, 2021!
- Bishop Fintan Monahan is Bishop of Killaloe. This Mass took place today in Ennis Cathedral at 11.00am.