Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Ger Nash as the new Bishop of Ferns

05 Sep 2021

  • See attached booklet for the Ordination Mass
  • See below Homily of Father Billy Swan, Administrator of Wexford Parish
  • See below remarks by the new Bishop of Ferns, Ger Nash

Ordination Ceremony
At 3.00pm today in the Cathedral of Saint Aidan, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Ger Nash as the new Bishop of Ferns will take place.  The Chief Ordaining Prelate will be Archbishop Dermot Farrell, Archbishop of Dublin, who will be assisted by Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns and by Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe. His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, will attend.  The Apostolic Mandate from His Holiness, Pope Francis, will be read by Monsignor Joseph McGrath, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Ferns.  The homily for the ceremony will be preached by Father Billy Swan, Administrator of Wexford Parish.

Clergy concelebrating the Mass will include: Archbishop Kieran O’ Reilly SMA, Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop Willie Walsh and Bishop Éamonn Walsh, priests of the Dioceses of Ferns and Killaloe.

The music for the ceremony will be led by Father Jim Fegan, Parish Priest of Ballindaggin and Father Tom Dalton, Parish Priest of Riverchapel will act as Master of Ceremonies.

The ceremony can be followed on the following websites:

www.southeastradio.ie broadcasting on 95.6; 96.2 and 96.4 MHz with commentary by Father John Paul Sheridan

Episcopal Ordination of Father Ger Nash Bishop-Elect of Ferns – YouTube

Homily of Father Billy Swan, Administrator of Wexford Parish

Dear friends, in the 6th century, about 100 years after Christianity first came to Ireland, a young man arrived here in Enniscorthy from Scattery Island at the mouth of the River Shannon in Co Clare.  There he founded a monastery and when he arrived in Wexford, he founded another settlement that became known as Teampeall Senáin or ‘the Church of Senan’ from which comes the name ‘Templeshannon’ that we have today.  Saint Senan was a contemporary of Saint Aidan and they knew each other well.

Almost fifteen centuries later, another Clare man has arrived here, not on his own initiative, but in response to a call to come and serve as our bishop – to follow in the footsteps of Saint Senan and become the successor of Saint Aidan.  It is difficult to contrast the world that must have awaited Senan as he arrived here in the 6th century to the ecclesial and social landscape today.  In the words of the Gospel, Senan arrived here without purse, bread or haversack and many of the things that would have made his mission easier, from a worldly perspective.  But while he lacked material things, he possessed a strong faith in the power of the Gospel that had changed lives everywhere since it first erupted in Jerusalem a few centuries earlier and spread west here to Ireland.

In our liturgy this afternoon, the Gospel chosen is the wonderful episode from Luke’s Gospel of the risen Lord’s encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  It is an Easter Gospel, full of new hope, new beginnings and themes that are very appropriate for the occasion we celebrate today.

The first thing we notice is that Jesus walks with His disciples.  Perhaps more than any other Gospel text, this one confirms our call to be a synodal Church on the move in which we walk together with the Lord and with each other.  And on that journey, we grow in friendship and faith.  Into this synodal Church, Ger begins his episcopal ministry as the servant of unity in a Church on the move.  He now walks with us as successor of the Apostles, as our leader and chief shepherd.

The word “bishop” comes from the Greek word episkopos which means ‘overseer’.  Monsignor Ger, you will fulfil your episcopal ministry as overseer, not from on high, but with your feet firmly on the ground.  Nor will you lead us by standing still in the middle of a static community.  Being an overseer in a synodal Church will mean that sometimes you will lead from the front of us – teaching and explaining the Word of God, breaking new ground, seeing new possibilities for mission, training people to be catechists, preparing for new forms of leadership, co-responsibility and pastoral care.  Yet at other times, being an overseer in a synodal Church will require that you go to the back of the community, wait for those who walk slower, walk with the wounded and accompany those in most need of God’s mercy.  It will also require that you follow the example of Jesus in today’s Gospel and walk with those who are going in the wrong direction, away from Jerusalem – those who have had their hopes shattered and who have given up on Christianity and the Church.

On the Hill of Tara, we are told that Saint Patrick lit the Easter fire – a symbol of the Christian faith.  A prophecy was made at that time that this fire would never be extinguished. 

In recent decades, the fire has certainly dimmed and may be full of embers.  But it still burns.  Today we pray as a Church that these flames of faith may burn strongly once more, ignited by a New Pentecost that will lead to a renewed Church of conviction and not just convention.

As Jesus broke open the Scriptures to the disciples, their hearts began to burn and be moved. There was a new vision and energy in what Jesus shared that moved them out of their sadness and renewed their hopes.  After this, they returned to Jerusalem, were present for Pentecost and went out on mission.  The dream was still alive.

In our day too, attentive listening to the story of Christ, combined with constant prayer and intense faith, will cause the Holy Spirit to ignite hearts and imaginations, drawing them to the friendship and knowledge of God and his love.  Falling in love again with the Lord and His Kingdom will determine everything and animate all that the Church teaches and stands for – all that the human heart is drawn to and loves.  Only the all-consuming fire of the Spirit can save us from sadness, diminish our disappointments and alleviate our apathy.  Only the all-consuming fire of the Spirit can create a new heart within us and generate a new vision for the future, like Jesus did in today’s Gospel in the hearts of the disciples.

Monsignor Ger, as our bishop, Apostle and chief teacher of the faith, your mission is to tell the story of Christ from a heart that burns with love and in a way that assures us that you believe that story yourself.  You will do this with words that light a fire, words that touch the soul, that speak to the heart, that lead people to worship and to participate in the Eucharist – not because they have to, but because they want to. 

In the Gospel story, the disciples had the basic information about Jesus, but they lacked a more profound perception of the mystery of Christ.  For many of us today, we also know the basic features of the Christian story, but we don’t always get the meaning it contains.  Being like Christ in this story will require that you accompany the people of God and listen to their concerns.  But it will also require that you open up the meaning of human existence that comes from the Gospel, teach the faith and light the fire of new hope.  This is our challenge as Church – to hear the Gospel with fresh ears and hearts, allowing it impact fully on us and transform us.

You have chosen as your episcopal motto I sith agus muintearas Iosa (In the peace and companionship of Jesus).  This will define your ministry as our bishop – walking with us and patiently drawing us deeper into the peace and friendship of Jesus Christ so that we become more like Him – to become other Christs and partakers in his nature.  This will be our strength as we go forward – possessing the gift of His friendship that we want to share with others.

This is also our conviction – that the Church has something unique to offer our culture and society that is badly needed today.  Here is the source of our confidence – not in ourselves, but in the message we proclaim. In the words of Pope Francis:

‘We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach’ (The Joy of the Gospel, 265).

This was the conviction of the early disciples after Pentecost.  They were no longer sad or afraid, but proclaimed the Gospel on its own terms, despite the consequences.

This is the Spirit of mission and evangelisation we pray will animate our diocese in the future – that we become a Church that goes forth, that accompanies people and yet is courageous and confident.  Along the coast of our diocese, from Arthurstown, to Kilmore, to Wexford to the south of Arklow, are fishing ships that are moored in harbours.  They were not designed to be moored, but to fish out on the open sea.  Being a missionary Church means taking risks, of “putting out into the deep” and not being afraid to proclaim the Gospel on its own terms, despite the consequences.  This will necessarily mean times of suffering and trial. But this is what being a prophetic Church will demand – knowing that our deepest vocation is to a community of hope that does not fit in but rather is called to stand out.

Monsignor Ger, we do not know how the journey that you begin today will all work out, for we walk by faith and not by sight.  The challenges are many, the ongoing impact of Covid-19 being one of them.  But I am sure Saint Senan did not know how it would all go either when he first came here. Yet, he trusted in God and because he did, his ministry was fruitful.  In that same spirit of trust, we believe that the Holy Spirit that you receive today will guide you and empower you as you go forward to meet with the people of our diocese, listen to young and old, accompany us, visit our parish communities and pastoral areas. By the integrity of your own life, your love and care for people, your love for Christ and love for his Church, God will shape the future with you and ahead of you.

As you go forward, keep before you the themes revealed in this beautiful Gospel – themes that you carry into your episcopal ministry as you build on and encourage all the terrific work being done in our diocese. We are certain that you will carry that work forward and build up the Church here among us.

As I speak now, about five meters behind me lie the mortal remains of one of your predecessors, Bishop Thomas Furlong.  He was a skilful innovator and leader who presided over the founding of many institutions and the building of many of the Churches in our diocese at the end of the 19th century.

Your call will not be to preside over the building of physical churches, but to build living churches of people with living faith.  These might be smaller but will be creative, convinced and committed. We pray for you today that you will lead us to be a Church of Spirit-filled evangelisers where the gifts of all the baptised are mobilised for the mission and are encouraged to use their gifts as Saint Paul encourages the Christians in Rome to do in the second reading today.

I began this homily with a reference to the saints and I conclude it in the same way.  Monsignor Ger, you have said ‘YES’ to God’s will by coming to us here in Ferns as our bishop.  Like Mary our mother, you did so without knowing fully the consequences of your consent.  Like her, you have placed your trust in God’s goodness and providence.  I am sure that after the emotional high of today subsides and as your family leave you here among strangers and return to their homes, you might wonder to yourself what has happened to me and what have I put myself in for?   This is what Mary must have wondered too when Saint Luke tells us starkly that after the blaze of light that accompanied Gabriel’s visit, “the angel left her”.

For Mary, the light and clarity of the Annunciation must have seemed a long way off as she stood on Calvary.  Yet despite the worst that could have happened, she believed that the promises made to her by the Lord would still be fulfilled (cf. Luke 1:45).  Monsignor Ger, the road ahead of you will not always be easy.  You will miss your home, your family and your native diocese.  But we pray for you that you will know the Lord’s tenderness and closeness at those times of challenge.

As you now become our bishop who walks with us to the Father’s house, may your heart burn within you with joy and peace. And may you always be sustained by our prayers, friendship and support.  As you begin this journey, may the Lord be the source of your strength, for as the First Reading today tells us: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

May Saints Aidan and Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid, Saint Ibar and Saint Munn, the Wexford Martyrs, Saint Teresa of Calcutta (whose feast day falls today) and all the saints accompany you towards a future that belongs to God.  On this blessed day for you and our diocese, we join in praising God as we welcome you in our midst as our brother, father and friend. Amen.

Words of the new Bishop of Ferns, Bishop Ger Nash

To build a community founded on welcome, learning and prayer where the peace and companionship of Jesus is visible to all.

Good afternoon, everyone. On this special day in the story of the Diocese of Ferns and on this special day for me, my family and friends, I greet the small number gathered here in the Cathedral of Saint Aidan in Enniscorthy, but I also welcome in spirit those who are present virtually by webcam, YouTube link and local radio.  First amongst them are the people of Ferns in all their individual parish communities with whom I will work in the years ahead to discern what our God is calling us to.  I greet especially the priests of Ferns Diocese who have welcomed me so generously and whom I will get to know and work with as the current restrictions are eased.  The generosity of your service over many years and the wisdom you have gained from that work and ministry will be a touchstone and a guide for our work into the coming years.

I want to speak briefly to those family and friends who have been able to join me here in the Cathedral. Teresa and Margaret, Jim and Niamh, I am very proud that you are here on this day as my closest family and that we remember Tommy and Mary, my parents, Bernie and Rita who have all gone to eternal life.  Each other person who has been invited has been part either of our family circle or friends who have been supportive and encouraging over the years.  Thank you all for the gift of yourselves. I know that Ciara and Shane would have loved to be here but are unable to be with us.

We are living in strange times as we continue to cope with Covid-19.  I offer my sympathies to the relatives of those who have died including those who suffered with the Covid-19 coronavirus and in particular, the families of Ferns diocese who have lost loved ones.  Leaba i measc na naomh doibh siud ata imithe uainn.  Also, I would like to acknowledge the heroism of all the healthcare and frontline workers who continue to be involved in responding to the pandemic. 

I am privileged to have been asked by Pope Francis to lead the historic Diocese of Ferns and I feel very humbled.  I would like to thank Archbishop Dermot Farrell for presiding at today’s ceremony and for his assistance in the preparations.  I also thank His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, for his presence here this afternoon, and for his kind support and encouragement during the past few months.

I would like to thank Bishop Denis for the welcome extended to me from the moment he heard the news and, on your behalf, to express gratitude for his leadership and care of the diocese over the past 15 years.

Bishop Denis has been a steadying hand in difficult times and he helped in no small way to tread a compassionate and healing path for a diocese and people in deep trauma as they dealt with the issues of the past.  Denis, I wish you good health and time to enjoy your retirement.  I also want to thank the three Bishops whom I worked closely with during the past 12 years – Bishop Willie Walsh, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly and Bishop Fintan Monahan – all who have brought different gifts and talents to their role in leading us in Killaloe and all of them in different ways are models of Christian leadership.  I am delighted that they were able to be with us today.

This event and this day required a lot of preparation, and a very efficient committee has worked tirelessly to ensure that it happened.  They were Father Odhran Furlong, Administrator here in the Cathedral, Father Tom Dalton our very efficient MC today, Father John Paul Sheridan, commentator today and author of the excellent booklet for the ceremony, Father Jim Fegan, who took responsibility for the music and in thanking him, I want to thank all the singers and musicians who added so much to this celebration.  The final two members of the group are on the staff of the Diocesan Office – Trish Murphy, Diocesan Office Administrator who co-ordinated the work of the committee with superb efficiency and finally to Father John Carroll who, as Diocesan Secretary, has been hugely welcoming and supportive and has been generous with his wisdom and insight and knowledge of the diocese.

In acknowledging my roots in the Diocese of Killaloe I would like to thank all who have been support and friend to me; people, priest colleagues, staff members in the Diocesan Office, candidates for the New Ministries and the many parish officers who continue to work tirelessly to build sustainable Christian Communities in a time of great change.  I want to thank the priests who I worked with in different parishes or areas of work or responsibility. Our diocese has been blessed that many priests go the extra mile in the building of parish community or are generous with their talents towards the wider community of the diocese.

Now for a little history which may have some pointers to the future.  In the year 1282 the Diocese of Ferns had no Bishop; the previous Bishop having died in May.  In October of that year, Richard of Northampton, a priest of Killaloe Diocese was appointed but was not consecrated until the following year.  While he had the backing of the Church at his appointment, somebody forgot to inform the other powerful authority, namely the King of England (hope that Archbishop Okolo has checked this).  There was a stand off until finally the King gave in and gave authority to the Archbishop of Dublin to do what we have done here today.  Richard was bishop for the next 20 years and is buried in the Cathedral in Ferns.  That little story which came my way by accident got me thinking about who the voices of authority will be to challenge and guide us during the coming years.

In addition to the voice of the worldwide Church under the guidance of Pope Francis and his successors, there are other voices who will need an open ear on our part.  And what is interesting about that is that Pope Francis has called us to be attentive to each one of them already.

First, is the need for a Church which has a personal and committed relationship to Jesus Christ, His life and His teachings, and to the promise of the Resurrection and a Kingdom where all our weaknesses of mind and body will vanish.

Secondly, the voice of the lived experience of people which has rarely been heard or acknowledged and which Pope Francis is now calling the whole Church to address through the process of synodality.  Another word for synodality is conversations – the kind of conversations which will bring the reality of people’s lives into engagement with the healing, encouraging but very challenging Good News of the Gospel.  Synodality is God’s people listening together to what the Spirit is saying and the key Sacrament here is the Sacrament of Baptism, which we have all received.  I wanted to reflect this key moment in the emblem I chose for today and it is symbolised on the central drop of water, recalling Baptism but also joining us to the turbulent sea below it.

Thirdly, the voice of our planet and our fragile human existence.  In the past 18 months, that voice of our human frailty has spoken and said “Stop”.  And we have stopped, rich and poor, developed and developing countries, Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere, celebrities and ourselves, the lesser known – all have heard the hidden yet powerful voice of Covid and found a common humanity at some level.  But recent voices have also said that unless we take serious and immediate action, future generations will inherent a destroyed earth.   As Pope Francis pointed out in 2015 encyclical letter on caring for our common home, called Laudato Si, we cannot be God’s people without looking after God’s earth.

It will be my task to nurture a system within our diocese which will listen carefully to all these voices and to create a way of thinking about Church which will recognise the reality of the world in which we live.  Therefore I will encourage all to look forward in hope rather than backward in regret or longing for the past. I hope that together we will build a community founded on welcome, learning and prayer where the peace and companionship of Jesus is visible to all.  That vision is the vision of Muintearas which is reflected in the Motto, “I sith agus i muinteara Íosa”

My hope is that we can work together here in Ferns with the Spirit of God sustaining us to nurture the faith and continue to ensure a place of welcome and hospitality for all.  In accord with Pope Francis’ model in “Let us Dream” I would wish to lead our diocese in Seeing, Reflecting and Acting so that we become a refuge of healing and encouragement with space for all who are searching for meaning, especially, as we emerge tentatively from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

I look forward, with the help of God, to working with you in your parish communities throughout the Diocese of Ferns.  Please pray for me.

Life and Ministry of Bishop-elect Ger Nash
Gerard Nash was born on 27 February 1959 at Glandree in the parish of Tulla, Co Clare.  His parents Tommy and Mary are deceased, and he has two sisters, Teresa and Margaret.  His sister Bernie died in 2008.  He went to the local primary school in Drumcharley and then to secondary school in Tulla.  After the Leaving Certificate he studied business and then worked in the manufacturing industry for a number of years.  After choosing to study for the Diocese of Killaloe in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, he was ordained on 15 June 1991 in Drumcharley Church, Tulla, by Bishop Michael Harty.

After ordination, he was appointed as chaplain/teacher in Roscrea Vocational School and as priest responsible for Roscrea Youth Centre.  In 1996 he was appointed as General Manager of Clarecare, which provides a range of social services to the people of County Clare.  From 1996 he was also assistant priest in Corofin.  In 2003, he was appointed as resident priest in Corofin and part of the first grouping of parishes in the Diocese of Killaloe.  The newly created area was called Imeall Boirne.  In 2007 he moved to Crusheen, also within the Imeall Boirne Pastoral Area.  Father Nash was appointed Diocesan Secretary in 2010, while continuing to minister in Imeall Boirne.  In 2016 he was appointed Director of Pastoral Development for the Diocese of Killaloe.  On the 11 June 2011 the Holy Father Pope Francis appointed Father Nash as the new Bishop of Ferns to succeed Bishop Denis Brennan.  He will be the 81st Catholic Bishop of Ferns.


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm +353 (0) 87 310 4444.