Address by Bishop Kevin Doran On The Occasion Of His Episcopal Ordination

Address by Bishop Kevin Doran On The Occasion Of His Episcopal Ordination
Sunday 13th July 2014, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sligo 

Since my appointment as bishop of Elphin, I have been very conscious of the rich Christian heritage of our diocese, dating as it does from the time of St. Patrick. We celebrated that great tradition of faith in our vigil of prayer last night and Fr. Liam has also recalled it in the course of his homily. The important thing is that places like Boyle Abbey and Inishmurray and our various Holy Wells are not just reminders of the past. The faith which they represent is lived and celebrated today in towns and villages throughout our diocese. We build on foundations that have been laid by others. Where others have sown the seed, we reap the harvest. Our faith, like the very land on which we live, is entrusted to us for the generations who will come after us. This is a sacred trust.

The crozier that I am using today was first used over 150 years ago by Bishop Laurence Gillooly, who led a period of great renewal in the diocese of Elphin. For me, this symbolises continuity and communion – the challenge in these new times, to witness to a truth that is eternal. For much the same reason, I was delighted that Bishop Jones agreed to ordain me today with the help of Archbishop Neary and Archbishop Brown. For 20 years, Bishop Christy has given generously of himself as bishop of this diocese. He has been most generous in the welcome that he has given me and, in these past two months, I have been amazed at his energy, his commitment and his good humour.

Like many grandparents these days, whose wisdom and faith, not to mention their availability, are such a gift to their children and their grandchildren, it is my hope that Bishop Christy will now find a new way to place his wisdom and faith at the service of God and of God’s people. He remains a bishop and a priest of our diocese and we will continue to pray for him daily at Mass.

While I am on the theme of gratitude – and without going into too much detail – I want to acknowledge the great generosity with which so many people have helped to prepare for our celebrations today and yesterday; the staff of the cathedral and of the diocesan and parish offices; the teams of volunteers who washed and polished everything in sight; the choir under the direction of Charles O’Connor; the servers; the young people who led the vigil of prayer and all who participated in today’s liturgy; those who looked after the catering, the stewarding and the communications. I thank the Garda Siochána, the Civil Defence, the order of Malta and the County Council for their generous cooperation. I am grateful to the men and women of the media for their presence and their professionalism. I thank you, my family and my friends, who are so much a part of my life. Most of all of course I give thanks to God who has led me to these new pastures and given me a new community with which to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I want to welcome very warmly my fellow bishops and all the priests and deacons who have come here from other parts of the country and especially from my native diocese of Dublin. My new home diocese, of course, is Elphin, and I very much appreciate the welcome I have received here. I welcome the priests, the deacons and the religious of the diocese who are here today, together with representatives of all the parishes. I look forward to working closely with you in the years ahead. I am very grateful to clergy and faithful of the other Christian traditions who are here with us. It is my hope that just as we pray together today, we may find more and more ways of being partners in mission and bearing common witness to Jesus Christ, in a world which really needs the good news of the Gospel.

I want to tell you a story and – as Fr. Joe Jennings would say – it’s a true story. A few weeks ago, I was on my retreat in North Wales and, on the Monday afternoon I went for a walk in the countryside. As I walked, I prayed the rosary and, being Monday, it was the joyful mysteries. The first mystery, the Annunciation; the second mystery the Visitation. For some reason I seemed to connect with those mysteries more than usual. Then it dawned on me why. On 29th April, I had had my own experience of the Annunciation when I went to meet the Papal Nuncio. A few days later, I shared Elizabeth’s experience of the Visitation when, just as Mary crossed the hill country of Judaea, Bishop Christy very kindly crossed the Curlews and came to meet me in Dublin. I’m not going to spell it out for you, but I can honestly say that the joyful mysteries came alive for me in these past few weeks.

I tell you that story, because I believe that, in the daily experience of our lives, God is never far from us. Like the sower in today’s Gospel, he is always at work to make our lives more fruitful, by inviting us to share his own life. We don’t always notice his presence, and we are not always open to his action, because we are preoccupied with the cares of the moment, or because we are living life on the surface and we are not really tuned in to the significance of what is going on around us.

Today, however, we prepare the ground once again for another season of sowing. Today is not really about me. It is about what God wants to do among us and how he invites us to really open ourselves up to his Word. I am confident that, if we are attentive to his presence and to one another, the mysteries of light will come alive for us too. There will be growth and healing and new life in our diocese. It won’t happen simply because there is a new bishop. It will happen because you and I, together, allow the Spirit of Jesus to take possession of our lives.

There will, of course, be moments of sadness and struggle, when the only mysteries that seem to make sense to us are the sorrowful mysteries. We will, please God, be strengthened in those moments by the knowledge that Jesus has walked this road before us. If we are truly one body in Christ, however, we must also walk this road of suffering together. As you may have heard in the Apostolic Letter read for us by Mgr. Dolan, Pope Francis has very specifically asked me, as bishop, to give special care to those who are marginalised; to the poor, to those who are in prison and to those who are sick. This is an essential part of the mission of the Church, because it was an essential part of the ministry of Jesus. I would like if this care for those who are on the margins could be a hall-mark of our diocese into the future and I invite you to join me in making that a reality.

Ultimately, however, it is all about the Glorious mysteries. God’s plan for each of us here is that, through sharing in the Resurrection of Jesus, we should take our place with the saints in the kingdom of heaven. The Doran family motto, (Spes Anchora Vitae) “Hope is the Anchor of Life” used to hang on the wall at home and, providentially, it is reflected in the motto of our diocese (Dominus Spes Mea) “The Lord is My Hope”. Hope is not just wishful thinking. For us who believe in Jesus, hope is rooted in the realistic expectation that God will keep his promises in the future just as he has in the past. Without that hope I would not be here today. Hope allows us to take risks for others, because we know that, in the faithful love of God, we stand on solid ground.

Quite a few people have asked me about my priorities for the future and about the challenges facing the diocese. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Master, where do you live”, he replied “Come and see” and we are told that “they spent that whole day with him” (Jn. 2). In much the same way, I think the first think I need to do is to see where you “live”. Since coming to the diocese last week, I have visited three parishes and I hope to continue doing that over the next couple of months.

In the few weeks that I have been here in Elphin, I have been very impressed by what I have seen. The Churches I have visited are beautifully maintained, which suggests to me that people take pride in their parishes. More importantly, on the pastoral level, I have noticed that young people seem to be actively involved in the life of the Church. Elphin received a very positive report from the National Board for Safeguarding. This is good news but, of course, we need to remain alert to the risks, which are, sadly, part of our social reality today. Other signs of growth in the diocese include the formation and ordination of permanent deacons and the diploma in adult faith formation.

Needless to say, there are many challenges which we will need to face together in the coming months and years. These include the absence of young adults from many of our rural communities because of the lack of suitable employment; the loneliness and isolation of elderly people as a result of the tendency to focus businesses and essential services in larger population centres. In advance of the next Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis has already engaged in a very extensive consultation of the lay faithful on the question of marriage and family life, and we too need to be attentive to this question, helping young people to commit to marriage as a Christian vocation and ensuring that they find support in our parish communities as they try to live their commitment.

People have quite rightly identified vocation as one of the key challenges facing the diocese and I want to share a few thoughts with you on that. In the first place vocation does not begin when people are teenagers or young adults. It begins when God calls us into life and when, through Baptism he invites us to be members of his family. It makes no sense to expect that people can be ready to commit to any Christian vocation, marriage, priesthood, religious life, or diaconate, if they have not first of all been helped to recognise God’s invitation in Baptism and to respond to it. This is what needs to happen in our families and our parish communities, just so that young people can grow to maturity as Christians, recognising their responsibilities within the community. Then, gradually and with the encouragement of those around them they can begin to discern how God wants them to live this gift of faith that they have been given.

In recent days, I have participated in a number of celebrations to mark the golden jubilees of priests and two things have struck me. In the first place, the priests themselves seem to be happy and fulfilled in their lives. Alongside that, people seem genuinely to value the ministry of the priest in their community. Pope Francis himself has acknowledged that “lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the people of God” (EV 102). Priesthood is what might be described as a minority vocation, at the service of the majority. But, for some reason, when the question of vocation to priesthood arises, there seems to be an assumption that the priest will come from someone else’s family or from some other community. Why do you think that is?

I was at the month’s mind Mass for Fr. John O’Rourke, who died since I was appointed, and his parishioners are understandably anxious to know when their new priest will be appointed. There will, hopefully be a short term answer to that question but, taking the long-term or even the medium-term view, the reality is that the bishop can only send priests to parishes, if the parishes send candidates who can be prepared for ordination.

I would hope that, in the very near future, we will – as a diocesan community – develop a new strategy for the promotion of vocations and of a vocational culture; a strategy to which we can all commit. For the moment, however, I want to offer you a challenge. We have 100,000 parishioners (give or take); we have six deaneries. Will you find one suitable candidate for priesthood in each deanery between now and Easter and invite him to contact me or one of the members of the vocations team. Together, then, we can accompany these men in a process of prayerful discernment, not just so that we can fill vacancies, but so that God’s will can be done and so that his kingdom may come.

As you probably know, I come from Dun Laoghaire and I have lived most of my life within a mile or two of the sea, with the mountains at my back. Benbulben, like most mountains has different moods and this was well expressed in the movie “Calvary”, which I went to see the day after I saw met papal nuncio. Calvary, of course, is the place where the good thief made his confession and was reconciled. There, the Son of God stretched out his arms between heaven and earth and took to himself the sins and the suffering of all humanity, so that we could live forever in the love of God. Benbulben, in all its majesty, can be for us a reminder of a God who is truly with us, and not against us.

I feel very much at home in a diocese which has the Atlantic Ocean as one boundary and the river Shannon as the other, and which is dotted all over by lakes. You will see this reflected in coat of arms, prepared for me by Dr. Renato Poletti, who is here with us today. Throughout my ministry, water has always spoken to me, not just of Baptism, but of the ministry of Jesus around the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This awareness was particularly strong for me during my years in Glendalough.  Today, I believe that Jesus is asking us, once again, to “launch out into the deep” and to “cross over to the other side” in a spirit of mission and evangelisation. May he bless our efforts with fruitfulness just as he blessed the efforts of those first disciples