Homily of Bishop Kevin for Day for Consecrated Life

The Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life

Friday 2nd February 2024

Holy Cross Friary, Sligo

Homily of Bishop Kevin Doran

St. Paul established a vibrant Christian community in Ephesus, not far from the present day city of Izmir in Turkey. The people of modern Turkey are predominantly Muslim, but the state is officially secular, and Christians are now a minority who struggle to survive. A friend of mine went to Ephesus and the surrounding area on a biblical study pilgrimage a few years ago. He told me about two Italian nuns he met, living in a remote hermitage, a few days journey away from any Church. He asked them why they were there, and how they lived their religious life. They said they wanted to be a Christian presence, bearing witness to the presence of God in that place. They were the local Christian community.


On the surface, Simeon and Anna seem to be quite different. They lived in an urban setting, in the Temple where people were coming and going all the time. But, in a sense, they still lived a life apart, consecrated to the service of God. On today’s Feast of the Presentation we celebrate the high point of their witness when, to use the words of the prophet Malachi, the Lord who had been awaited for so long “suddenly entered his Temple”. Simeon and Anna were witnesses in a unique way at that moment, but that was only possible because they had been there faithfully each day for a whole lifetime, bearing witness to the presence and closeness of God to all who came to the Temple to worship. It is in the ordinariness of everyday daily that our witness is most effective.

The essence of consecrated life is to bear witness to the love of God, through the gift of self in the positive living out of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. This happens in different ways according to the Charism of the congregation and the needs of the local Church. There are hundreds of religious women and men all over our Diocese, and further afield in Ireland, bearing witness on a daily basis, but I thought I might reflect on a few particular experiences of this past 12 months.

  • The Dominicans came here to Ireland (to St. Saviours in Dublin), 800 years ago this year, only 8 years after the formal recognition of their rule in Rome. They have been a continuous presence here in Sligo since 1252. It is fitting that we mark that centenary by celebrating the Day for Consecrated Life here at Holy Cross Friary.
  • Among the many delegates who participated in the Universal Synod in October, two of the four Irish were religious. Sr. Pat Murray (Loreto) and Bishop Alan McGuckian (Jesuit). They each brought their own experience of consecrated life and of mission to the synodal conversation.
  • Last September, I was in Cameroon, in West Africa, on a pastoral visit to the Diocese of Kumba. I met a very elderly Holy Rosary Sister, Sr. Therese Marie, who told me that she did her novitiate in Kileshandra in the 1960’s. Now, Sr Ifeyonwa Udenwoke (Sr. Kate), another Holy Rosary Sister, though not so old, is here studying at St. Angela’s College. I welcome her here today.
  • Speaking of St. Angela’s; we saw the end of an era with the transfer of St. Angela’s College from the Ursuline Sisters to the Atlantic Technological University. That is a gift which reflects so many years of sacrifice, but the legacy of their long service to young people will, with God’s help, continue into the future.
  • Another significant moment for religious in our Diocese was the election of Sr. Louise O’Rourke, a native of Athlone, to the in the General Council of the Disciples of the Divine Master. She brings with her to that mission the faith which was nourished on the banks of the Shannon.
  • Just this morning Bishop Alan McGuckian, our Jesuit colleague was appointed bishop of Down and Connor, the second largest Diocese in Ireland.

These are all different forms of witness and participation in the mission of the Church.

Living in The Now: Simeon, having seen the Lord enter his Temple, prayed: “At last all powerful master you give leave to your servant to go in peace.” But nobody asks what happened to Simeon or Anna, or what they did, the following day, or in the days and weeks after the day of the Presentation, or indeed whether anyone was there to replace them when they were no longer able to come to the Temple.

The Gospel is only concerned with the fact that they were there when the Lord wanted them to be there. That is all that was necessary for them and, likewise, it is all that is necessary for us.

As we say thanks to God, and to each of you, for your witness of consecrated life, we give thanks for the lives of the priests, sisters and brothers who have borne witness to God’s love in our Diocese and have now gone to be with God in the Kingdom of Heaven. May they continue to pray for us here on earth.