By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 August, 2013
Bishop Denis Nulty is the first priest from the diocese of Meath to ever become the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.
In his homily for the Episcopal ordination and installation of Bishop Nulty, Mgr Brendan Byrne, diocesan administrator of Kildare and Leighlin, outlined some interesting historical aspects about this latest appointment to the Irish hierarchy.
Referring to the “new chapter in the ancient story” of Kildare and Leighlin, Mgr Byrne told the congregation that Fr Denis served in Mullingar before he was appointed to St Mary’s in Drogheda, and became the youngest parish priest in the country.
He said Bishop Nulty was “the first Meath man to be become Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin” and Sunday’s ceremony was the first occasion in 77 years that a priest had been ordained bishop, as the new bishop’s two predecessors were already bishops in their own right before becoming leaders of the Church in Kildare and Leighlin.
On the topic of Kildare and Leighlin’s connections with Meath, Mgr Byrne noted in his homily that the two dioceses, Kildare and Leighlin, were united in 1678 on the recommendation of the then Primate, Oliver Plunkett.
However, a number of Meath clergy did serve as Bishops of Kildare in earlier times. In 1270 Nicholas Cusack came from Meath to be Bishop of Kildare after the Pope had annulled the elections of two different contestants for the office.
The appointment of Thomas Dillon of Meath to Kildare in 1526 came after a 13 year vacancy. However Bishop Dillon lasted only three years and over the next ten years no less that four bishops were appointed until another Meath man, Thady Reynolds, was appointed in 1540. But the King, Henry VIII, refused to accept him and appointed his own man instead.
Only one Meath man ventured as far south as Leighlin – that was John Mulgan, Rector of the Church of Lin, in Meath in 1420.
Of Bishop Nulty, Mgr Byrne said, “Now we have this Meath man, Fr Denis, who was born and reared in Slane, where St Patrick lit the Easter fire, a fire that St Brigid welcomed and scattered across the plains of Kildare. Those two flames – one from Slane and one from Kildare – rightly hold a place of prominence in our cathedral today.”
In his ordination address, Bishop Nulty referred to Meath’s link with Kildare & Leighlin and said another connection in fact went back much further to the first Bishop of Kildare – Conleth – because a certain Erc who was then Bishop of the ancient diocese of Slane, assisted at the consecration of Conleth.
“He was a great friend of St Brigid so perhaps the tradition of hospitality and welcome stretch to the very foundation roots of this ecclesiastical territory that has become known today as Kildare & Leighlin!”, Bishop Nulty said.
Elsewhere in his homily, Mgr Byrne paid tribute to Bishop Jim Moriarty. “When Pope Benedict relinquished the Papacy earlier this year, it sent a clear signal about humility, a truly historic act taken for the good of the Church. It is now over three years since Bishop Jim Moriarty, with similar humility, stepped down from office here in Kildare & Leighlin and expressed the hope that it would open the way to a better future for all concerned.”
To a round of applause from the congregation, he added, “Bishop Jim – you will always have our respect and admiration for your service among us and we pray God’s blessing upon you in your retirement.”
By Sarah Mac Donald