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Bishop of Ferns pays tribute to priest’s remarkable story

By Sarah Mac Donald - 26 June, 2019

Fr Ricky O’Connor was raised without any faith. This changed when he bought a Bible and began to read it in his late teens. He became a Catholic when he was 22 and began his seminary studies in Maynooth when he was 24.

Ordination of Rev Ricky O’Connor of Ferns diocese.

Welcoming the Diocese of Ferns’ newest priest as he was ordained in Our Lady’s Island Church, Bishop Denis Brennan recalled that eight years ago a young man walked into that very church and asked to be baptised.

“Today that young man has walked in again; on this occasion he is asking to be ordained a priest,” Dr Brennan told the congregation of family and friends of Fr Ricky O’Connor who gathered in Wexford for the ceremony.

He urged Fr Ricky, “from this day forward … be good news for people”.

The Bishop of Ferns acknowledged that times and cultures may change but, he said, the job of the priest remains fundamentally the same: to bridge the gap between God and humankind.

“The job of the priest, like that of the sculptor, is to reveal the face of God in, and to, a sceptical world,” he said.

Elsewhere in his homily, Bishop Brennan appealed to the faithful, “in these Pentecost days”, to “cast off our fears and anxieties”.

“We are not the first generation of Christians to worry and wonder about the future, and I suspect we won’t be the last,” he said and added, “Despite all the contra indications religion has an amazing ability to persist.”

He referred to a recent piece in the Irish Times by Fr Brendan Hoban, in which the Co. Mayo parish priest stated, “the religious instinct is so deeply ingrained in human nature it is never likely to disappear, even when it’s derided and suppressed. And particularly so in societies such as Ireland, steeped for centuries in religious vocabulary, emblems and iconography, what the writer John McGahern memorably described as ‘part of the very weather of our lives’.”

An article on religion in Ireland in a recent edition of the Economist, Dr Brennan suggested, concurred with Fr Hoban’s observation, as it concluded that despite everything that has happened in Ireland in recent times, Irish people still have a “feeling that life’s biggest moments should have a sacred dimension, however it might be expressed”.

Referring to writer John McGahern’s phrase describing religion as “part of the very weather of our lives”, he said that needs to be qualified by adding that in present day Ireland the weather is very changeable.

“Ricky, this changing weather pattern will be the backdrop to your life as a priest. A rapidly changing Ireland where faith is cherished and challenged in equal measure. This is very understandable because in recent years we as church have given people many reasons to leave, we must now work to give people reasons to stay.”

He said Pope Francis has urged priests today to be “priests who accompany God’s scattered people  … missionaries witnessing to the joy of the Gospel.

“At times you will find this challenging. I hope you are prepared for that! At other times you will find it stimulating and rewarding – relish those moments!”

Fr Ricky O’Connor is 30 and the eldest son of James and Beverley O’Connor. He has two siblings, Michael and Christy. He was born in England and moved to Ireland when he was 12.

The young priest was raised without any religious faith and had no particular interest in religion in his early teens but this changed when he bought a copy of the Bible and began to read it in his late teens.

He became a Catholic when he was 22 and began his seminary studies in Maynooth when he was 24.

Fr Ricky will be appointed to a parish over the coming weeks.

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