By Sean O'Donnell - 17 March, 2018
It is important that I visit you and celebrate Mass here on this Saint Patrick’s Day. Today, Irish people across the world are remembering our national saint, Saint Patrick, and the land of his captivity and later mission. Most will do so with a great sense of pride and joy. As we celebrate Mass here in a church dedicated to the patron of our diocese, Saint Brigid, I am acutely aware that many families and particularly younger people are making preparations at this very same time to participate in a parade or at least view one in some of our larger towns. Everywhere in this diocese, Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated from Rosenallis to Rathvilly to Rhode, and there are no exceptions, everyone today wears the shamrock.
During this Confirmation season, as I travel around many of our parishes to administer the sacrament, I see parish bulletins and newsletters inviting parishioners on my behalf to our annual Diocesan Chrism Mass. I look forward to meeting the representatives from Rosenallis who will attend the Chrism Mass on Monday of Holy Week. At that Mass there is a very solemn moment when I turn to the congregation and invite them to pray for me “that I may be faithful to the apostolic office entrusted to me in my lowliness and that in your midst I may be made day by day a living and more perfect image of Christ, the Priest, the Good Shepherd, the Teacher and Servant of all”.
Today is one of the days where I am called more than ever to be that image of Christ, the Good Shepherd, the Servant of all. A bishop must lead with vision for the future, understanding for the present and compassion for the past. Saint Patrick returned to Ireland, ten years after his escape from captivity here, with that vision, that understanding and that compassion.
The joy and enthusiasm of family life that I meet every day on my Confirmation journey contrasts very sharply with the hurt and betrayal of survivors who may have suffered or continue to suffer from the corrupting and abusive actions of the late Father Malachy Finegan, a priest of Diocese of Dromore. Father Finegan worked here in Rosenallis as a newly ordained priest from 1953-1956. While he died in 2002, I am very aware that the evil that abusers do lives on, long after they themselves have died. As a bishop I am deeply ashamed that a priest would inflict such evil and criminal abuse on a child. As bishop no words are adequate to express my regret and sorrow for any abuse perpetrated.
While we have checked our records in the diocese and are not aware of any complaint against Father Malachy Finegan here, my concern as bishop is that someone may be suffering in silence. But on this Saint Patrick’s Day, I say to you: do not suffer in silence. I have no wish to cause anyone to relive trauma that they may have suffered many years ago, but I would urge anyone who may have been harmed by Father Finegan to contact the Gardaí or the Child and Family Agency to report what happened. I would also like to invite any such person to contact our Diocesan Designated Liaison Person (DLP), one of the Parish Safeguarding Representatives or indeed me directly if they wish to do so. The Church also funds a confidential counselling service for those harmed by clerical abuse called Towards Healing. Contact details for all these services are on posters at the back of the church or on our diocesan website – www.kandle.ie
I conclude today quoting from the Saint Patrick’s Breastplate: “Christ be with us, Christ before us, Christ behind us, Christ within us”. May Christ be with you, before you, behind you and within you this day and particularly be with, be before, be behind and be within anyone who has suffered abuse in the past. Amen.
The Diocesan Designated Liaison Person of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin can be contacted on +353 (0) 85-8021633, the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, on +353 (0) 906-483106 and the Garda National Protective Services Bureau on +353 (1) 6663430.