By Sarah Mac Donald - 07 May, 2019
The newly announced auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh has called on the Church to give “full reign” to its prophetic voice and to challenge, head on, the economic inequality, the violence, the despair and the sense of alienation that exists in society.
On Tuesday morning Pope Francis announced that Fr Michael Router, parish priest of Bailieboro in Kilmore diocese, had been appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh.
The 54-year-old Bishop-elect will assist Archbishop Eamon Martin minister to Armagh’s 61 parishes and Catholic population of 267,803 spread across counties Armagh, Louth, and parts of countries Tyrone, Derry and Meath.
In a statement, Bishop-elect Router acknowledged that the Church in Ireland had become “too comfortable in its position of temporal as well as spiritual authority”.
However, the present time, he said, was a period of “unprecedented change for the Church in this country and the pace of change will only continue to increase in the years ahead”.
He warned that the Church must never hanker for the certainties of the past but work towards creating a new expression of what it means to be Church in this time and this place.
“Now is the time for us, while we still have reasonable numbers and a little energy, to shape the future that we want to see,” he said.
A native of Virginia in Co. Cavan, Fr Router has ministered in the Diocese of Kilmore since his ordination to the priesthood in June 1989.
He taught and undertook chaplaincy work in St Patrick’s College, Cavan and at Bailieborough Community School before doing further studies in the Mater Dei Institute, Dublin, in 2002.
Fr Router was director of Adult Faith Formation in Kilmore before being appointed director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Cavan in 2010.
He served for brief periods as curate in both Killinkere and Cavan parishes and for the past five years he has been parish priest of Killann, being based in the town of Bailieborough.
Responding to the news, Mgr Liam Kelly, Diocesan Administrator of Kilmore, said Fr Router was “a man of strong faith, has good leadership qualities and a hard-working and gifted priest”. He added that he was very popular wherever he ministered and would be missed greatly in the parish of Killann and in the Diocese of Kilmore.
“However, he will be a great asset to the Archdiocese of Armagh,” he added.
The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, explained how this time last year, five years after the retirement of the late Bishop Gerard Clifford as auxiliary bishop, he had asked Pope Francis to consider appointing a new auxiliary bishop to assist him.
He noted that Fr Michael has already gained “considerable experience in leading pastoral development and adult faith formation” and he said he looked forward to him contributing to these pastoral areas within both the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Diocese of Dromore.
“These are challenging times for all of us in the Church in Ireland but I have no doubt that, if we are open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, there will be new life and hope in our parishes – may the Holy Spirit therefore guide and inspire Fr Michael in his mission among us.”
In 2010 Auxiliary Bishop-elect Router was appointed director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre. In 2013 he was transferred as curate to the Cathedral Parish in Cavan with responsibility for the Butlersbridge area. In 2014 he was appointed to his present position as parish priest of Killann Parish, which includes the towns of Bailieborough and Shercock, and as Dean of the Bailieborough Deanery.
He was also a member of the College of Consultors of the Diocese of Kilmore and was chairman of the Diocesan Priests’ Council since 2017.
Auxiliary Bishop-elect Router’s main area of interest outside of his work has always been sport. He played football for the Ramor United and Killinkere Gaelic Football clubs in Cavan, was a selector with the Ballyhaise Minor and Senior football teams from 2004 to 2012, and a football and basketball coach in Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan and Bailieborough Community School.
He maintains a keen interest in all sports, particularly in the fortunes of the Cavan Gaelic Football team and Bristol City FC.
During his time as Diocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation, Auxiliary Bishop-elect Router wrote a regular column on religious matters in the Anglo-Celt and the Cavan Voice local newspapers.