By editor - 15 April, 2013
St John's Cathedral in Limerick was packed to capacity with a 1,200 strong congregation to witness and celebrate the episcopal ordination of Fr Brendan Leahy as Bishop of Limerick.
The weather yesterday might have been viewed as a metaphor for the Irish Church as Fr Brendan Leahy was ordained bishop of Limerick. Gale force winds buffeted St John’s Cathedral, packed to capacity with a 1,200 strong congregation. As the letter from Pope Benedict XVI officially appointing him bishop of Limerick was read, there was the rumble of thunder, and later as around twenty bishops and archbishops laid hands on the man who was now the 47th bishop of Limerick, the rumbles grew louder. But inside the magnificent cathedral the atmosphere was one of serene joy and calm.
Archbishop Dermot Clifford, chief ordaining bishop, remarked on the high winds at the start of the ceremony, saying the Holy Spirit, often represented in the form of a wind was indeed blowing strongly.
In a beautiful and moving ceremony the former Professor of Dogmatic theology in Maynooth was consecrated bishop of Limerick. In the front row, seated in a wheelchair, his frail father of 90, looked on. The pews held representatives of groups and individuals that Bishop Brendan had touched in his life so far: family, classmates from Maynooth and Irish college, friends from the Focolare community, ecumenical contacts from his long years working for ecumenism as well as diocesan, parish and civic representatives of the 185,000 Catholics in his new home county, Limerick.
“I now feel I can say I am a Limerick man!” he said addressing the congregation at the end, earning an explosion of spontaneous applause. “Limerick is beautiful,” he added, asking those present to help make it even more beautiful through love, “so others will come and see Jesus living among us”.
In his talk Bishop Leahy said that the “most profound question in life today is ‘Do I love?’ Addressing himself to people who were “hanging on in faith by their fingernails”, he said that “moments of difficulty are written into the Christian journey of faith” but, he said, they can be a “prelude to a new dawn of light and love”.
He encouraged people to follow the advice given by Jesus to Philip when he asked Jesus to show him God the Father – ‘to those who love me I will reveal myself’.
“In other words, love has eyes. Love is a light,” said Bishop Leahy.
He appealed to people to reach out to those on the ‘outskirts’ – “people, areas and projects that we can reach out to in love”. “If we love those on the outskirts – and these can be people close to us too – Jesus promises we will have light.”
Referring to the issue of child abuse, he said he wanted to make the pain of survivors his own and to seek forgiveness “seventy times seven”. Bishop Leahy said he was consoled to see how much had been done in areas of child safeguarding in the diocese and warmly thanked all those involved.
As he went about the cathedral at the end of the service accompanied by Archbishop Clifford, papal nuncio Archbishop Brown, Archbishop Martin and blessed the congregation there was a prolonged outburst of applause.
Annette Healy from Dublin, said she was moved by the ceremony. “It was wonderful, humbling,”. Her husband, a cousin of the bishop’s, praised the beautiful music – classical, Gospel and pop, which punctuated the three hour long ceremony.
Local people were full of joy as they left too. “It was beautiful,” said Gemma Quaide, while Eileen Ryan said she was looking forward to meeting the new bishop, but was already touched by his lovely smile.
And as they emerged from the cathedral, the wind had died down, the clouds parted and the sun came out.
by Susan Gately