By Cian Molloy - 12 March, 2018
It was a red letter day in Kilkenny yesterday (Sunday 11th March), for the Episcopal Ordination of Dermot Farrell as Bishop of Ossory, but the Meath-born priest reminded all those present that yesterday was not the most important day in his life.
“The greatest day in the life of a bishop is not his ordination, but his baptism, the day of his mission to live the Christian life in obedience to the gospel,” he said. “Laity, bishops and priests share in the one baptism and the one mission to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. The success of this mission rests in God. Like Mary, the Mother of the Lord, we have to find our place in God’s story. I entrust my episcopal ministry, from its very beginning today, to the motherly care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and patroness of this Cathedral.
“The role of a bishop is to be a father to his people, a brother to his priests, and a witness of Jesus Christ to the world. Today’s Liturgy captures this reality in the phrase ‘doing what is true’ (John 3:21). Words alone are not enough; love has to show itself in action. That’s the vocation of everyone, particularly of the bishop.”
As head of the Ossory Diocese, Bishop Farrell is responsible for some 84,729 Catholics in 42 parishes, with 58 diocesan priests in active ministry in the diocese, plus the support of religious congregations providing 13 additional priests, 29 brothers and 169 sisters. As Bishop of Ossory, Dr Farrell is patron of 86 primary schools, and there are 16 voluntary secondary schools and state schools in the diocese.
The chief ordaining prelate was Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, assisted by the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, and Bishop Michael Smith of Meath. More than 20 members of the Irish hierarchy concelebrated the Mass along with priests of the Dioceses of Ossory and Meath and religious clergy
The newest member of the Irish hierarchy was born and baptised 63 years ago and has spent most of his life as a Meath diocesan priest since his ordination in 1980. However, Bishop Farrell spent less than half his life as a priest on clerical duty in the royal county as he held senior teaching and administrative roles at the Irish College in Rome, and at the national seminary in Maynooth. He was President of St Patrick’s College from 1996 to 2007. In the last ten years, he has served as PP of Dunboyne and Kilbride.
Welcoming well-wishers to St Mary’s Cathedral, the soon-to-be-consecrated Mgr Farrell said, “I entrust my episcopal ministry, from its very beginning today, to the motherly care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and patroness of this Cathedral.
“Today is Mother’s Day. It is a particular joy that my own mother, Carmel, is with us here today. I thank God for the gift that she has been to me, and to my sisters and brother all throughout our lives. She and my late father, Dermot, gave us our lives, and life itself — the most precious gift of all. I give thanks to God for this ultimate gift without which nothing else is possible.
“In these days we are all very aware of the need to protect the life of every child in the womb. There is no such thing as a human life that has no value. However it is paradoxical and in some ways the ultimate delusion—to extinguish this most fundamental right of all, the right to life of the innocent child, in the name of personal and civil rights. May the Lord open our eyes to see the image of God in every child, at every stage of their lives.”
There was also further indication that the new bishop will use his office to combat social evils, with Mgr Farrell using his opening address to highlight the plight of Ireland’s homeless: “With more than 3,000 children in this country who have no place they can call their home, with families who do not have a front door to call their own, who have no family table — do we not have an obligation to call those in political leadership, who hold power and carry responsibility, to act with urgency, for the wellbeing of our sisters and brothers?”
The homily at the celebration was given by Fr Dan Cavannagh, PP of Rosbercon, who noted that the new bishop’s ministry as a priest had been has ‘marked by great dedication to duty, by pastoral zeal, concern for people, boundless energy and a capacity for hard work’. Fr Cavanagh told his new pastoral leader, “You have revealed keen insight, organisational ability and an attention to detail. You can calmly and rationally get to the heart of the matter and analyse situations clearly.
“You can keep your counsel, make hard decisions and tell it as it is. Since your student days you have been a decent sagart galánta, animated by gospel values. As one sad Westmeath man said, ‘the cats have got the cream but then the cats always get the cream!’.
I know that the priests and the people of the Diocese of Meath are sorry to see you go, and you come here with the prayer and blessing of your people. We are delighted to welcome you as our bishop, our pastor, our leader in the faith.”