By Cian Molloy - 14 October, 2019
Ireland’s newest member of the hierarchy, Bishop Michael Duignan of Clonfert, was consecrated in the Cathedral of St Brendan in Loughrea yesterday.
In the homily, the chancellor of the diocese, Msgr Cathal Geraghty, reminded the 49-year-old former Elphin diocesan priest that Pope Francis said at an episcopal consecration in Rome last week that ‘a bishop is first and foremost an apostle, not an administrator who doles out dull discourse’.
After calling on families to pray together for vocations to the priesthood, Msgr Geraghty said that the role of Church leaders today is not an easy one. ‘There is a view among those who seek to influence the direction of Irish society today that the Church and particularly the Catholic Church should keep its opinions to itself,’ he said. ‘The role of leadership in the Church therefore is a difficult one. For so many years the wind was to our backs and it was generally accepted that the Church was proclaiming a message worth hearing. But things are different now, it is more difficult. We are facing into a headwind and the place of the Church in the public square has been greatly reduced. In a climate like this we need to be courageous and face up to the challenge if we believe that our mission is to proclaim the Good News of Christ in our world.’
The episcopal consecration was performed by Bishop Duignan’s immediate predecessor Bishop John Kirby, the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, and Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam. Most of the Irish hierarchy were present, including Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin. There was also a representative from Nigeria, Bishop Charles Hammawa of Jalingo, who has several of his diocesan priests serving in Clonfert.
Additionally, in the congregation were representatives of the Church of Ireland and of civic society.
In his remarks to the congregation, Bishop Kirby gave a particularly warm welcome to his successor’s mother, Mona Duignan, saying: “To be the mother of a priest was always valued here in Ireland. To be present for her son’s Episcopal Ordination is surely a significant event for her. We wish her good health and God’s blessings as she celebrates this day.”
After the ceremony, Bishop Duignan confessed that his feelings during the ceremony included a sense of shock: ‘How did this come about that I am here being ordained the Bishop of Clonfert?
‘I experienced a sense of my own flawed and sinful nature when faced with the enormity of the task that was put before me in that long series of questions at the beginning of the ordination rite,’ he said. ‘Thinking of Saint Brendan the Navigator the words of that Fisherman’s Prayer came to mind – “Dear God be good to me for the sea is so wide and my boat is so small”.’
Nevertheless, the new bishop said that during his consecration he had the great sense, as he has often had before, that ‘life is better, not worse, with Christ’. ‘I had a profound sense that in spite of my human weaknesses, I was being called as bishop to present this message anew to all that will listen,’ he said.
‘God is real, Christ is alive, He is present, He wants to befriend us, forgive us, heal us, free us and make our lives better. Life lived in friendship with Christ in the midst of the Christian Community is life profoundly enhanced beyond our greatest expectations. This invitation is not only for the priests or religious or even bishops here – it is for each and every one of us. Let us hear it again: God is real, Christ is alive, He is present, He wants to befriend each one of us, forgive us, heal us, free us, involve us in the loving community of faith and make our lives better if only we would respond deep in our hearts to his kindly invitation.’