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Pope Francis appoints Bishop Brendan Kelly as Bishop of Galway

By Sarah Mac Donald - 11 December, 2017

A native of Craughwell, and a priest of longstanding, dedicated service in the diocese of Galway, is returning to his roots - Archbishop Eamon Martin.

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Brendan Kelly of Achonry, as the new Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, succeeding Bishop Martin Drennan who retired in July 2016.

News of the appointment was announced this morning at 11am and was welcomed by Archbishop Eamon Martin, President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

In a statement offering his congratulations, the Primate of All Ireland paid tribute to Bishop Kelly’s contribution as chair of the Bishops’ Council for Education, and the Commission for Catholic Education and Formation, as well as his role in the Council for Liturgy. He highlighted how Bishop Kelly had, in recent days, brought to completion the launch of the new altar edition of An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach, the Irish translation of the Roman Missal.

Describing it as “one of the most important recent cultural achievements in this country”, Archbishop Martin said its preparation and production was the fruit of years of intensive work and the collaboration of many individuals. “Bishop Brendan deserves great credit for delivering an Irish Missal that we can all be proud of,” he said.

Archbishop Martin described Bishop Kelly’s ten years of pastoral service as Bishop of Achonry as “characterised by a natural warmth and empathy towards the people, priests and religious of the diocese, and a gentle, prayerful and caring leadership.”

“Now he returns to his roots! As a native of Craughwell, and a priest of longstanding, dedicated service in the diocese of Galway, Bishop Brendan will no doubt receive a wholehearted welcome home from the clergy and faithful of his native diocese. He returns with the benefit of new wisdom and experience garnered among the faithful people of Achonry.”

In the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas on Monday morning, Bishop Kelly said he realised that there was much work to be done.

“Somewhere all of us in the Church in Ireland need renewal in faith and in prayer at this time. Pope Francis is very clear. All of us who have been baptised are missionaries and all of us must be on a continuous journey of conversion. The world needs the Good News as much or more than at any other moment in history.”

“We have all, priests and people, been solemnly commissioned at Baptism to carry that Good News to the people of our times, most particularly to those who are experiencing exclusion, isolation and rejection and who are in need of good shepherds. I invite you all to assume along with me a new determination to be those good shepherds and bearers of the Good News, priests and people together.”

He said that at the present time the Irish Church was looking forward to the World Meeting of Families in August in Dublin and particularly a visit from Pope Francis. “Pope Francis has set a very clear path for the Church in our time: he has placed the family at the heart of his programme from the start. The theme he has given for the World Meeting in Dublin is The Gospel of the Family, Joy for the World. We are all called to be and to build family domestically and at every level.”

“It is nothing short of tragic that in a time of unprecedented prosperity for so many, too many families are finding that there is no house for them, no room for them in the Inn.”

“Then there is our Holy Father’s focus on young people who must always be our first priority in the Church of Jesus Christ.”

“Along with family and young people, there is the critical mission in Ireland at this time that is Evangelisation: discovering anew the wonder and gift that Jesus Christ is for ourselves and learning anew how to share this gift with others.”

“We are becoming a smaller, weaker and poorer church. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I look forward to working closely with the priests and people of our parishes and diocese, with colleagues and good friends in the other Christian communities represented in our city and beyond, and with all people of good will, men and women, both the young and those who have the wisdom of years, as we build together the Kingdom of God.”

“We must work together in new ways and as never before so that we will be a church that is open and welcoming, humble and full of mercy, and cherishing human life at its most fragile and vulnerable, no matter what the price: in other words, a church that confidently takes our stand always with the one who was crucified and whose birth outside and in abject poverty we are preparing now to celebrate again at Christmas.”

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam also congratulated Bishop Kelly. In a statement on Monday morning, he noted that Bishop Kelly was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Galway in 1971 and will now return as its bishop.

“As both priest and bishop, Bishop Brendan has been a much loved local pastor and a very popular shepherd to the faithful of Achonry since his ordination as bishop on 27 January 2008. His personal integrity, generosity of spirit and outstanding ministry to the people of the diocese will surely be missed. No doubt he will bring the same natural enthusiasm and pastoral leadership to the people of his diocese of origin in Galway.”

Canon Michael McLoughlin, Diocesan Administrator said in response to the news, “We, the priests and people of these three ancient dioceses, have been through a sixteen-month Advent since the retirement of Bishop Martin Drennan in July 2016.”

“We have been waiting daily in expectation and in hope for white smoke. Now that hope has been fulfilled with news from Rome and we at last can begin preparations to welcome one of our own back home to lead us and to be our shepherd.” “We have no doubt that Bishop Brendan will be a good shepherd. The people of Lisdoonvarna and of Spiddal can testify to his compassion and his dedication, to his gentleness and his kindness when he were their priest.”

“Those many pupils he taught in Coláiste Éinde and in Our Lady’s College, Gort will also know of his abilities and commitment both inside and outside the classroom. Although he left us ten years ago for Ballaghaderreen, we watched and regarded him with pride and we always kept him in our prayers.”

“And now we are very pleased indeed that he has come back to us. We look forward to making him feel welcome and to helping him readjust. We know some of his many gifts. Like Bishop Drennan and Bishop McLoughlin before him, he has a passion for the Irish language and for Irish culture.”

“In his work he has always prioritised evangelisation and the wonderful potential of Catholic education. We know from his words in Oranmore last September, when he ordained our newest priest – Fr Declan Lohan – that fostering and inspiring vocations to the priesthood and the religious life has always been to the fore in everything he says and does.”

“And we know too that he is a man of integrity and of deep faith. These things are important to us: the priests and people of this diocese.  We look forward, with the help of God and our Blessed Mother, to sharing the journey in the years ahead with our new Bishop.  May God bless our work together mar ní neart go cur le chéile!”

The Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora includes portions of counties Galway, Mayo and Clare.

Born in Derrybrien in the parish of Ballinakill, Co Galway on 20 May 1946 to Sean and Annie Kelly, Bishop Brendan was the second of nine children. He attended Craughwell National School and subsequently boarded at Saint Mary’s Diocesan College in Galway City.

Following the completion of his Leaving Certificate in 1964, he applied to and was accepted by the then bishop, Michael Brown, to study for diocesan priesthood in the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora. He started his studies in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth in September of that year. As a seminarian Bishop Brendan completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1967 and a Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1970.

He was ordained to the priesthood on 20 June 1971 by Bishop Brown in the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas in Galway City.

His first appointment was to the parish of Kinvara as a curate, before he was appointed to the teaching staff of Coláiste Éinde in Salthill in 1972, completing a Higher Diploma in Education in the then University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway) in 1973.

Bishop Brendan remained on the staff of Coláiste Éinde until 1980 when he was transferred to the teaching staff of Our Lady’s College, Gort, becoming President in 1986.

Following the 1995 amalgamation of the three Gort secondary schools, Bishop Brendan applied for and was granted sabbatical leave from his diocese for one year and went to live with the L’Arche Community at Cuise-la-Motte in France. Founded by Jean Vanier in 1964, the worldwide L’Arche movement seeks to create inclusive, creative and caring families where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work in friendship, joy and mutual respect.

Returning to his diocese in 1996, Bishop Brendan was appointed by Bishop James McLoughlin as Parish Priest of Lisdoonvarna in Co Clare and subsequently as Parish Priest of An Spidéal in 2003.

On 20 November 2007, Bishop Brendan was named by Pope Benedict XVI as the Bishop of Achonry, succeeding the recently retired Bishop Thomas Flynn. On 27 January 2008 he was ordained to the episcopate by Cardinal Seán Brady in the Cathedral of the Annunciation and Saint Nathy in Ballaghaderreen.

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