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Resignations of Bishops of Ossory and Galway announced

By Sarah Mac Donald - 29 July, 2016

Health concerns cause Bishop Martin Drennan and Bishop Seamus Freeman to retire early.

Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway

Pope Francis this morning accepted the resignations on health grounds of two Irish bishops of the dioceses of Ossory and Galway.

In an announcement made in Rome on Friday morning at 11am Irish time, it was confirmed that Bishop Seamus Freeman SAC of Ossory and Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway and Kilmacduagh, who is also apostolic administrator of Kilfenora, would both be standing down on grounds of ill health.

In a statement, Bishop Freeman said on Friday that he had written to the Pontiff some time ago requesting him to accept my early retirement as Bishop of Ossory due to ill health in accordance with Canon 401 § 2.

“Since suffering a stroke in September 2013, I have continued to serve the good people of God, entrusted to my care as bishop, to the best of my ability. It was my hope that I would continue my episcopal service until the retirement age of 75 years. However, due to ill health, for some time now I have found my ministry as bishop to be somewhat of a challenge,” Bishop Freeman said.

“Therefore after prayerful reflection and with a sense of sadness, I came to my decision to retire, as I have been very happy and blessed amongst you, the good people, priests and religious of the Diocese of Ossory.”

He added that throughout his life, “in particular when difficult decisions had to be made during my time as bishop”, he had always endeavoured to deal with the people of God with a deep sense of dignity and respect, in accordance with the true spirit of the Gospel.

“It is my hope, and indeed it is my fervent prayer, despite my limitations, that I have served you well,” Bishop Freeman stated.

Responding to news of the resignations, the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin expressed his sincere gratitude to Bishop Drennan and Bishop Freeman.

He paid tribute to Bishop Drennan’s generous commitment to the areas of liturgy, catechetics and doctrine and said this had been much appreciated by the bishops.

“Drawing from his experience as a former professor of scripture, his knowledge of the Word of God brought a depth and richness to his contributions to the work of the Bishops’ Conference.”

Bishop Seamus Freeman

Archbishop Martin said Bishop Freeman’s input at the Episcopal Conference since 2007 was another valuable resource for the bishops because of his long experience in worldwide leadership of the Pallotine Order and his work as a parish priest in Rome.

“Bishop Freeman’s interest in the areas of pastoral renewal and faith formation was an indication of his faithfulness to the new evangelization in this country. I wish God’s blessing on both Bishop Drennan and Bishop Freeman in their retirement and assure them of my prayers for their good health.”

Separately, in a statement, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam said he had heard of the resignation of the Bishop of Galway, Most Reverend Martin Drennan due to ill health “with genuine regret”.

He stressed that in terms of his ease and physical health, Bishop Drennan’s retirement will be welcomed, “but in every other regard it is a cause for sadness”.

“The Church in Ireland has been the richer for his service as a bishop and is greatly the poorer for its ending.”

“I have had for many years the honour both of serving with him in the episcopate and of counting him for much longer as a personal friend.”

He described Bishop Martin as a man of few words but added that these words were very carefully chosen and contained great depth and insight.

“Deeply spiritual in outlook, he continually drew his inspiration from the Word of God which shaped his ministry as bishop. When sharing God’s word with people, there were always new insights which were comforting, consoling but also challenging.”

“He has given unstintingly of himself in that service, irrespective of thanks or criticism. His natural modesty and reserve concealed an able, principled and determined leader. That leadership had deep roots which nourished and supported his ministry.  A man of integrity, he recognised that truth always has a liberating quality which finds expression in courage and conviction.”

“Caring and compassionate in his relationships, he will be missed by the people, religious and priests of the diocese.  He never, during all his service as a shepherd, recoiled from witnessing to the Gospel irrespective of the circumstances.”

Life and ministry of Bishop Martin Drennan

  • Martin Drennan was born on 2 January 1944 in Piltown, County Kilkenny. Educated at Tobernabrone National School and Saint Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, he studied for the priesthood at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, from where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1968. His brother Michael is also a priest.
  • Following his Ordination, he continued his studies in Rome where he was awarded a Licentiate in both Sacred Theology and Sacred Scripture.
  • On his return to Ireland, he served as curate in both Saint Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan. From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at Saint Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Pontifical Irish College there for the next five years.
  • When Father Martin again returned home, he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997. His area of pastoral responsibility in that time was East Wicklow and South Dublin.
  • Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was appointed as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and he was installed on 3 July 2005 in Galway Cathedral.
  • In the subsequent eleven years, Bishop Drennan has instigated and overseen many worthy initiatives and developments in the diocese including the founding of the Good Shepherd Parish at the east edge of Galway city and the reordering of parish boundaries and personnel throughout the diocese in response to changing demographics. Last year, he welcomed Cardinal Sean O’Malley to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of Galway Cathedral. And in this, his last year as shepherd to the people of the diocese, Bishop Drennan had the joy of ordaining three young men to the priesthood.

Life and ministry of Bishop Freeman

  • Bishop Séamus Freeman was born on 23 February 1944, the eldest of eight children, in the parish of Mullinahone, Co Tipperary, in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. His family later moved to Callan, Co Kilkenny, where he attended school.
  • He entered the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallotines) in Thurles, Co Tipperary, and made his first Pallotine consecration in 1965. He studied philosophy at University College Dublin, and theology at Saint Patrick’s College, Thurles. He was ordained a priest on 12 June 1971.
  • Subsequent to his ordination, Father Freeman was sent to the Catholic University of Washington to pursue studies in psychology but was called to Rome not long afterwards to act as personal secretary to the Rector General of his society. Two years later he returned to Washington to complete his studies and was awarded a degree in psychology.
  • In 1975 he was appointed Director of Formation and Rector of the Church of Saint Sylvester in Rome. During his rectorship, in May 1975, he was also elected a member of the Provincial Council of the Irish Province of the Society. In 1981 he returned to Ireland to take up the post of Rector and Director of Formation at the Pallotine College in Thurles, Co Tipperary.
  • While participating as delegate in the General Assembly of his Society in 1983, Father Freeman was elected to the General Council of the Pallottines in Rome for a term of six years. In 1989 he was appointed Vicar General of the Society. Barely three years later, in 1992, Father Martin Juritsch, the then Rector General of the Society fell gravely ill and Father Freeman was elected to succeed him at an Extraordinary General Assembly. He was re-elected for a second-six year term in 1998.
  • In 1994 Father Freeman took part as an ‘auditor’ in the 1994 Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme of the religious life. During his term as Rector General, on 28 October 2003, the Pallottine Family, known as “Union of the Catholic Apostolate”, was declared a ‘Public and International Association of the Faithful’ by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. At an international Assembly of the Union held in Rome in December 2005, Father Freeman was unanimously re-elected President of their General Co-ordination Council for a term of three years.
  • At the conclusion of his second term as Rector General of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, Father Freeman spent a year with the Irish Pallottine community at Saint Sylvester’s in Rome after which, on 7 October 2004, he was appointed Parish Priest of the Church of Saint Vincent Pallotti at Pietralata in Rome.
  • Bishop Freeman was appointed Bishop of Ossory by Pope Benedict XVI on 14 September 2007. He was ordained Bishop of Ossory on 2 December 2007 in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.
  • Bishop Freeman’s episcopal ministry saw him serve as a Member of the Standing Committee of the Irish Episcopal Conference, Member of the Episcopal Commission for Worship, Chair of the Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development, Member of the Council for Religious, Joint Council for Religious of the IEC and CORI.
  • Bishop Freeman facilitated the realisation of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, as the People’s Plan for Ossory, and recently employed the first lay pastoral worker in Ossory to ensure its continued implementation. As Bishop of Ossory he worked tirelessly for the restoration of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, its Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Chapter House and surrounding campus.

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