Bishop Noel Treanor’s Address

29th June 2008
Bishop Noel Treanor’s address on the occasion of his Episcopal Ordination
as Bishop of Down and Connor

Dear sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ, a phobal Dé, Cardinal Brady welcomed you at the beginning of this beautiful and grace-filled ceremony. For my part I reiterate his words of welcome and I thank you for joining us in this beautiful liturgy. Your presence and participation are an assurance of your support for my mission.

A phobal na páirte, i dtus báire ba mhaith liom buíochas om chroí a ghabháil do gach éinne i lathair as ucht bhur moladh, bhur dtachaíocht agus gcomhluadar – beannacht agus beatha.

Is mór an onóir domsa a bheith i bhur measc – go háirithe toisc me a bheith tofa mar Easpag ar an dheoise seo, deoise an Dun agus an Coinnire.

Ta se rite : is buan duine ina dhuithe fein ! Tugann an ocáid aoibhinn seo ardu chroí agus misneach dom agus mé ag dul i dtaithí ar chuairimí nua amach anseo.

Ach i ndairíre is sibhse, a phobal De, a threabhann an fóid agus a dheanann an fuirseadh. Cé chuireann an síol ach sibhse ó lá go lá.

My dear friends, fellow clergy and people of Down and Connor, I am sure you join me in my first duty today – that of giving thanks:

I give thanks to Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for this grace-filled ceremony :

I thank the consecrating Bishops: Cardinal Brady, Bishop Patrick Walsh and Bishop Joseph Duffy

I thank the Apostolic Nuncio His Excellency Giuseppe Leanza for his presence, his kind words of encouragement and fraternal friendship.

I thank the Bishops who have travelled long distances to honour the Church which is in Down and Connor on this occasion with their presence and their prayerful support:

the bishops from other Irish dioceses
bishops from various countries in Europe
the Greek-Catholic Exarch of Sofia, Bulgaria, His Excellency Christo Proykov
numerous bishops of dioceses throughout Europe who sent their good wishes, regretting that they could not join us today

I greet the Lord Lieutenant Lady Carswell and her husband for their presence, and their wish to participate in this ceremony.

My thanks are due to the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, for her presence and supportive interest and to her husband Dr. Martin McAleese.

Fáilte romhaibh go dtí bhur gcathair dhuchais agus bhur dteach phobail dhuchais. Tá mé fíor buíoch libh as son a bheith i láthair linn inniu ar an ocáid speisialta seo agus ar son bhur dtachaíocht le blianta anuas.

I also greet the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Tom Hartley representing the people of this historic city which I shall make my home in the years ahead.

Allow me to group my expression of thanks to all ecclesiastical dignitaries from the Churches, and also my ecumenical friends from the Conference of European Churches, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Protestant Church of Germany. We appreciate your presence and prayerful support.

Together with the bishops, clergy, the religious and the laity of the diocese, I look forward to working together with you, the representatives of the Churches, in the Lord’s vineyard in the years ahead.

Likewise I thank all civic dignitaries – those who serve us and the community in politics, in public administration, education, health and in the numerous spheres of life represented among you. I look forward to meeting you and to working together with you for the common good of all citizens of our society, whilst respecting the principle of separation between the religious and secular spheres. That principle of separation, already elicited in St. Matthew’s distinction between what is of God and what is of Caesar, is a cornerstone of democracy. Its implementation for the cohesion and vitality of society’s constitutive humus requires exchange of ideas, dialogue and, yes, debate, between these two spheres. I look forward to continuing my predecessor’s work in this field in regard to numerous issues confronting our society today.

If despite my personal shortcomings, I have been entrusted with the ministry and office of bishop in your presence today, my friends, several strands and rivulets of parenting, education, correction, training and inter-personal experience have led to this day .

I recall with profound gratitude my first educators, my parents Mollie and Johnnie, with us in spirit, my uncles, aunts, family friends, my brother and sister, their spouses and families, and our neighbours – from all of whom I learned the ways of Christian living.

I recall my teachers at Leitrim School and Scoil Bhride in Tyholland, where I grew up. Like many including my predecessor I owe a debt of gratitude to the Christian Brothers and their staff who taught me in second level.

I am mindful of my teachers at Maynooth, both in the National University and in the Pontifical faculty of Theology : I thank you for opening my mind all those years ago and I thank many of you for your interest in and contributions to my work in Europe.

And I trust that my classmates of both ordination classes of 1975 and 1976 will feel welcome to visit me here and that we shall now have a chance to re-connect in our silver years !

My thanks also go to the Irish College, Rome, to the Gregorian University and to the many institutions with which I had contact in my student days and indeed again in the past twenty years.

You will appreciate that on this occasion I should like to evoke the name of the late Bishop Patrick Mulligan who ordained me to the priesthood on 13 June 1976 : I remember him with fondness. And I thank Bishop Duffy for his good counsel and guidance over many years.

I thank my friends and colleagues, the priests of the diocese of Clogher, the religious and laity of the parishes of Monaghan and Enniskillen, where I worked as a curate in the days of my youth. I thank you for your friendship and for your oftentimes edifying and exemplary example of service in your particular walk of life.

Like many of you here today, I am a child of Ulster. In 1989 I left Enniskillen after a formative and short term as curate to take up an appointment with the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE). Despite some misgivings on my part after one year of service there, which might have led to my return to the bucolic pastoral lands of the Clogher valley – had luck been with me, Bishop Duffy’s good counsel prevailed at that time. Thus I spent almost two decades of my life working in the service of the Church in Europe – more precisely on an emergent interface between Church and that historic, unique and precious project which is the European Union.

These were happy, enriching and formative years. I saw at first hand how reconciliation between erstwhile enemies is possible and can be achieved. I worked with colleagues -become friends for life – from many different national and cultural backgrounds. In the spirit of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, our work was enhanced by the expertise of many women and men in the European institutions, in public life, in academia and research, in business and finance : I thank many of them here today for the effort you have made to be with us and for your contribution to the life of the Church in Europe and beyond its borders through the work of COMECE.

An dieser Stelle mochte ich die Gäste aus Deutschland und Osterreich begrussen. Ihre Anwesenheit ist fur mich ein schones Zeichen unserer Freundschaft und Verbundenheit. Ich freue mich besonders dass Bischof Josef Homeyer, mein langjähriger Chef, unter uns ist. An allen vielen, vielen Dank fur Ihre Treue und die grossartige Unterstutzung meiner/unserer Arbeit in Brussel im Laufe der vergangenen zwei Jahrzehnten.

Likewise I express my gratitude to Bishop Adrianus Van Luyn, Bishop of Rotterdam and present President of COMECE for his accessibility, trust and friendship.

Since, my dear people, there are also other friends among us for whom English is an unknown language, by way of courtesy to our guests, permit me a few words in French … a nos amis francophones – a vous toutes et tous – evêques membres de la COMECE, mes anciens collegues, les collabortrices et collaborateurs du secrétariat : merci d’avoir fait le déplacement a Belfast pour s’unir a mon ordination episcopale. Au nom de l’Eglise de ce diocèse je tiens a vous remercier – votre présence me touche profondément. Au cours de la réception qui suivra on aura, je l’espère bien, l’occasion de se saluer et d’échanger … et je vous invite, même je vous incite, à rencontrer les diocésains et paroissiens qui sont heureux aujourd’hui de vous accuellir parmis nous.

And I thank my colleagues in your presence for the gift of the Bishop’s ring. Its shape alludes to the bishop’s responsibility to proclaim the Word of God and particularly to the Year of St. Paul.

So I thank my colleagues, many advisers who have supported my work over the past twenty years for coming in such numbers: you were colleagues and friends in work, friendship and in worship – may God sustain and strengthen you in the years ahead.

The future is an unknown for all of us. Today, and during the weeks and months since my appointment as Bishop-elect of Down and Connor was announced, I have had a keen and betimes slightly disconcerting sense of the immense challenges which lie in store.

Be that as it may, I have been encouraged and strengthened by the welcome I received from Bishop Walsh, the Auxiliary Bishops Tony Farquhar and Donal McKeown. Thank you one and all for the warmth of the reception you gave me on that blustery 22nd February, for the encouragement of your words and actions in the meantime and for your assurance of fraternal support in the years ahead.

In particular I salute the work and accomplishments of my predecessors, His Eminence Cardinal Daly and Bishop Walsh. I ask you to pray that I may be a worthy successor in their footsteps.

Do chuir an t-Easpag Padraig Breathnach smoir a chroí agus foill a chnamh ina chuid oibre agus gach a rinne se ar son a phobal. Táim faoi choimín mhór aige as a dturacht agus as an díograis a chaith sé le linn a threibhse.
Molann an obair an duine : go gcuide Dia a shaothar mór do.

A special word of thanks goes to the choirs, the director of music Nigel Mc Clintock and the assistant director Helen Frame for their creative work to edify our liturgy with heavenly music.

Numerous persons have worked hard to assist my arrival and this ceremony : Fr Joe Glover, Fr Hugh Kennedy, Master of Ceremonies and the assistant priests in this cathedral parish, the priests at St. Malachy’s College, and the staff at the Curia offices at Lisbreen : I thank you all for your generosity and kindness.

As I follow in the footsteps of Bishop Patrick Walsh, I am aware of setting forth in this ministry on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, on the first day of the Year of St. Paul, and also in the first quarter of the Year of Vocation here in Ireland.

The memory of Peter and Paul, strong personalities, who wrestled with weakness, both of whom experienced the bitter-sweet moment of conversion, invites us to return to the source of our Christian faith: what better way than taking the reading of the letters of St. Paul as a project for the forthcoming twelve months.

In that body of literature we find windows unto the deep yearnings of our own minds and hearts, upon our intimations of the divine. We find a personal testimony to the power for faith, hope and charity which freely chosen belief in Jesus Christ released in the life of St. Paul, a Jew, and at a time a persecutor of Christians.

Reading St. Paul’s letters will enable us to consider how we give concrete expression to our vocation in our life’s setting, with its opportunities and its trials. Reading and mulling over these texts, as vibrant and pertinent today as they were 2000 years ago, will sharpen our sense of the Christian life, rooted in free and maturely considered personal choice. Delving into their pages will remind us of our shared responsibility to foster vocations to ministry within the Church so that the Word of God may be proclaimed and so that our Christian communities may be active in diaconal service.

In the context of the Year of Vocation, launched by Archbishop Martin on Vocations Sunday, 13 April last, I am deeply aware of the quiet and unsung heroism which the clergy of this diocese demonstrated as they served their people throughout the years of the Troubles. So too I am deeply aware of the same quiet and unsung heroism and forgiveness shown by people who had themselves suffered so much during those same years. On 22nd February I had the opportunity to meet with the members of the Council of Priests, the Vicars Forane and a representative of the religious orders working in the diocese. Fellow members of the presbyterate of Down and Connor, I am sure that as you faced the challenges of those years, now together with Bishops Farquhar and McKeown and myself, you will engage with the challenges of the present and the future.

No doubt we shall have many issues to face, as did the preceding generations. Several journalists have asked me – understandably – what plans I have to address this and that issue. Rest assured: I do not come with pre-conceived plans. My intention is rather to listen and to do my best to hear and understand – and to do so for as long as it takes to gain a sense of what is in your hearts and minds as the clergy and laity of this diocese, my new home. Together we shall have to decipher with prayer, study, analysis and imagination how the Gospel of Christ can best be proclaimed in our time.

In a sermon St.Augustine of Hippo once said of himself as bishop: “vobis sum episcopus, vobiscum christianus” – I am a bishop for you, I am a Christian like you. Sharing your joys and sorrows, your anxieties and fears, your doubts and self-questioning, as every bishop does, I also know that I am called and have accepted to be a bishop for you. I have accepted an office and function of leadership. Episcopal leadership is first and foremost a service rendered in devotion to both the local Church and the universal Church. Exercising this form of leadership entails several modes: proclaiming the Word of God whether it is welcome or unwelcome, fostering and maintaining unity within the ecclesial community, drawing on, releasing and directing the talents and gifts among clergy and laity.

Táim ag tnuth leis na curaimí nua atá amach romham. Ach beidh mé i measc daoine fáilteach – agus is mór agam bhur n-uaisleacht, bhur n-ionracas is bhur muintearas.

So I ask you to pray that I may be capable of this leadership in service, so that I may follow humbly and effectively in the footsteps of my predecessors in serving this diocese with its past history of faith, prayer and of spiritual courage in recent decades.

Go maire sibh agus go raibh sibh uilig faoi choimirce Dé is na Maighdine Muire. Is faoi mhuinin De go mairimid.



Bishop Treanor has chosen for his Episcopal Motto a phrase from St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 5:8): Sicut Filii Lucis Ambulate (Walk as Children of Light).

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