On Sunday 20 November 2016 the priests and people of the Diocese of Clogher honoured the Episcopal ministry and many gifts of Bishop-Emeritus Liam MacDaid, whose retirement was announced on 1 October last. St Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan was packed to overflowing for the Mass of Thanksgiving. The attendance included family and friends of Bishop Liam together with civic leaders and representatives of every parish, every church and every religious congregation in the diocese.
The Chief Celebrant of the Mass was Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator. Other concelebrants included Bishop MacDaid, Bishop Joseph Duffy (Bishop-Emeritus of Clogher), Bishop Leo O’Reilly (Bishop of Kilmore), Bishop John McAreavey (Bishop of Dromore) and all the priests of the Diocese of Clogher together with a number of visiting priests. The homily was preached by Monsignor Larry Duffy PP, Carrickmacross, the Dean of the Diocesan Chapter of Canons.
During the Concluding Rite, Bishop MacDaid was presented with a limited-edition print of St Macartan by local artist Neilus Flynn. To mark Bishop Liam’s retirement, a set of specially embroidered copes will be presented to St Macartan’s Cathedral for use in the more solemn liturgies.
The Mass concluded with a Ceremony of Light during which lighted candles were presented and carried from the Cathedral to symbolise the continuing journey of the people of the diocese towards Christ our Light during the sede vacante. In addition to candles being presented to a representative group of people from the diocese (three generations of a family, a young person, a religious and a priest), special candles were lighted and taken from the Cathedral by representatives from each church and oratory in the diocese. These will be lighted as appropriate during the period of the sede vacante.
The following is the text Bishop MacDaid’s address at the conclusion of the Mass:
Fellow Bishops, fellow Priests, distinguished guests, Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ.
Is mór an ócáid é seo clomsa bheith in ann an tAifreann speisialta seo a cheiliúradh i measc mo chlann, mo ghaolta agus mo chairde agus muidne ag gabháil buíochas le Dia.
I offer my sincere thanks to the Diocesan Administrator, Mgr Joe McGuinness and the Canons of the Cathedral Chapter for their decision to convene this gathering. I offer my thanks to the Diocesan Liturgical Commission for producing such a worthy ceremony for the occasion. I thank the Communications Department for linking us to people in all parts of the world and I extend warm greetings to all of you who are looking in. I thank all of you here present. Your participation has made this magnificent building a living Church on this Feast of Christ the King.
As the invitation states, the Ceremonial of Bishops directs that, when a Bishop retires, it is proper that he gather his people at a liturgical service. In this way he can bid them farewell and, with them, give thanks for the blessings received from God during his episcopate. Ní hé an tEaspog féin a dhéanann an gaisce ach an Spiorad Naoimh tré lámha an Easpaig.
A retired Bishop is referred to as a Bishop Emeritus (if you prefer, an honorary Bishop). At our recent General Conference Mgr McGuinness reminded us that we had two Bishops Emeriti, and that I was the junior one, a mere child of six episcopal years still in short pants and dwarfed by a mature bishop of thirty one episcopal years. I wish to acknowledge that any progress graced by the Holy Spirit during the past six years has been built on the solid foundation of Bishop Duffy’s work over those thirty one years and this included the reordering of this Cathedral and the renovation of the Bishops House and Diocesan Offices behind. Is mór an tionchar a bhí aige orm.
It has been a great joy and privilege to work with my brother Bishop John McDowell of the Church of Ireland. In his statement on my retirement Bishop McDowell said, ‘It has been the greatest privilege to have served our Lord Jesus Christ together with Bishop Liam, in whatever small ways we could, and I look forward to continuing our friendship in his retirement.’ I reciprocate these sentiments which are a testimony to the Holy Spirit’s work and the assistance of so many good ecumenically minded people in our communities.
I welcome also Mgr McGuinness’ acknowledgement of the presence here with us of many involved in co-operative initiatives which have established mutually beneficial links between our people and the people of Kenya. This has given an opportunity to Blackrock College and Willow Park School in Dublin to join hands with St. Macartan’s College in Monaghan in helping to improve the quality of life for the poor, the ill and the challenged in many parts of the world. It may interest you to know that on a barren hillside in the remote parish of Rotu, in Pokot, Northern Kenya, you will find a tastefully designed little oratory tucked into the hill and built on the proceeds of a function organised by my classmates in St. Macartan’s at the time of my episcopal ordination. Not far from this spot you will find a new African Church under construction using local labour, local skills and local materials. The funder and architect of this Church are with us today. Déanaimid comhghairdeas leo agus guímid rath Dé ar an obair. If you wander a little further afield you will find a dormitory building designed to cater for about forty young people who otherwise would not benefit from a second level education. The funder is with us, a past-pupil of St. Macartan’s College. Tréaslímid leis. We give thanks to God for all these co-operative endeavours which have linked the people of Clogher, Kenya and elsewhere into a vibrant Missionary Church.
During the second half of the month of January 2017, Mgr McGuiness and I are due to join the Bishops of Ireland in what is referred to as an Ad Limina visit to Rome and to His Holiness, Pope Francis. We have already sent a report on the diocese covering the last ten years. It is a substantial report running to over one hundred and fifty pages and covering all areas of Church and diocesan life from the administrative organisation of the diocese to the Ministry of the Bishop and the clergy, the role of laity, ecumenism, care of marriage and the family, pastoral care of migrants and asylum seekers and, among other things, a general assessment and outlook for the future. Our Communications Department will be keeping you informed over the next months. Really the report, which will be analysed, discussed and recommendations made in Rome, shows that the Holy Spirit has been busy over the past ten years. Most importantly, when he reaches down he finds willing hands stretching up to meet him.
People of the Diocese of Clogher, you have an exceptional team of good priests to serve your needs. At the time of our Clerical changes in August/September I had tearful voices on the phone pleading with me not to move their priests to another parish as they were doing so much good work where they were. In the barrel of post which I received since my retirement and have not yet been able to deal with fully, parishioners have thanked me for sending them Fr X or Fr Y. This is a tribute to you the priests and it is most affirming for you to know that you are appreciated by those you look after, and that they will return your care and kindness. Tá siad thar a bheith buíoch díbh.
One other item I would like to highlight from the Ad Limina Report is the emergence of lay people and young people as a significant and powerful influence in the life of the diocese. Most of them were just waiting to be asked and generously put their skills and energy at the service of the community of believers. When I was Chair of the Council for Marriage and the Family, I had the opportunity to bring a diocesan team to Maynooth to present on preparations for the Synod on the family. I brought another rural drama group to Clonliffe College to bring to life a National Day of Inservice on the Family. I can assure you that both teams did you proud. Is féidir libh bheith bródúil as a chuir siad as comhair an phobail.
No report on the diocese for the past ten years would be complete without an acknowledgement of the blessing which Clogher don Óige has been to us. The young people involved have been well trained and directed by excellent leaders. They have prayed and broadened their horizons on Lough Derg and in Taize. They have befriended and cared for the invalids, the challenged and the seriously ill in Lourdes. They have embraced the John Paul II Awards Scheme which involves them more deeply in parish and community activities and which was made possible with the help of sponsorship from the Knights of Colmbanus. They staged a spectacular and successful Commemorative Event in Monaghan and Enniskillen during Easter Week 2016. Is beannacht dúinn Clogher don Óige agus tá maid buíoch do Dhia go bhfuil a léithéid againn. May your talents, your energy and your love continue to be put to good use in the service of God and his people.
It is just a few months along with six years since I was ordained Bishop of Clogher in this Cathedral. On that day, in my address to those present, I said “Society has forced us in the Irish Church to look into the mirror and what we saw were weakness and failure, victims and abuse. We have been brought to our knees but maybe that is no bad thing. I invite you priests and people of the diocese of Clogher to join me on a repentant journey to the well of salvation. The journey will include for many facing the enormous challenge of forgiveness.”
During the last few weeks I received a letter and, with the writer’s permission, I quote the following
Dear Bishop Liam,
“When we received news of your retirement due to ill health we were genuinely saddened though perhaps not surprised. Undoubtedly, the burdens you carry are a colossal strain and have taken their toll. Indeed it has grieved us in recent years to have added considerably to these burdens. Both of us are deeply grateful for the efforts you personally have made. You are in no way responsible. It must be made known to the world that good priests and bishops do care for clerical abuse victims and their families. You need and have earned the right for peace, quiet and a stress-free retirement. Many thanks for all your support.”
I think little comment is required beyond saying that if these lines are an indicator that a healing dialogue has begun, then this is something for which we should be grateful to God.
In my letter to the people of the diocese on my retirement, I wrote, “It is time for me to take my leave. It has been a privilege to serve you as Bishop for the past six years. It has been a great learning experience to work with my fellow priests. It has been an uplifting experience to be a conduit of God’s grace to you, especially at difficult times. It is with some reluctance that I go yet I know it is the right decision. I offer my apologies and ask forgiveness from anyone I have wronged or failed in my ministry. It is time to prepare for the next phase of the journey. I leave with a heart full of gratitude for all the blessings I have received from God in so many ways, not least the marvellous people he has given me as family, relatives, friends, colleagues and fellow travellers. The letters and cards I have received since my retirement are overflowing with kindness and God’s love. This is an occasion which has been truly blessed by God’s grace.
Lord God, hear the prayers of your Church
and give us the strength of St Macartan,
faithful disciple of St Patrick.
May the Word of God be reborn in us.
May we in our time promote collaboration among the People of God,
and lend a supportive hand to those in our families and parish communities that may be in need.
May the Spirit of God sustain and strengthen us in our friendships with one another on our journey towards the light, in the kingdom of Jesus Christ the Lord, Amen!
Glóir don Athair agus don Mhac agus don Spiorad Naomh, mar a bhí ar dtús, mar a tá anois, agus mar a bhéas go bráth tré shaol na saol. Amen
+Liam S. MacDaid
20 November 2016