Over 500 people attended the Mass of Thanksgiving in St Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan. They were drawn from all parts of the diocese and further afield and they represented various sectors of diocesan life, including priests, religious, laity, schools, local history and the Irish language. The chief celebrant was Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator. Over thirty priests concelebrated. Bishop Duffy was joined in the sanctuary by Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop-emeritus of Armagh and Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop-emeritus of Clogher. The Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Right Rev John McDowell, was a guest of honour, whose presence was acknowledged by all. The music was led by St Macartan’s Cathedral Folk Choir under the direction of Pádraig Rocks. Fr Stephen Duffy, Monaghan, was Master of Ceremonies, while Fr Kevin Malcolmson, Monaghan, proclaimed the Gospel.
The homily was given by Fr Paddy McGinn, Administrator of the Cathedral Parish. Bishop Duffy addressed the assembly before the final blessing.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Duffy’s latest book, Tiarnach of Clones, was launched by Monsignor Dick Mohan, President of the Clogher Historical Society, which is the publisher of the book. Mgr Mohan cited the national and local significance of the publication and the value that it added to local historical research.
Afterwards, all those present met Bishop Duffy in the Hillgrove Hotel, where refreshments were served.
Excerpts from the Homily of Fr Paddy McGinn Adm
At Ordination we are asked “are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of priesthood as a conscientious fellow-worker with the Bishop in caring for the Lord’s flock?” One of the most popular images of pastoral care is that of the shepherd who leads his large flock and protects them from harm. At the time of Jesus, flocks of sheep spent most of their time in vast open uplands. The shepherd’s care and courage were legendry. The sheep often strayed onto private lands, so the shepherd was often unpopular, but the good shepherd tends his sheep to the point where he is willing to give up his own life for them. This image that Jesus uses about himself – one of care and sacrifice – is one that sums up his practice of leadership: his own life matters less than the life of the sheep.
Jesus as the good shepherd sought out the lost. He leaves the ninety-nine to find the stray and rejoices when it is found. All of us know that when we get lost, Jesus the Good Shepherd will search until he finds us.
This Gospel image of the Good Shepherd reflects the pastoral care of Bishop Duffy for the past sixty years. He has lived his priesthood by being faithful to the Gospel and working hard, dutifully and sensitively. The past sixty years have seen profound change in our culture, church and society. The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was difficult for many, but Bishop Duffy embraced the change. The renewal of the liturgy and the general high standards of liturgical practice in the Diocese of Clogher owes much to his commitment. Vatican II placed much importance on the preaching of the Gospel, a message that Bishop Joe takes very seriously. We here at the cathedral have commissioned a new Evangelarium, where God’s Word can be meditated upon weekly. This is in keeping with the great tradition of ancient monasteries that produced the “Book of Kells”, for example. Our renewed Cloister area with its new tapestries by Terry Dunne (who was the weaver of the main tapestries here some years ago) is a sacred place where we can meditate the “Way of the Cross”.
Over the past sixty years, there have been many crosses. That way of the church has in many ways been the way of the cross, but God’s Word has sustained us and helped to remind us that the cross is at the centre of the Christian story – but not the end of the Christian story. Bishop Duffy’s open-mindedness, forward-thinking and pastoral leadership has guided us all through challenging times – times of traumatic troubles in the north, together with difficult and politically sensitive situations. His work in the area of Ecumenism has been outstanding and noteworthy and it is great for us to have Bishop John McDowell, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, with us here today.
Bishop Noel Treanor reminded me the other day of his fond memories of working with Bishop Duffy in the diocese here and also of Bishop Joe’s immense contribution to the church in Europe. Noel also expressed his admiration and pleasure that Bishop Joe’s new book “Tiarnach of Clones” is launched today. It is also good to remind ourselves that Bishop Duffy has confirmed over 35,000 people in the diocese and that he is also the only surviving bishop to have greeted Pope St John Paul II on his visit to Ireland in 1979.
In the old catechism there was a question: “Where is God?” The answer to the question was “God is everywhere and at all times.” A priest came into our class and asked that question – and every hand went up in the class. However, the priest picked on a young lad who didn’t know the answer to the question. So the priest asked him: “is God in the school?” and the boy said “Yes, Father”. Then he asked him: “is God in the chapel?” and he again answered “Yes, Father”. Then the priest asked him: “is God at home in your house?”, to which the boy answered: “In the name of God, what would God be doing at home in a house like ours!” The challenge for priests and for all baptised people is to bring God in the face of Jesus Christ to ourselves, to our homes and to our communities and not just to leave him alone in the tabernacle.
The Eucharist is at the heart of our faith and at the heart of every priest’s ministry. It is the centre and focus of all our lives.
Pope Francis says that: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse, it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”
Today, we thank God for Bishop Duffy’s contribution to making the church a house of the Father where there is a place for everyone with all their problems. We wish him continued health and God’s blessing for many more years to come.
Text of Address by Bishop Joseph Duffy at the conclusion of the Mass:
I welcome this opportunity to say a few words before the final blessing of the Mass. First of all, I thank Mgr Joseph mcGuinness, our Diocesan Administrator, for acting as chief celebrant of our liturgy. I also thank each and every one of you for giving up you Sunday afternoon to be here today. Your presence not only honours me but recognises and encourages the many people who have prepared the liturgy, the priests and various teams, readers and musicians, and the Cathedral staff, If I mention one person by name, Fr McGinn, its simply because in his homily he concealed the fact that it was he who initiated and planned this celebration.
Fr Paddy’s concern was typically very clear and direct. He wanted this event to reflect as fully as possible the wide community of people who contributed to my priesthood over sixty years. He was thinking of family and friends, roinnt Gaeilgeoirí ina measc – the clergy of the diocese, fellow bishops, parishioners of Monaghan and Rackwallace and the diocese generally, my Dernagrew neighbours, and friends from sister-churches, among them. In that respect I especially welcome Bishop John McDowell of the Church of Ireland who is here present.
My dear friends, we are all in this celebration together, you are the community of my priesthood. You may not have averted to it, but each of you here today, whatever your circumstances or state of mind, has a bond with me which is supportive, which is of mutual benefit. Being a priest is, of course, a personal vocation, but it’s also a public badge of solidarity with the entire human race, especially those who are considered the less fortunate of this world. We know that they were the main concern of the Master.
Last week, we were blessed to have Cardinal Sean Brady, also present here today, direct our clergy retreat in Dromantine, County Down. He spoke of the Magnificat, that wonderful prayer of Mary when she visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, thanking God for the gift of her own Son. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the unique role of Mary, how she, a young woman, without any special status in the community of Nazareth that we know of, was entrusted by God with the Saviour of the World.
The example is there for all of us, especially for priests. Just as Mary was called by God and sustained in her vocation, God’s power is at work in us. This does not mean that we ever understand more than a fraction of his ways or that we have a trouble-free life. Indeed, at times it must occur to you as it does to me, that the whole business of preaching the Gospel in today’s world seems an impossible venture.
As a priest, I have often been asked: would you do it again? At the superficial level, I can only say: I don’t know. But when I think again, and the more I dig into the subject, the more I must say sincerely that I don’t see, and have never seen, any other option for me, It’s as if the matter is mysteriously taken out of my hands, certainly out of the realm of discussion or conversation, however serious and sympathetic. This means that when I try to explain to you why I am a priest, I have to fall back on the language of faith, which many good people find so difficult these days.
What I am saying is that I sincerely believe that my priesthood has been God’s gift to me, a gift away beyond my capacity to describe, a gift for which I have staked my life and for which I am deeply grateful.
Notes for Editors:
(1) Bishop Joseph Duffy was Bishop of the Diocese of Clogher from 1979 until 2010. He was ordained to the Priesthood on 22 June 1958. As a member of the Irish Episcopal Conference he was Chairman of the Commission for Liturgy and also of its council for Sacred Art and Architecture. Later, he was the Press Spokesperson of the Irish bishops.
(2) Bishop Duffy oversaw the re-ordering of St Macartan’s Cathedral during the 1980s and 1990s. This work enabled the cathedral to reflect the liturgical changes flowing from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and its call for ‘full, active and conscious participation’ by all in the liturgy.
(3) He is also a longstanding member of the Clogher Historical Society, a former editor of its journal The Clogher Record and Chairperson of its executive committee since 1975.