Rev Martin Donnelly

On Sunday 17 June 2018, the Diocese of Clogher and the St Michael’s Parish, Enniskillen, celebrated the Ordination to the Diaconate of Martin Donnelly, Enniskillen. Martin’s was the first ordination to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Clogher since its re-introduction following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

The ordaining prelate was Most Rev Alan McGuckian SJ, Bishop of Raphoe. He was the chief celebrant of the Mass and also preached the homily (see below). The principal concelebrants included Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Clogher and the Parish Priest of Enniskillen, Monsignor Peter O’Reilly.

Also present were a number of deacons from different dioceses across the north of Ireland, including those who participated with Martin in his formation programme in the Diocese of Down and Connor.

Martin’s wife Caitlín, their children Ciara and Brian and their spouses Cathal and Ruth, together with Martin’s mother Nan, were also be present and participated in the liturgy.

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Right Rev John McDowell and the Dean of Clogher, Very Rev Kenneth Hall, were present in the sanctuary.

The Music was led by the joint choirs of St Michael’s Church, Enniskillen, under the direction of Paul Flynn and Sharon Kelly. The organist was Caecilia Bastian.

In words of welcome, contained in the Mass booklet, the Diocesan Administrator, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness notes it was a day of joy and celebration that the Spirit is ever at work in the life of the Christian community. He points out that the all of the baptised have a role to play in serving the community and this is most evident in the richness and variety of ministries, both lay and ordained. He goes on to say that the ‘ministry of Deacon neither replaces nor diminishes the role and importance of any of the many other forms of ministry which enrich the life of the church.’ He quotes St John Paul II to highlight the special role that the Deacon has in the secular environment, one of fostering closeness between the ordained ministry and lay activities. He thanks Martin for his generosity of service and for answering the call to service. He thanks Martin’s wife and family for their accompaniment of Martin in his discernment and formation and pays tribute to the people of St Michael’s Parish for their embrace of the ministry.

The ordaining prelate, Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, who was director of the diaconate programme in Down and Connor prior to his appointment as Bishop of Raphoe, points to the image on the front of the booklet today – that of Christ washing the feet of the disciples. In this, he says, Martin and his family have signalled ‘a real appreciation of what ordination to the Diaconate can mean.’ He cites the often-repeated references by Pope Francis to the Church as ‘a filed hospital’ , a place where the wounded of our time ‘would find Jesus the healer waiting for them when they meet the men and women of his church. For that to happen, the Church needs men and women ready and able to welcome the suffering of our world and pour balm on their wounds.’

In his message, the Parish Priest of St Michael’s Parish, Enniskillen, Monsignor Peter O’Reilly, speaks of the significance of today’s liturgy in the life of the parish. St Michael’s Parish Church ‘gets to see a lot of things’ he says, adding that each year it celebrates around fifty weddings, seventy-five funerals, one hundred and fifty baptisms as well as the weekly and daily gatherings of God’s people for the celebration of Eucharist. Martin will now have a direct role in celebrating the life of the parish and, yet ‘his role transcends any single one of these actions.’ He goes on to state that a ‘parish like this takes a team of teams to be at its best. In that sense, the main minister of our parish has to be the parish itself – and it is our job as a team of teams (a job in which Martin will now have a key part) to ensure that there is sufficient ministry to serve the life of the parish and to develop the life of the parish.’ Mgr O’Reilly concludes that the parish will be enriched by the restoration of the Ministry of Deacon and that it bodes well for ‘our future life and our future mission.’


Today as I was planning to come here and was reflecting on the Gospel that God’s providence puts before us my head was full of the idea of new beginnings and what God is saying to us about them.

This is a brand-new beginning in the life of Martin, Caitlín and their family, in the life of this parish and this diocese. Martin is to be ordained a Deacon, the first Permanent deacon in the diocese of Clogher.
We are at a time of new beginnings in the Catholic Church in Ireland. Certainly, everybody is telling us that we are at the end of something. In the light of recent developments south of the border many people are feeling a sense of grief that something is being lost. A friend of mine surprised herself and me when she was on the verge of tears a few nights ago at the thought of what is passing away right now. She had a feeling of helplessness. However, we ended our conversation with a sense of eager anticipation about what new thing God is doing in the Church in Ireland in the days ahead.

It’s at this moment that we gather to ordain the first Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Clogher. And what does the Lord in the Gospel have to say to us today?
He says; ‘The Kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed in his field. Night and day, when he is awake, while he is sleeping, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how.’
The first gloriously liberating message for you, Martin, as you begin your ministry is that the growth of the Kingdom of God does not depend on you. The seeds that you scatter, that the Lord scatters, will grow and sprout while you are awake, while you’re asleep, you know not how! This is not a call to lazy indifference but a call to a contemplative stance that allows God to be active and that waits patiently and trustingly to see what exactly God is doing.

The German theologian Karl Rahner once said; ‘the Catholic of the future will be a mystic or they will not be at all.’ By that he didn’t mean that only monks and nuns would be Catholics but that only people with a real experience of God would have the wherewithal to sustain a faith commitment. Whereas in the past community identity was enough to carry people along, in the future every one of us will be called to a personal commitment which is trusting and patient. Miroslav Wolf says that one of the key elements of faith is for us to be patient with God.
Permanent deacons are new to us in Ireland and the question that arises about them is: what can a deacon do? A deacon can preside at all of the liturgies of the Church outside of mass, perform baptisms, witness marriages, preside at funeral and burial services. Most importantly in all of that he has the authority to preach in Christ’s name. Alongside his preaching the deacon has a duty to LIVE the gospel. That manifests itself in his relationships with everyone but especially the poor, the sick and the marginalised.

The proper question is not ‘what does a deacon do?’ but rather ‘who is he to be?’ The deacon is to be an Icon of Christ the Servant: Christ who came not to be served but to serve. Remember that the rich theology of icons states that when we look steadily at an icon we see beyond the picture to the divine person depicted. Remember, Martin, that by virtue of your ordination you are invited to be such an icon, to let Christ the Servant so live in you that others will recognise him and follow him. Let that powerful line from the letter to the Galatians become ever more real to you; ‘I live now not I but Christ lives in me.’ Trust yourself to God in daily prayer; seek God’s face everywhere and especially in the poor and needy; If you do that you will be an Icon of Christ the servant. But remember, it doesn’t all depend on you. You don’t have to do it all yourself. It is not all about you and what you do!

The seeds grow and sprout while he’s awake while he’s asleep; he knows not how!
And what is the second thing that Jesus is telling us this morning? The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds. It is totally counter-intuitive; the kingdom of our great God is made up of what is smallest and most insignificant. It is not what we expect and it is not what we want if we are left to our own devices. It is part of our fallen DNA to want to be big and special and at the centre of things. And here on your ordination day, Martin, Jesus is very deliberately telling you – and us – that his way is different to ours. This is especially true for a deacon, who is to be the icon of Christ the Servant. The Jesus of the deacon is the one who rides on a donkey and washes feet.

The mustard seed is small and insignificant to begin with but even then, like every seed, it has to fall into the ground and die. The mustard tree was not very highly thought of. It was a bit of a weed that people tried to keep out of their gardens. But what was special about it according to Jesus was that the birds could gather in its branches and shelter in its shade. This topsy-turvy unexpected Kingdom of God is a place where community gathers. That is the place where the deacon needs to be.

Following the Jesus of the Kingdom parables and being an Icon of Christ the Servant means walking a road that passes through Calvary. So, let’s not fool ourselves; the way of the Kingdom of God is not an easy way but Jesus tells us that it is full of potential way beyond what is obvious at the start, beyond our wildest dreams.
We pray for you Martin and for Caitlín and your family at this new beginning in your life. We also pray for the church in Ireland at this time of new beginnings. The prayer is that we will all take the invitation that Jesus puts before us today seriously; to live in the Kingdom of God. That is a Kingdom where God is the actor and seeds are growing and sprouting under the ground, we know not how. It is a kingdom where being small and inconsequential is not a curse but a blessing.


Rev Martin with his wife, mother and family circle following the ordination.

Deacon Martin Donnelly and his wife Caitlín live in Enniskillen. They have two children Ciara (married to Cathal) and Brian (married to Ruth) and a nine-month old Grandson, Lorcan. Martin spent his working life in the field of Education as a teacher, Principal and Senior Education Adviser. His educational post graduate studies included Masters degrees in Education Policy, Management and Philosophy. Following early retirement in 2011 Martin studied Pastoral Liturgy (H.Dip) in St Patricks Pontifical University, Maynooth before commencing the academic and human formation for Diaconate. Martin has been active in parish ministry throughout his life. He has served as chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council of St Michael’s Parish, Enniskillen and Lisbellaw and is the current chairperson of the Clogher Diocesan Liturgy Commission. He has been assigned to minister in the Enniskillen Pastoral Area (Enniskillen & Tempo parishes).

Rev Martin Donnelly, following is ordination as a Deacon, pictured with the Bishop of Raphoe, Most Rev Alan McGuckian SJ (ordaining prelate), the Diocesan Administrator of Clogher, Right Rev Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Right Rev John McDowell, the Church of Ireland Dean of Clogher, V Rev Kenneth Hall,together with concelebrating priests and other deacons, outside St Michael’s Church, Enniskillen. Sunday 17 June 2018.