“It is time to encourage and form our lay faithful, and especially our young people, to be alert and open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit … I also pray that every member of the Church – married or single, ordained or consecrated – will realise that they are called by the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to be part of the ‘new springtime’ for the faith” – Archbishop Eamon Martin
Brothers and sisters, that powerful entrance hymn, Priestly People is a perfect way to begin our ordination Mass. The French Spiritan Priest, Father Lucien Deiss composed it in 1965 to celebrate a key message coming from the Second Vatican Council – that all baptised people share in the mission of the Church. We are indeed a priestly people, a Holy people, a kingly people. As God’s chosen people we gather to today in great joy to praise and thank God for calling Monsignor Larry Duffy to be the next bishop of Clogher.
I welcome “this great assembly” of people, priests and religious from across the Diocese of Clogher and especially the bishops emeriti – Joseph Duffy and Liam MacDaid – and with them Monsignor Joseph McGuinness who has faithfully and diligently administered this diocese since Bishop Liam’s retirement. I am delighted to welcome Monsignor Larry’s family members and close friends, my co-consecrators His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland and Bishop Noel Treanor of Down & Connor and my brother bishops as well as the many priests who will join in concelebrating this Mass. We are grateful for the presence of so many representatives from other churches, including Bishop John McDowell and Archbishop Michael Jackson, as well as representatives from civic society. A warm welcome to you all on this special today.
Over the west door of this splendid cathedral, there is a marble relief of Christ handing the keys to Peter to be shepherd of God’s people, and alongside it are statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul – the great missionaries of the early Church. It reminds us that our new bishop, Larry, by the laying on of hands, will become both your shepherd and your teacher. Let us pray for him as he begins this new ministry and mission among you.
And we call also on the great saints of Clogher to pray for him and guide him – Saints Macartan, Tiarnach, Molaise, Davog, Davnet, Fanchea and Molua. It is a great honour for me, in the name of Saint Patrick of Armagh, to join in the ordination of the next successor of Saint Macartan. I welcome you, Monsignor Larry, I wish you every blessing on this special day. Know that you are surrounded with love and prayer on this great occasion.
Back in 1976 in this Cathedral of Saint Macartan a young man heard these words: “Let Larry Duffy, who is to be ordained a priest, please come forward”.
The gathering that day included his Clogher classmates, Michael Daly and Noel Treanor, and in the congregation there were many of those who had nurtured Larry’s vocation – his parents and family members, neighbours from the parish of Magheracloone and his friends and staff from Saint Patrick’s College, Carlow. Larry stood up and said: “Present” – echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah we heard in today’s First Reading: “Here I am. Send me”.
Today, Monsignor Larry Duffy has stepped forward again, this time to be ordained as bishop. In a few moments he will stand to be examined on his resolve to uphold the faith and discharge his duties as Bishop of Clogher. I will ask if he is prepared:
- to build up the Church as the Body of Christ;
- to be a devoted father to the people of God here in Clogher;
- to show kindness and compassion;
- to be a good shepherd;
- to pray without ceasing; and,
- to carry out his duties with no grounds for reproach?
To each question, Larry will answer “I am”.
To be examined like this in front of “this great assembly” is enough to make anyone feel weak at the knees! We all know that commitments such as these can only be made with the help of God, and with the grace and strength that comes from the Holy Spirit.
It is only human to be anxious or uncertain about what lies ahead. When Isaiah heard the call he said, “I am wretched and lost, a man of unclean lips”. The prophet Jeremiah protested that he was too young; he would not know how to speak. Even the Virgin Mary, at the Annunciation, paused before giving her “Yes” to God. “How can this be?”, she asked the angel.
God knows our weaknesses and our capabilities, our sinfulness as well as our good points, but God still calls us forward – to do His will. I notice the inscription in Irish on the confessional Chapel here in the cathedral: Dúirt Íosa leo. “Mise atá ann. Ná bíodh eagla oraibh.”
It brings to mind the message from today’s psalm – God does not ask for sacrifice or holocaust or victim – all He wants from us is an open ear, a humble and generous heart, the selfless offering of our lives, and our courage to answer: “Present, Here I am”.
My brother Larry, since you said “yes” to God on the day of your priestly ordination, you have served God faithfully in parishes both north and south of the border and during your missionary experience in Kenya. Today, God asks you to extend that selfless “Yes” to include a new challenge, namely, as Bishop of Clogher. If 1976 was your “Here I am” moment, then today is your “Here I am again Lord”!
It is your “call within a call”.
Saint Mother Teresa speaks of her “call within a call”. She was travelling on a train journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat when she heard Jesus speaking in her heart, “Come be my light”. She felt an overwhelming desire to leave her teaching role as a Loreto sister and to establish her own congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, working among the poorest of the poor.
To become bishop is your “call within a call”. But do not lose your priestly and pastoral instinct to serve, and to build up hearts. This is one of your gifts and you can bring it to your episcopacy. Your choice of episcopal motto: “God is Love” is simple, yet profound and challenging. Remember how Saint Paul, and his companion Barnabus, known as “son of encouragement” went around “putting fresh heart into the churches”. Keep encouraging your people! As Pope Francis says, do not allow them to be “robbed of hope”.
When he was with us in Dublin last August, Pope Francis said that he wanted to encourage us. At the final Mass in Phoenix Park the Holy Father remarked that, “each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost … a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the Paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our Advocate, our Consoler and indeed our Encourager”. It reminded me of something Pope Saint Paul VI once said, “The Church needs her eternal Pentecost; she needs fire in her hearts, words on her lips, a glance that is prophetic”.
The Holy Spirit is constantly building up and rejuvenating the Church. This is not a time for us to yearn for, or mourn for, a bygone era, but to prepare and till the soil for the “new springtime”.
I am convinced that the Spirit is already at work here in Ireland preparing us for new growth in faith. Our task, as bishops and priests, is to “walk with” our lay faithful and to carefully discern with them what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Ireland – to search for what Pope Francis calls the “new ways for the journey in faith” that the Spirit wants for this time and this place.
The Lord calls us, as he did Simon and his friends on Lake Gennesaret, to “put out into the deep and pay out the nets for a catch”. Sometimes our reaction is to be sceptical like the disciples, shaking our heads and saying “Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing”.
Perhaps the Lord is asking us, as he did Saint Teresa of Calcutta, to do something different, even something radical. That might mean letting go, leaving behind some of the ways we have been doing things in the past – daring to answer the “calls within our calls”, and to “put out into the deep”!
We must never think, as bishops and priests, that we are in this alone. It is time to encourage and form our lay faithful, and especially our young people, to be alert and open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, calling them and “gifting” them for the service of the Gospel. Every day I pray for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. But I also pray that every member of the Church – married or single, ordained or consecrated – will realise that they are called by the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to be part of the “new springtime” for the faith.
Imagine, if everyone here present could find their unique “call within a call”; say their personal “Here I am, Lord” and become part of the new evangelisation in Ireland! Together we could haul in “a huge catch” for the Lord! It would be a shame if we saw the involvement of our lay faithful in the life and mission of the Church merely as a consequence of the decline in the number of clergy and religious. At the Second Vatican Council the Pastoral Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, was clear that all the baptised are part of God’s chosen people with a share in the priestly, prophetical and kingly functions of Christ. Baptism endows them with a right and responsibility to exercise their mission in the Church and in the world (see Lumen Gentium, 31).
My brother Larry, this “call within a call” will bring you many new responsibilities and challenges. As bishop, you may sometimes feel yourself sinking beneath so many competing demands and expectations. Ach ná bíodh eagla ortsa!
Call on the Holy Spirit when you need wisdom, and fortitude – and stay close also to Mary, our Blessed Mother; she knows what it is like to say “Yes” to God, and to be completely open to God’s will. Ask also for the prayers of your people, religious and priests. In difficult times I find myself buoyed up by the prayers and support of so many good people. Every prayer and word of encouragement you give them, you will receive back a hundred fold.
Thank you for having the courage to say again, “Here I am, Lord”. God bless your ministry as Bishop of Clogher. Amen.