Members of the new Council of Priests, pictured with Bishop Duffy at their first meeting in St Macartan's College, Monaghan, on Tuesday 19 November 2019. Front L-R: Mgr Joseph McGuinness, Fr John Chester, Fr Brian Early, Bishop Larry Duffy, Mgr Richard Mohan, Fr Peter Corrigan, Fr Padraig McKenna. Back L-R: Canon Pat McEntee, Fr Seamus Quinn, Fr Brendan Gallagher, Fr John Flanagan, Mgr Peter O'Reilly, Fr Owen Gorman, Canon Michael Daly, Fr Stephen Duffy, Fr Seán Mulligan, Fr Stephen Joyce.

A new Council of Priests has been formed for the Diocese of Clogher, in accordance with the provisions of Canon Law. The new council held its first meeting at St Macartan’s College, Monaghan, on Tuesday 19 November 2019, with Bishop Larry Duffy in attendance. The previous Council of Priests lapsed in October 2016 due to the retirement of Bishop Liam MacDaid. Following the ordination of Bishop Larry Duffy in February last, arrangements were put in place for the formation of a new body and these resulted in the election of members to the new council at the recent General Conference of priests held last month in Monaghan.

The Council of Priests consists of nine elected members and four members nominated by the bishop, together with the two Vicar Generals of the diocese. Additionally, a secretary is appointed as a non-voting member. Its term is for five years. The role of the council is to assist the bishop in the discharge of his episcopal duties and to the represent the views of priests across the diocese in that function. While it can never act apart from the bishop, the council had certain defined functions laid out in Canon Law, making it a body which the bishop is obliged to consult when certain important strategic decisions are being made in relation to the life of the diocese.

Welcoming the formation of the new council, Bishop Larry Duffy paid tribute to the members for being part of this synodal approach to leadership in the diocese. He also thanked those who had served on the previous Council of Priests, all of whom had remained in an advisory role during the sede vacante period while there was no bishop in the diocese. ‘As a new bishop, I look forward to working with the members of the new council as, together, we encounter the challenges and opportunities that face the diocese today. The membership of this new council reflects a wide range of experiences and outlooks. Today, the urgency of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and lay ministry and the question of self-care for priests are ones that must be addressed in a meaningful way. I am confident that the new council will be a great assistance to me and to the whole diocese regarding these and other important questions’, he said.

The origins of the Council of Priests go back to the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council when the concept of collegiality became dominant in church discourse. This meant that in the discharge of their duties, church leaders at all levels share their responsibilities with others, clerical, religious and lay. Today, Pope Francis continues to propose this model to us in what is called ‘synodality’ – a model of church where all the People of God journey together in the light of the Holy Spirit, discerning God’s will. Recent synods in Rome have shown the potential of such a model. It is also a model that is used by other Christian churches.

This month also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the first Council of Priests in the Diocese of Clogher in 1969. That first council had its initial meeting in the Bishop’s House on 12th November of that year, towards the end of the term of Bishop Eugene O’Callaghan. The first chairman was Monsignor P J Flanagan PP, Enniskillen and Fr Gerard McSorley, St Macartan’s College, was the first secretary. Some of the issues dealt with then still permeate church life today, especially vocations and the care of priests.

Members of the new Council of Priests (2019-2024)

Canon Michael Daly (Chairman)

Mgr Peter O’Reilly VG

Mgr Joseph McGuinness VG

Fr Brian Early

Fr Peter Corrigan

Mgr Richard Mohan

Canon Patrick McEntee

Fr Brendan Gallagher

Fr Seamus Quinn

Fr Padraig McKenna

Fr John Chester

Fr John Flanagan

Fr Stephen Joyce

Fr Seán Mulligan

Fr Stephen Duffy

Fr Owen Gorman (Secretary)

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