30 Funeral Ministers Commissioned by Bishop Duffy

Funeral Ministers following their Commissioning by Bishop Duffy on Sunday 12 May 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Donnie Phair.

On Sunday last, the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, Bishop Larry Duffy, Bishop of Clogher,  presided at Mass in the Church of the Holy Cross, Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, during which he commissioned 30 people to serve in Funeral Ministry across the Diocese of Clogher. These lay men and women will accompany and support families at a time of bereavement and loss in terms of preparing for a funeral. They are also trained and commissioned to lead some aspects of funeral liturgies at the church and cemetery.  Those commissioned come from 9 different parishes in the diocese.

This development is part of a response to a call made by Bishop Duffy in a Pastoral Letter in 2023, entitled “Our Baptism calls us to serve in new ways”. He stated that such a development also draws from the baptismal calling of all Christians to serve in different ways, using the variety of gifts given by the Holy Spirit. The new ministers, and those who will join them in the months and years ahead, will also be of assistance to priests and deacons in parishes as the model of the Catholic Church in Ireland undergoes a period of reflection, renewal and change in the period ahead.

The training for the new ministry has been underway since last autumn and was led by Paddy Shannon of the Down and Connor ‘Living Church’ team. There are over 70 such ministers in that diocese already. In addition, each of the ministers undertook training in Safeguarding policies and practices and were also placed for a period in their parishes before the request for commissioning was made by their Parish Priest. The initiative was coordinated and led by the Diocesan Liturgy Commission, chaired by Deacon Martin Donnelly, Enniskillen. This project was led on behalf of the Commission by Deacon Martin, along with Eileen Gallagher, Belleek and Monsignor La Flynn, Pettigo and Lough Derg, with support from Diocesan staff members,

Speaking at the Commissioning Mass, Bishop Duffy said that ‘the Scriptures call us to share the Good News. We are invited to be active in our faith, to “stop staring into the sky” (Acts 1:11) and to “go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News” (Mark 16:15)’. This new ministry, he said, is one sign of real and practical participation by laity in the life of the Church. He prayed for those undertaking this new ministry and thanked them for their generosity. He prayed that they and all whom they encounter would be blessed with a renewed faith in Resurrection and new life. He also thanked all who had prepared them for this new ministry.

Expressing thanks also, Deacon Donnelly said that the Diocesan Commission was very grateful to Canon Jimmy McPhillips and the Parish of Aghalurcher for the welcoming way in which they accommodated the training over several months and for facilitating the Commissioning Rite. He was especially thankful to Eileen Gallagher for her time and energy in organising the training and the commissioning. He also thanked Martha Smyth, Diocesan Director of Safeguarding, for the Safeguarding Training, which was superbly delivered by Briege O’Neill from Derry Diocese. ‘This is indeed a historic moment for our Diocese and a fine example of Synodality and co-responsibility in action’, he said.

There were a few people who were unavoidably unable to attend Safeguarding and a session will be arranged for them ahead of their commissioning. In addition, several others who began the course but were unable to complete it at this stage. They are willing to go forward in a future round of formation in the not-too-distant future. It is hoped that others from different parishes will join them on that.

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