The Diocese of Limerick was at one in celebration on Sunday for the ordination of Brendan Leahy as its 47th Bishop and first to be ordained since 1974.
The Mass at Saint John’s Cathedral was attended by more than 1,200 guests. Chief Celebrant was Archbishop of Cashel & Emly Dermot Clifford and his co-consecrators were Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and Fr Tony Mullins, who has served as Limerick Diocese Administrator since December 2009 and who delivered the Homily.
Around 15 Bishops and over 200 priests attended the ordination, along with representatives of parishes across the diocese and friends and family of Bishop Leahy. Pride of place at the celebration was for Fr Brendan’s 91 year-old father Maurice, who taught in Athea, Co. Limerick in the 1940s. Also present were Bishop Leahy’s sisters Máire and Treasa, his brother Tom and sister-in-law Marjorie.
Among the congregation also were were Oireachtas representatives from the Diocese, including cabinet ministers Michael Noonan and Jan O’Sullivan, Mayor of Limerick Gerry McLoughlin, Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council Jerome Scanlan and their fellow Limerick councillors. President Michael D. Higgins and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, were represented by their Aide de Comp Col Brendan McAndrew and Comdt Michael Treacy respectively. Also present were Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe Trevor Williams and representatives of others Christian Communities, including Church of Ireland Dean of Limerick and Rector of Limerick City Parish Rev. Sandra Pragnel, Superintendent Minister of the Adare and Ballingrane Methodist Circuit Rev. Liz Hewitt and Rev. Vicki Lynch of the United Methodist Presbyterian Congregation.
Bishop Leahy became the first Bishop in Ireland and eighth in the world to be ordained under the papacy of Pope Francis. He succeeds Bishop Donal Murray, who retired as Bishop in December 2009.
In addition to the 1,200 plus guests in St John’s for the congregation, hundreds more gathered outside, with many more again packing into the adjacent community centre where the celebration was streamed live on a big screen via a web-link. The ordination was also streamed live across the worldwide web on the diocese’s own websitewww.limerickdiocese.org, while local radio station Limerick’s Live95FM streamed the entire celebration on its website www.live95fm.ie.
Addressing the audience at the end of the celebration, the newly ordained Bishop Leahy said that he and all in the Diocese are at the beginning of a new chapter in which there is a great need to reach out to the marginalised and broken in society. “Where should we start? I was struck recently by the words of Pope Francis when he said ‘start from the outskirts’. Each of us has regions that are ‘outskirts’ – people who are different from us or who we find hard to get on with; groups that we dislike because they have different views than ours; areas that we simply ignore, causes that we know are right but feel lazy about getting involved in.
“In today’s Gospel we have heard an invitation to love “more” and in this way build the Church; and that also means to love more those who are on the outskirts, broken and marginalised.
“I know that many will say ‘but I am only hanging on in faith by my fingernails’. For some it is really difficult to believe. A fellow Irishman, Bono, wrote a song some years ago now. Its words ran something like this: ‘I have climbed highest mountains; I have run through the fields; Only to be with you, Only to be with you; I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls, These city walls, Only to be with you; But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’.
“I don’t know what Bono had in mind but these words can be applied to the situation many find themselves in with regard to faith. Moments of difficulty are written into the Christian journey of faith. How many saints and exemplary men and women throughout the centuries have told us about shadowy moments they lived through. We can think of the Irish woman and martyr, Margaret Ball, Teresa of Lisieux, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the philosopher, Simon Weil, the young Jewish woman, Etty Hillesum, the recently beatified teenager, Chiara Luce Badano… We can only imagine how much Mary, Jesus’ mother, went through many trials of faith along her journey.”
Bishop Leahy also spoke of the Church to seek forgiveness for its own sins, particularly in relation to clerical abuse. “Darkness in our faith journey can affect us individually but also as a group, as a community, as a Church. We know only too well of how many innocent people suffer terrible darkness because of clerical abuse. I want to make their pain my own and seek forgiveness seventy times seven. It is a deep wound also for all of us.
“I have been greatly consoled in getting to know how much has been done in the diocese in the area of child safeguarding. I am deeply indebted to the high professionalism of the many lay men and women involved in our diocesan structures in this regard as in many areas of the diocese. It was good to read the observation made in the Audit by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland that the diocese of Limerick has robust measures in place in the area of child safeguarding and protection.
“We know from the Christian spiritual tradition that trials in the life of faith can be a prelude to a new dawn of light and love.”
Bishop Leahy also thanked the people of the diocese, not least the young, for their support in helping him prepare for his ordination. “I want to thank the whole diocese, parishes and religious communities for the great outpouring of prayer to the Holy Spirit for me and the diocese in recent months. I thank especially the young people and their teachers for their daily prayers. I am greatly humbled by all the encouragement that has surrounded me in these days and weeks.
“I now feel I am a Limerick man! Limerick is beautiful. I’ll have to start wearing the Limerick colours! I am proud to be bishop of this great diocese with such an ancient history. As a diocese we want to do our part also today to make all of Limerick even greater, as I believe and hope we do, day in, day out, in countless communities of faith and love in parishes, religious orders, communities and movements, schools, hospitals and social initiatives. In so many ways, people are replying positively to Jesus’ question: ‘do you love me?’ Today let’s renew our love of him even more; let’s bridge to make Limerick even more beautiful, so that others will come and see Jesus living among us.”
Source: Irish Catholic Media Office