Bishop’s Letter – June 2017
This month Bishop Burrows pays tribute to retiring primary school principals, Sandra Horan (Gorey) and Nuala Beattie (Shillelagh); to retiring rector, Canon Roger Harmsworth (Killanne Union) and to retiring hospital chaplain, the Reverend Jenny Crowley (Waterford).
He also welcomes the news that Archbishop Peter Eagles has been appointed to our partner diocese of Sodor and Man and fondly remembers the late Reverend Charles Ruddock.
The value of the youth FAST programme and developments at the recent General Synod are also focussed on.
There is always a certain end-of-term feeling about the month of June, when we also of course surround those sitting important examinations with our hopes and our prayers.
In the diocesan world of education, we prepare to say farewell to two outstanding Principals who have given so much of themselves to their students and to their schools. Sandra Horan takes leave of Gorey Central, in numerical terms our largest primary school, after heroic service to the needs of that school, both educational and administrative, during a phase of enormous growth. Nuala Beattie retires from Shillelagh having been for many years personally synonymous with the marvellous familial atmosphere of a gem of a small school … From her room, the only upstairs classroom in the diocese, the glorious mountain view echoes something of the happiness created within the room itself! We wish both of these distinguished colleagues, with their families, every blessing in the next chapter of the adventure of life.
In the clerical context, Canon Roger Harmsworth takes leave of Killanne Union at the beginning of July, although happily he will be living near at hand. Roger has been a familiar and respected figure in the diocese over many years, providing first in Portlaoise and then in Killanne conscientious pastoral care, and worship always seemly and sincere. He has been well known and much involved in the wider ecumenical communities in which his parishes are set, and I have often heard people from outside the Church of Ireland as well as within it speak gratefully of his presence and his kindness. We wish him a happy retirement, on and off the golf course where his proficiency is widely known … Perhaps he will also have time to use afresh his very considerable artistic skills.
The Reverend Jenny Crowley retires too from her ministry as part-time Chaplain to Waterford University Hospital. In her case, given her commitment and the breadth of her compassion, ‘part-time’ is but a technical phrase. Jenny has also served the diocese in a variety of non-stipendiary capacities, most recently in New Ross and Fethard. The hospital however has been a place where her ministry has distinctively and richly blossomed. So many people testify to the influence of her spirituality, her gentleness and her empathy at the most demanding of moments. Her presence has been gratefully cherished too in the wider hospital community. To walk around the hospital with Jenny, to observe the extent to which she is recognised and valued, has always been a most moving experience. We wish her all that is good in the times ahead.
New bishop appointed to Sodor and Man
Over the past years, comings and goings with our partner diocese of Sodor and Man have been a source of much enrichment and enjoyment. Since last November when Bishop Robert Paterson – who was a frequent visitor here – retired, the diocese has been awaiting a new bishop. As I write, it has been announced that Archdeacon Peter Eagles is to take up that role. He at present is based in Salisbury. I look forward to meeting him and to reflecting in due course on how the special friendship between our dioceses might next be developed.
Remember the Reverend Charles Ruddoc
Many have spoken in these page and elsewhere of their gratitude for the ministry of the Reverend Charles Ruddock, sometime incumbent of Fenagh, who died recently. Truly he was a godly and inspirational ‘character’ in the best sense … One rarely meets his like, or encounters the kind of writing style for which he was rightly famed in the Diocesan Magazine. I had some opportunities to relish his company and his commitment when we worked together in Cork diocese in the late 80s.
Value of FAST programme
Two other matters. Largely thanks to the labours of Canon Susan Green, it has been great to see our FAST programme, aimed at encouraging and affirming practical discipleship amongst young people, beginning to take off in the parishes. Enniscorthy has been a particular pioneer in advancing this matter and we expect that many other places will shortly be following suit and discerning the value of this approach to encouraging the ministry and service of the young. FAST is in some ways rather like a diocesan version of the Gaisce awards. It is challenging, practical, emphasises community involvement, and can be a lot of fun.
I was going to conclude with a reflective word or two about the General Synod but our DCO Margaret Hawkins has written so insightfully of it that there is almost nothing I need to add.. Save to say that Limerick and Killaloe diocese is to be congratulated on quite excellent local arrangements. I am aware that the motion concerning possible public liturgical recognition of same-sex unions was of great importance to many people (for a range of reasons) and indeed its seconder was a member from this diocese. While the motion failed to pass (although it gathered a greater level of support than many might have expected), I do think there is considerable recognition in the church that among us are many faithful and devout people who genuinely feel marginalised by our present disciplines. I do not discern any instant way forward in relation to what the synod motion was seeking, but I nevertheless emphasise that all priests have a duty of care to every parishioner, and that duty can never exclude appropriate shared prayer. Further developments in these matters would appear to depend on the collective work of the episcopate, and once again the House of Bishops needs to combine the proverbial wisdom of Solomon with the similar patience of Job, recognising that our conversations are not solely about theology but also about the lives and loves of very real people upon whose dreams we must tread very softly indeed.
Again, every blessing and success to those for whom June essentially means exams!
Michael Cashel Ferns and Ossory