It is sometimes observed that any new Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory must undergo more cathedral enthronement services than any other bishop in the Anglican Communion. Whether that is true or not, I can’t comment. Certainly, in this diocese we have more cathedrals which are open each Sunday for public worship, that any other diocese in these islands. I think that is part of the charm of living here.
As I compose this letter, I am preparing for the last three of my six enthronements. By the first Sunday in February, when the hard copy of this magazine is available in pews and church porches, I will be completing my pilgrimage by ending up in St Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny.
We are blessed to have six wonderful cathedrals in the Diocese, each with its own particular charm. Waterford and Cashel are both Georgian and so exhibit the elaborate plasterwork and bright open dimensions of church architecture which was heavily influenced by the Enlightenment thought of the time. There is the elegant slim spire of St Carthage’s Cathedral in Lismore which draws you in to its interesting interior. Through periods of dilapidation and repair over the centuries, it has evolved to its present largely nineteenth century form. St Edan’s Cathedral in Ferns is also distinctive, despite its more modest size. Nestled in an ancient site and surrounded by the fragments of a much larger complex of church buildings, its history is evident today. The adjoining chapter house gives it an added dimension of interest. St Laserian’s Cathedral in Old Leighlin also occupies a site of great antiquity. It is an historic gem which has been successfully adapted over the years to the needs of contemporary worship and hospitality. Last, but by no means least, there is St Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny with its massive and imposing dimensions, medieval monuments, and impressive round tower. It is good to see that it is open to welcome all, not only on Sundays, but during the week too.
THEY DRAW PEOPLE IN
Cathedrals have an attractiveness which draws people in. They are places of significance, where Christian worship has been carried on for many centuries. They have both an enduring quality and a sense of sacred space. Some visitors may be tourists, others will be visiting out of historical interest but many others will be pilgrims and worshippers. One of the advantages of living so close to St Canice’s is having the opportunity to bump into some of these visitors. Very often when they see a clerical collar, the conversation may move past the antiquarian or social, to subjects of more substance and spirituality. But it doesn’t have to.
So let us continue to value our six cathedrals. They may often function as parish churches but due to their history and status they are often required to reach beyond the parochial. I salute our six cathedral deans, who with imagination and creativity, serve the needs of this Diocese and the wider community. I also thank them for all they have done to ensure that the six enthronements in recent months, were diocesan and community events of spirituality and celebration which drew people in. These services also afforded me the opportunity to meet some people from every corner of this dispersed Diocese as I enjoyed hospitality afterwards. For this I am very grateful.