Changes are afoot in the Diocesan Office. At a recent meeting of the Finance Committee, we learned that Ms Rita Cammaer will be leaving her post as assistant diocesan secretary with special responsibility for financial administration at the end of June. This is happening because her husband Patrick Empey has been appointed Irish ambassador to Mozambique. We of course realise that this is, in many ways, wonderful news for Patrick and Rita, and indeed for our nation’s overseas role, but Rita’s efficiency and kindness will be greatly missed across the diocese, not least by parochial treasurers.
During her years in the office she has made her many gifts and skills available to us and she has displayed utter commitment and set the highest standards for herself. The diocesan staff led by the Secretary Elizabeth Keyes is a small, inter-dependent and closely-knit team and Rita’s departure will be a great loss. But we know that she and Patrick will be great influences for good in their new context and they have our gratitude and prayers.
We have also learned that Margaret Hawkins will step down as Diocesan Communications Officer at the end of the year, while happily retaining her role as the excellent editor of this magazine. It has been an instructive pleasure for me to work closely with Margaret over recent years – she holds her head high in the journalistic world, she always finds the right words even in testing situations, she is wonderfully innovative and enthusiastic and in a very particular way she helped the diocese hugely to navigate the unknown and tricky waters of communicating effectively during Covid. We all owe her a huge debt.
Commissaries in charge when I leave
By the time these words appear major changes will be afoot in my own life. After three confirmations over the weekend 26/27th March and the installation on the evening of 27th of two canons in Ferns (Ian Cruickshank and Nicola Halford, to whom go our congratulations) the curtain will come down on my day-to-day episcopal ministry in Cashel Ferns and Ossory, almost exactly sixteen years after my election in 2006.
From midnight on March 27 Archdeacons Elmes and Gray (who deserve our thanks in advance for all that will be asked of them during the vacancy) will become ‘Commissaries’, that is to say they will see to the administrative work normally associated with the bishop. This arrangement will continue up to and including April 13; from April 14 when I officially become bishop of the ‘new’ diocese of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe, it has been agreed that Archdeacon Elmes will act as sole Commissary for the whole bishopric on behalf of the archbishop of Dublin who has oversight of the ‘spiritualities’ of the diocese during the episcopal vacancy. We feel that it is easier for the Archbishop during that period to work through one person, but subject to that arrangement for ultimate oversight the two archdeacons will work together in doing their routine regional duties as usual. I will emerge from the chaos of major house moving on just two major occasions –
– for the ordination of Mike O’Meara (Cashel Union ) and Ger James (Carlow Union) as priests in St Canice’s Cathedral at 4 p.m. on Sunday April 3rd. We wish the two candidates every blessing and look forward to the sermon of the dean of Ossory on this auspicious occasion
– for the installation of the Reverend Bruce Hayes as dean of Waterford at 7 p.m. on Wednesday April 6th; we welcome Bruce and his family most warmly to this diocese and hope he will find great happiness and fruitfulness in his ministry here.
After a huge number of Confirmations across the diocese in recent months most further such occasions will await the arrival of a new bishop, so during the episcopal vacancy there will be just four confirmations. We are grateful to the Right Reverend Richard Clarke, former archbishop of Armagh, who will conduct services in Cashel and Abbeyleix, and also to the Right Reverend Kenneth Kearon, former bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, who will administer Confirmation in Kilkenny and Enniscorthy.
Pray for episcopal electoral college
It goes without saying that a major matter for prayer in the coming months will be the Episcopal Electoral College charged with the responsibility of electing the next bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory. Comment on that issue outside of my private prayers is not for me to offer, but I simply say with utter sincerity that in so many ways as I take leave of this fascinating diocese I find myself somewhat envying my successor but I must now embrace the challenges and I know the joys of pastures new.
Pray for the wider world
And, of course, all our more local prayers must be set in the context of the needs and travails of the wider world and, as I write, the terrible events in Ukraine distress us all so much and leave us feeling so helpless in the face of huge human suffering and, frankly, great evil.
Last service will be in Seirkieran
I made a very definite decision some time ago to have no final ‘big event’ in the diocese: I am not after all retiring but rather moving, I hope seamlessly, to a new chapter in episcopal ministry. And, to be honest, such occasions after a long stay in a particular context can be emotionally overwhelming so I am allowing myself just one parting service which I expect will be suitably low key but will allow me in a personal, and some might say slightly sentimental and even quirky way, to feel the wheel has rather come full circle.
I have always had a very special affection for Seirkieran at Clareen in Co Offaly. Because of its association with Ciaran, regarded as the founder of Ossory, it has been zealously retained through the centuries as part of the diocese of Ossory even though it is an island parish entirely surrounded by the diocese of Killaloe. Exactly a century ago my grandfather was rector there; my father spent his boyhood in Clareen as the parish travelled through the travails of the War of Independence and the Civil War…as a child I was brought on visits there and introduced to the beauty of the monastic site.
So, beginning at 11 p.m. on Wednesday in Holy Week, Spy Wednesday, I shall spend my final hour as bishop of this diocese celebrating the Eucharist amongst friends in Seirkieran.
It will be an occasion, in the midst of the holiest week of the year, for me to offer my profound thanks to God for all the blessings of having been bishop of Cashel Ferns and Ossory for sixteen years. And, as the midnight hour arrives, I shall enter the diocese of Killaloe to become its bishop (along with Tuam and Limerick), knowing that as that diocese embraces me with its hospitable arms I shall at the same moment bid farewell to what has been an extraordinarily enriching and truly blessed chapter in my life and ministry. And life will go on… and a new Bishop will arrive here … and we will all enter a future that is already God’s … and you will forever have a place in my prayers and on my heart.
With great gratitude and affection
MICHAEL CASHEL FERNS & OSSORY