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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop’s July/August Reflection 2023

Dear Friends,

One of the highlights of the recent Church of Ireland General Synod which was held in Wexford in June, was the presentation of a drama by the young people of Mullingar Union of Parishes. It was called ‘Lighten our Darkness by Numbers’ and focused on the theme of caring for the environment.

It was moving to see these young people present their very clear message through music, poetry, art and dance. One of the key parts of their performance which resonated with me was the striking sign which read simply ‘There is no planet B’. They were reminding us that we only have one place we call home and that we have a responsibility to look after it now and restore it where it is damaged or degraded for the generations that are coming after us.  At the end of their presentation, they received a standing ovation, something which I assure you very rarely happens at a Church of Ireland General Synod! Afterwards the bishops present were invited to talk to the young people and receive a little gift from them. I received a metal water bottle bearing their logo and I fill it and use it regularly in this hot summer weather to avoid buying plastic bottles.

Complex issue

I appreciate that the issue is a complex one. We all want to care for the earth, while at the same time providing farming families and those who work in food production with a sustainable income and financial security for the future. We might aspire to running an electric car but are concerned about whether the charging infrastructure is there to support our needs and we might have questions about the sourcing of the raw materials used in battery production and the safe disposal of those batteries at the end of their life.

We are concerned about the airmiles that are used to transport food across the globe and want to eat mainly locally sourced food, but at the same time wish to support the economies in the developing world, which in the short term might be heavily reliant on these exports to fund their own education and health care programmes.

There are no simple solutions but the important point the young people were making in their drama was that we need to act as responsibly as we can and become informed about the issues so that we are making ethical choices. Our actions have implications for people living in very different parts of the world and for the generations yet unborn.

The prayer card which the young people presented to me at the General Synod contains a message which you might like to include in your own prayers.

Lord of the universe, we pray for your creation

For the wonder of space

The beauty of the world

The value of earth’s resources.

Keep us from spoiling these gifts of yours by our selfishness and help us to use them for the good of all people and to the glory of your great name. Amen.

Census 2022 figures

The statistics on Religion from the 2022 National Census were issued recently. I always find them fascinating. As predicted, the number of those listing themselves as having no religion continues to increase. However, while the total population in this state grew by 7.6% between 2016 and 2022, the Church of Ireland category also showed a more marginal increase. It is encouraging to note that it still remains the second largest religious category with 124,749 people. What is more interesting to note is that, of the total of those who declared themselves to be members of the Church of Ireland in 2022, 15% of these people also described themselves as non-Irish. This is an encouraging statistic and reminds us all of the importance of welcoming the newly arrived and those now living and working among us but who were born in another country. The Church of Ireland is not a monochrome church and if you are reading this and listed yourself as non-Irish in the Census, I hope you feel fully part of your parish community as you make your home among us.

Reflecting on these figures I was reminded of something the Dean of Ferns said in the recent interview he gave after his pilgrimage from Ferns to St David’s in Wales. If you have not heard it, it is available on our Diocesan Facebook page.  To paraphrase him, he said that while the number of people attending church services has declined and those who do come to church come less often, he found that he was still doing the same number of baptisms, weddings and funerals as his predecessors did decades ago and is still preparing similar numbers of young people for confirmation. This anecdotal evidence, backed up by hard census figures should put pay to the assumption that we are a declining minority. While we are a very small group within the total population, we still have a positive and possibly disproportionately important role to play, despite our size.

Institution of The Reverend Paul Fitzpatrick

On another positive note, I am looking forward to presiding at my first Service of Institution as the Revd Paul Fitzpatrick becomes Rector of Carlow Union. The service is taking place on Friday 14 July in St Mary’s Church and I hope there will be a large local congregation, as well as clerical colleagues from across the Diocese there on the night to welcome and support Paul. We hope that he, his wife Betty and daughter Maeve will feel very much at home among us before too long.

Installation of Canons

I also remind you of another important diocesan occasion when there will be an installation of canons in St Edan’s Cathedral in Ferns on Sunday 27th August at 5.00 p.m. Canon Nicola Halford has been appointed Chancellor and Canon Norman McCausland replaces her as Treasurer. In addition, Canon Trevor Sargent will be installed as Prebendary of Kilrane and Taghmon. I hope to see many parishioners from Enniscorthy, Wexford and Bunclody at this special service.

Finally, as we enter the summer months, I hope that you will welcome any visitors that come to our parishes. In addition, if you are in sparsely populated parts of the Church of Ireland, do please make an effort to go to the parish church on Sunday. It means a lot to those small but faithful scattered parishes.