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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop’s June Reflection – Journeying in Faith

Dear Friends,

In early June 2019 I fulfilled a long-term ambition by spending a week on the Scottish Island of Iona. Jacqui and I flew into Glasgow Airport and from there travelled by train for several hours through some very scenic Scottish countryside up to Oban. Then we boarded a ferry to take us to the island of Mull. Travelling by bus along the very narrow road across that island, brought us to a little harbour from where we made the final leg of the journey by boat onto Iona. It was quite a marathon journey, but worth every minute of it.

The timing of my trip was significant. St Columba’s Day is observed on 9th June, and it is a significant day for me as I was ordained a deacon, and a year later a priest, on St Columba’s Day. As many of you know, St Columba founded a monastic community on Iona and there is a multi-denominational community of lay people still living there to this day. Iona Abbey is used for services every day and it is open to anyone to attend as they wish. It is a place of pilgrimage for many as well as a popular tourist destination.

It has been said that sometimes ‘to travel is better than to arrive’. While that may often be true it was not so in this case. I enjoyed a retreat as I marked the 25th anniversary of my ordination. However, I would also acknowledge that travelling to Iona was part of the experience. The journey by plane, train, ferry, bus, boat and eventually the last leg on foot, meant that I was in a very different frame of mind when I arrived. I had left behind all the distractions and concerns that had preoccupied my in the days before our departure. I was now ready and receptive towards what lay ahead.

This month I will find myself back in Scotland again on St Columba’s Day. I will be representing the Church of Ireland at the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church which is meeting in Edinburgh between the 8th and 10th June. I look forward to meeting and sharing with Anglicans there and learning something of the joys and challenges of our sister church in Scotland. The ties we share with other Celtic Christians are important. Last month Dean Paul Mooney promoted the ancient and valuable connection we have with the Church in Wales when he embarked on a marathon pilgrimage walking from Ferns to St David’s. I hope he was well supported in his fundraising efforts as a result. I look forward to hearing about his experiences on the journey in due course.

It has been said that life is a journey and that we are shaped by the experiences we have and the people we meet on the way. I am conscious that this month many of our young people will be sitting state examinations. After the significant hiatus of the Covid pandemic, written and oral examinations are returning to a more normal pattern. Whether it is the Junior Certificate, or more significantly the Leaving Certificate, these examinations are both a challenge and a rite of passage. I take this opportunity to wish all young people in this Diocese sitting these examinations every success. I hope all their hard work is rewarded when the results are issued. But remember, whatever the outcome, the journey of life continues. These exams are an important marker or staging point on that journey, but they don’t define who you are. It is how you respond and use the results you have obtained that demonstrates your character and your true ability.

Yours in Christ,