Scroll Top
Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop’s Letter – February 2018

In this month’s letter the Bishop welcomes imminent arrivals, the Reverend Robert Jones and the new Roman Catholic Bishop of Ossory designate, Monsignor Dermot Farrell and wishes Dean Katharine Poulton well in a life chapter. He also flags the bilingual TV Eucharist to celebrate St Ciaran’s Day on March 4th and thanks those who contributed so generously to his Route 66 preaching fund-raiser.





Dear Friends,



Change continues to surround us in the diocese. At the close of my last letter I mentioned the nomination of the Revd Robert Jones to Kiltegan Group. I’ m now happy to confirm that the institution will be at 1930 on Friday March 9 in Kiltegan. The Dean of Cashel will be the preacher. Meanwhile the Board of Nomination for Clonenagh at the time of writing continues its responsible work. In Dunleckney the Revd Kevin Ronne has been able to resume duty after an extended period of sick leave and we sincerely wish him and the parish well as he re-engages with his ministry there.


On the very evening that we welcome Robert Jones, Dean Katharine Poulton will leave us and be instituted to the parish of Julianstown in the diocese of Meath and Kildare. While I utterly understand the reasons why Katharine has decided the time is right for a new chapter in her ministry, I for one will have a great sense of loss when she ceases to be my neighbour in the cathedral precincts in Kilkenny. We have known one another since student days in 1985, and over the past eight years it has been splendid to witness the effectiveness of her ministry in a cathedral parish where the task is large, varied, relentless, and sometimes exhausting. She has been a diligent pastor, an able administrator, and the skilled guardian of one of Ireland’s great cathedrals all at once. In her own distinctive and understated way she has earned admiration as a pioneer who pushed out the frontiers of women’s ministry over three decades. When she was one of the first two female deacons to be ordained in the Churchof Ireland, it was still not lawful for women to be ordained priest … It is almost hard to believe now that such could have been the case as recently as the late 1980s. Above all, as one of her many parishioners, I can authentically share their gratitude for her availability, kindness, integrity and constant good sense. Meath and Kildare are taking a jewel from us.


One neighbour takes leave of Kilkenny … Another arrives. I have conveyed the good wishes of the Church of Ireland to Monsignor Dermot Farrell on his appointment as Roman Catholic bishop of Ossory …  Amazingly he is my own third ‘opposite number’ in Kilkenny. His episcopal ordination in March will bring to a close a prolonged vacancy, and I look forward to many fruitful encounters with him. While I have five Roman Catholic bishops across my bishopric with whom to share ecumenical fellowship, and indeed I relish every opportunity to do so, there is inevitably a particular neighbourly warmth in regard to the ‘other’ bishop of Ossory. It will be good no longer to be a solitary bishop at civic events in Kilkenny and in due course I hope we can offer bishop Farrell a welcome to St Canice’s in a liturgical context and invite him indeed to sit in St Ciaran’s chair, the ancient seat of the bishops of Ossory, which has rich resonances for all holders of that title. The occasion some years ago when Bishop Freeman thus took his place I recall as a particularly special and moving moment.


While talking of St Ciaran, the monastic pioneer and traditional founder of the see of Ossory, it is worth recalling that his ‘day’ falls the day after most readers will see these words, ie Monday March 5. Each year that date is specially marked at Seirkieran, the ‘Island parish ‘ which is an outpost of Ossory in the county of Offaly and surrounded by Killaloe diocese. Through the centuries, although the seat of the bishop migrated to Aghaboe and then to Kilkenny, successive bishops of Ossory clung zealously to Seirkieran because of its associations with the Founder. And how right they were! The ancient site exudes an extraordinary sense of unspoilt history and holiness. You may be interested to know that on the day preceding St Ciaran’s Day, Sunday March 4, RTE TV will transmit a bilingual Eucharist organised by Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise, the Irish Guild of the Church, and due honour will be paid to Ciaran. If you watch, you will see several familiar faces.


Finally. I have already thanked profoundly and sincerely supporters of my recent Route 66, who by their participation made such a difference to the lives of others, particularly those of women in Ethiopia and Congo being empowered through the great gift of literacy. As the year closed, I had received almost exactly 31,000 euro towards this project, and I know some additional contributions found their way straight to the Bishops’ Appeal office in Church House in Dublin. I have endeavoured to write personally to all the parishes and places which directly supported me, but now I emphasise again here how moved I have been by all this generosity and support. I am also grateful to our diocesan Magazine and Media committee who decided to produce a delightfully illustrated record of those special autumn days. It was lovely that they felt the event deserved such coverage, and it was even more wonderful that the costs were entirely met by funds independently under the control of the magazine committee. Those funds are modest, but the generous use of them in this way meant that not one cent of money contributed to Route 66 went other than to Bishops’ Appeal and its designated partner agencies Mothers’ Union and Feed the Minds. So to the Magazine Committee – thank you all!!


Michael Cashel Ferns and Ossory