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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop’s Monthly Letter – November 2017



Dear Friends



It is again a time of demanding and even in ways upsetting change in the diocese in terms of personnel. As I write, two Boards of Nomination are at work … For Kilanne Union and Kiltegan Group. We pray that they may be blessed in their labours and we think too of James Mulhall in the early days of his new ministry in Kells Union with Inistioge.

The sudden resignation of the Reverend Brian O’Rourke from the incumbency of Portlaoise and Ballyfin Union has shocked and distressed many, and it has been a time of exceptional difficulty for Brian himself. This letter is not the place to address in any detail delicate matters which are most appropriately handled locally, but it is nevertheless necessary to point out that extreme pain in one place inevitably affects the whole Body that is the diocese. It will undoubtedly be some time before any attempts can be made to restore incumbency in Portlaoise/Ballyfin, and during that period both parish and wider diocese have issues to address emerging from the departure in stressful circumstances of the last two rectors. An elongated and skilled mediation process has already ended inconclusively, and the wisdom of Solomon is needed in terms of identifying some way forward that commands the respect of all. In saying these things I am making no judgements. Save to say that I utterly acknowledge my own inadequacies and failings in relation to a situation during my episcopal watch which has caused such anguish. At the end of the day and in so many ways the proverbial buck stops here.

Brian O’Rourke will happily continue to be part of the diocesan family and is moving to Stradbally Co Waterford to join the Lismore Union ministry team …. He will also have some specific duties in Waterford itself particularly during the continuing vacancy in the curacy there, and he will be developing his expert role as an adviser on many matters educational in the diocese. I am glad he has accepted my invitation also to become a canon of St Canice’s Cathedal.

I am also pleased that the Reverend Ruth Elmes had agreed, in addition to her parochial duties and responsibilities as diocesan Registrar, to join the chapter of Ferns Cathedral. Ruth makes a vital and positive contribution to the atmosphere and the business of wider diocesan life, and I value being able to acknowledge this.

Another splendid appointment in the wider church has been the election by the Standing Committee of the General Synod of Dean Katharine Poulton to membership of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) for its next three meetings. This is a very special honour. The ACC is the nearest thing international Anglicanism has to any type of synod, and it includes clergy and laity as well as bishops. The Church of Ireland as a whole sends just one clerical and one lay member to this body, and this fact indicates the esteem for Katharine’s knowledge and experience across the whole church. Remarkably the present lay member of the ACC Wilfred Baker also has deep roots in this diocese through his Waterford connections. No one can say that that we are not internationally minded!

Thinking of international matters and of our continuing commitment to World Development, I want to thank everyone who supported me in my recent Route 66 endeavours concerned with the empowerment of women through literacy. As always it was a delight to cover so much ground and meet so many people.  And I know the whole matter is receiving extensive coverage elsewhere in this issue. So this is simply a heartfelt thank you for the marvellous 22,000 euro already contributed to our excellent projects, and the donations are still as I write flowing in.

During Route 66 I realise I visited some parishes in the midst of sadness and uncertainty. I found myself in Clonenagh just after parishioners had heard of the unexpected resignation of Canon Ian

Poulton for family and personal reasons. Particularly painful for them was the realisation that they would have no opportunity to say goodbye. Again this is a situation where direct dealing with the local situation is what matters most, conscious that what is deemed personal is indeed to be recognised as precisely that. But I would want to say here that I hope the shock of Ian Poulton’s sudden departure will not be allowed to obscure the fuller and longer memory of a parochial ministry that was diligent, energetic, creative and very highly valued indeed. The parish will be enriched by the imprint of his contribution for a very long time to come.

At all times, but not least when we have many vacancies, we realise the invaluable and generous contribution of our Readers without whom the worshipping life of the diocese as we know it could not be sustained at all. Every five years our team of Readers have a liturgical renewal of their licences to minister, and this occasion is in fact very much a major celebration of the whole role of Readers. This year therefore at a seasonal Advent service of Light/Eucharist on Sunday 3 December in St Canice’s at 1730 our band of readers will be recommissioned and we pray empowered in the Spirit for the five years ahead. The preacher will be the bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, the Right Revd Kenneth Kearon. We hope many parishioners from across the diocese will join us at this seasonal and always atmospheric service, thus offering their solidarity and support to the Readers

We thank also the Revd Arthur Carter who after many years of ministry even beyond ‘retirement’ has decided to hang up his proverbial surplice at the end of this year. Arthur has in recent years continued to travel extensively to take services and provide liturgical cover, and he is always a welcome face wherever he appears. We thank him very sincerely for his great generosity … I think of him also as epitomising zeal for the Irish language and its beauty in our midst.

Our prayers are also specially with Kathryn Draper and Paul in Lismore Deanery following the recent unexpected death of her father in Co Donegal.

Having taken up so much space, I conclude that, events permitting, I intend, in response to many requests, to devote all my space next month to outlining developments in relation to the implementation diocese by diocese of plans for Ordained Local Ministry.


Michael Cashel Ferns & Ossory