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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop’s Monthly Letter – November

In this month’s letter Bishop Michael Burrows mentions two new appointments in the Diocese and also remembers five people who died recently

 Dear Friends

In the never-ending process of change in our diocese, I am pleased to have announced some new appointments recently. Canon Ruth Elmes is now Archdeacon Elmes, having added the role of archdeacon of Ossory and Leighlin to her other responsibilities. She joins Archdeacon Bob Gray in this task. Together the archdeacons, along with the diocesan office staff, carry great responsibilities in the administration and oversight of the diocese as a whole.

Archdeacons have a constant and close working relationship with the bishop – they need to read people and situations well, to be clear thinkers and at times to display the right blend of compassion and firmness. I have no doubt that Ruth will make a splendid archdeacon – she is greatly respected by her fellow clergy, brings extensive experience of life within and beyond the church to her task, and is a person of moral courage and independence of mind. I look forward greatly to working her, and valuing her infectious humour as well as her tremendous shrewdness.

I have appointed The Revd James Mulhall to be a canon of St Canice’s Cathedral … not only has James’s pastoral ministry been greatly valued in a variety of parish contexts; he also ministers with skill to the whole diocese through his work with Safeguarding Trust and also the resourcing of children’s ministry. We are all … not least myself … greatly in James’s debt and we should never take for granted the ready availability of his professional wisdom when we otherwise would not know where to turn.

Remembering Canon Jack Black

But there has been sad news in our midst too. The recent sudden death of Canon Jack Black, sometime headmaster of Kilkenny College, has removed from us a great ‘doer’, someone who did not simply dream dreams but with incredible energy and negotiating skill turned them into actuality. His contribution to the physical growth and curricular development of Kilkenny College was quite remarkable, and he viewed such work truly as a facet of a ministry which yet never lost its focus on the needs of individuals. I have heard so many accounts of his skill, style and kindness … I often wish I had overlapped with him in Kilkenny as he left but a year before I arrived. The very stones of Kilkenny College almost seem to sing the praises of a great and highly effective leader.

Mr Don Brown

Another great servant of Kilkenny College and its programme of expansion was Mr Don Brown, sometime chair of the Board of Governors, who died in early summer. Don was also a person of both style and substance, hugely well-read, always committed to the pursuit of excellence at the College. When I arrived in the diocese in 2006 he generously agreed with me that the Chair of the Governors should be a lay person with appropriate time and skill, rather than the bishop who might not have the space to deal with the demanding complexities of modern educational administration. By liberating the bishop from the many administrative demands of the chair, Don and his two lay successors have contributed in their own right hugely and fruitfully to the strategic development of the college, and the bishop has been enabled to focus on a more pastoral relationship with the school community. I am deeply grateful to Don for precedents he set regarding future best practice in the governance of the college, and along with the whole community there I look forward to a special opportunity for the college and its friends to give thanks for his contribution. This will take the form of a Memorial Service in St Canice’s Cathedral at 1900 on Wednesday 14 November.

Mr Peter Dowd

Don Brown of course was not the only prominent lay leader in educational matters we lost during this past summer – another was Mr Peter Dowd of Lismore who not only chaired the Board of his local primary school in Lismore for many years but also looked after the needs and interests of this diocese in various central Church of Ireland concerned with primary school management. As someone with a business to run and extensive community involvement in Lismore itself he was also hugely generous with his time in the wider educational context.

Bishop Laurence Forristal

I mentioned earlier my arrival in the diocese in summer 2006. I shall never forget the prompt and warm welcome I received then from Bishop Laurence Forristal, at the time the ‘other’ bishop of Ossory. He became a special friend, often encouraging and guiding through well-timed phone calls. In recent years as his health declined, I would often seek solace in his company through visits to the nursing home in Gowran where he lived. The end of those visits, and the delightful combination of spirituality and shrewdness I experienced during them, leaves a true gap in my life and I offer my sympathy to all in the Roman Catholic diocese of Ossory in the context of a bereavement that for them rather ends an epoch.

Sarah Purser

Bereaved too as I write is the Revd Alec Purser who has lost his mother after a short but distressing illness. We surround the family with our prayers, and also the people of the Staplestown area for whom Sarah Purser was such a special and beloved person.

All these thoughts of course are both poignant and appropriate entering November, the month when much godly remembering is textured by our hope and joy in the Communion of Saints.

Michael Cashel Ferns and Ossory