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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Commissary’s Letter – May 2022

Written by The Venerable Ruth Elmes


 The last month has been a time of change in the diocese. The long-announced departure of Bishop Michael and his family ended their time in the Bishop’s House as the door was closed for the final time and the removal truck rumbled down the drive on the way to Limerick. For me, and for many, the most poignant moment was the official return of the croziers in St Canice’s Kilkenny and Christ Church Waterford at the end of final services there.

Clerical Chess

I never thought I would become involved in what I call “Clerical Chess”; as one move is made there is a gap that may be filled and the search (and indeed speculation) begins. In the last month the moves have meant that the parish of Dalkey has become vacant as a result of the institution and installation of The Very Reverend Bruce Hayes.  The Reverend Norman McCausland’s much anticipated move to Wexford and Kilscoran is creating an upcoming vacancy in Raheny and Coolock in Dublin. The moving on of clergy in CFO meant a flurry of new canons appointed by Bishop Michael, tidying up the cathedral chapters before his departure. (Bishops are permitted to move diagonally, not a chess player. I checked this!)

Retirement of The Reverend Robert Stotesbury

It is not all gain for our diocese though. The natural scheme of things means that we must prepare to give thanks for the ministry of Rev Robert Stotesbury, who gave long and dedicated service as an NSM and then as Priest in Charge of Killeshin Union. As Robert was for many years resident in my own parish, his words of encouragement and gentle ministry through funeral sermons are well known. At one particular funeral he spoke of the birds returning home to their nest at the end of a busy day as an allegory for moving to life eternal – an image I often remember listening to rooks heading to the rookery at the bottom of my garden. Many who have benefitted from your ministry throughout this diocese give thanks for your presence with and alongside them, Robert. Best wishes for your well-earned retirement.

How a new bishop is elected

As the clerical chess opened up the vacancy for Bishop, you may be curious about how long the vacancy may be and how a new bishop is elected. The process underwent some reform recently and was first used in the Southern Provence for Tuam and Limerick. In this jurisdiction it is presided over by the Archbishop of Dublin  and the Provincial Registrar. There is an allowance for up to three meetings of the electors about six weeks apart. If a successful appointment has not been made at the end of that process, it falls to the House of Bishops to select our new Bishop.

Episcopal electors for each diocese were elected at the last Triennial elections. Clergy elected clergy and laity elected laity. There is representation from each diocese but as the diocese seeking a Bishop we have an increased allowance. This means that Cashel Ferns and Ossory will have 12 clerical votes and 12 lay votes on this occasion.  The remainder of the Electoral College is made up of 12 clergy and 12 lay from other from the other dioceses of the Southern Province of the Church of Ireland  plus three bishops (1 North, 1 South and the Archbishop)

Gossip can hurt nominees

I hope to call a meeting of the Episcopal Electors from our diocese shortly after Easter as we can put a number of names forward for consideration when the first meeting of the College is held in Dublin. We will meet to consider the qualities we look for in the new Bishop and consider who may meet the brief. The process is strictly confidential and it should be noted that gossip about the potential nominees can only hurt those who have graciously agreed to be considered. This can be a very hurtful and bruising process for the nominees.

From the time of the vacancy beginning to the enthronement of a new bishop it will probably take about six months. In the meantime, I extend my thanks to all who will help to steer the Diocesan “ship” on a steady course until a new Captain is elected.

Open buildings

In the meantime, in this edition of the magazine we read of the additional challenges encountered by wheelchair users in accessing our churches and parish buildings and how we can look at our own areas of responsibility to open these buildings up to all. Thank you Gemma for being that voice and calling us to task.

Ruth Elmes