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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Diocesan Synod 2019

The Synod of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory was held on Wednesday 23rd  in the Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Carlow.

During a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Right Reverend Michael Burrows, in his Presidential address, spoke of how the Diocesan Synod fell on the feast of St James, the brother of Jesus, this year, and he therefore took the opportunity to frame some issues relevant to the diocese within the context of James’s life.

He mentioned how James could be the ‘patron saint of bishops who have to chair synods’ and was an example of someone who never baulked at reaching a decision or changing direction. He also spoke of how James was a reconciler and reformer and of how he was an authentic heir rather than a clone of his sibling – something that Bishop Burrows said we should hope our own offspring will be, in the future (our authentic heirs rather than our clones).

During the business of the Synod Hazel Corrigan was elected to serve on the Representative Body of the Church of Ireland for the next three years and Bishop Burrows’ peregrination next summer to raise funds for Bishops’ Appeal literacy projects in Africa was also mentioned.

He will give a short talk in each of the 150 churches in the diocese related to one item of history during the period of a century and a half since Disestablishment and he hopes that each parish will be able to raise €150 toward the Bishops’ Appeal cause. The project will culminate in a special service in St Canice’s on June 21st at which former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, will speak.

The Report of the Diocesan Council was then proposed by Mr Eric Driver and seconded by the Venerable Ruth Elmes. Eric Driver logged the changes and challenges of the past year and thanked the many staff and parishioners who had contributed time, energy and wisdom to running the diocese.  Seconding the report, Archdeacon Ruth Elmes spoke mainly about the Ploughing stand and about how there was considerable interaction with transition year students, of how it is our biggest missional event and of how more volunteers are needed for next year.

This was followed by a presentation by chairperson Dorcas Collier-Hannon about the work of the new Diocesan Commission. She outlined its road map for engagement, detailing how the approach would be collaborative and how parishes will be asked to come up with imaginative solutions and prepare for the Commission’s visit with prayerful assessment of their situations. The information presented at Synod will be communicated to all select vestries in the near future, she said.

The Reverend Paul Maxwell of the Methodist Church responded to this by encouraging Synod to ask the question ‘where is God in our community.’ “Find the people who are in need and be creative, be bold and take risks and God will richly bless you,” he said.

Monsignor Brendan Byrne, addressing synod before dinner, brought good wishes and prayers from the Most Reverend Denis Nulty, Bishop of Ossory. The Reverend Alec Brown also brought greetings from the Diocese of Sodor and Man. Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council, Councillor John Pender also wished the Synod well as it began.

During Synod increases in assessment were mentioned by several people as was the Bishop’s appointment as Chair of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Vocations Sunday, the environment and climate change also brought speakers to the floor as did the Pennies for Plastics Bishops’ Appeal project. The Report of Diocesan Council was passed.

As the Synod continued David Ritchie, Chief Officer of the Representative Church Body, answering a question about fossil fuel investments from Cindy O’Shea from Lismore, spoke of how the RCB is involved in a programme of divestment and investment, lobbying large corporate entities to change their policies in relation to fossil fuels and of how General Synod is working to encourage all to be as environmentally-friendly and energy efficient as possible.

A GDPR update was given by Rebekah Fozzard, Data Protection Officer with the RCB, and she reminded attendees that templates for everything that’s needed in relation to GDPR compliance are available on and of the importance of avoiding expensive fines for data breaches.

She added, however, that advice should be sought before old parish records are destroyed, pointing out that GDPR does legislate for the protection of information related to the history of our church.

Dean Tom Gordon, speaking about Continuing Ministry and Adult Education thanked Canon Patrick Harvey for his talks on the stained-glass heritage in this diocese and said that a new course in The Certificate in Christian Studies programme, open to everyone, will take place this year.

The Reverend Alec Purser, on behalf of his daughter Emma, presented the Youth report and pointed out that 760 young people have been involved in Youth events during the year.

“Our young people are alive and active even if they are not in our buildings,” he said on her behalf.

The work of the Boards of Education was outlined including the transfer, in Ferns diocese, of patronage of Killnamanagh school to the Waterford/Wexford Education Training Board.

Bishop Burrows also paid tribute to those who have served on school Boards of Management, ‘serving in a structure of volunteerism where it is not easy to get people to do it.”

All three education reports were passed and Canon Patrick Harvey outlined the work of the Board of Religious Education before Dean David McDonnell and chaplain to Kilkenny College, Mr Alex Morahan were co-opted to that board.

After standing orders were suspended chaplain Alex Morahan addressed synod, outlining his career background and work and speaking of how he is constantly impressed by the attitude of pupils.

“They have a healthy disrespect for me,” he said, “but when something is going on in their lives, they find me.”

Mental health is a huge issue, he said, among young people, adding that the school has a great care team that can offer support.

ECO Awards were presented to Carlow, Kells, Abbeyleix and Gorey unions/groups of parishes before dinner and in relation to environment the Reverend Trevor Sargent later spoke about ECO matters, representing chairperson Lesley Bayley whose father, sadly, had died earlier that day.  Trevor spoke of how the level of anger among young people against adults in relation to the environment is quite concerning.

“Young people are asking ‘why have you left us in this mess’,” he said.

After stating that the Reverend David White, also on the EcoCFO committee, had put together an ECO for vestries with tips about where to sow trees, for example, he said that we need to walk with those people on that journey.

“We have an environmental charter.  Dust it down and give it a purpose. Every parish should have someone looking out for eco. Looking after the world is the fifth mark of mission after all. “

Siobhan Tulloch from Kells spoke of how her parish works with the local Tidy Towns committee in a mutually beneficial way and Ruth Kennington asked should parishes be planting replacement trees in Coillte areas rather that in church grounds where they may cause problems in 50 years’ time.

The Reverend Canon James Mulhall outlined news related to Children’s Ministry saying that children’s ministry starts at home and said that 262 people availed of Safeguarding Trust training this summer. He acknowledged the appointment of Robert Dunne as Child Protection Officer in Church House and said that the Diocesan SGT Support Team is now in place.

Reports related to communications and the Diocesan Magazine were also presented and after mention by Archdeacon Elmes of the importance of attending General Synod in Dublin next May where ‘a revised Bill to amend General Synod representation’ will be discussed the Synod closed with the Dismissal and by singing the final verse of the hymn ‘O Breath of life, come sweeping through us.’

Note: Gorey image taken later – for ECO work in old parish graveyard.