DIOCESE OF CASHEL FERNS & OSSORY
DIOCESE OF FERNS
NEW ROSS AND FETHARD UNION OF PARISHES
THE LITURGICAL INTRODUCTION TO MINISTRY IN THE PARISHES OF
THE REVEREND MARGARET SYKES (part-time Priest-in-Charge)
And her commissioning as Diocesan President of the Mothers’ Union
St Mary’s Parish Church, New Ross
Friday 16th January 2015
Outside in the floodlights and the cold winter air, the people ascended the hill and the steps into the porchway to be greeted by the officers of the parish.
‘As with gladness men of old’ was the hymn that called God’s people with the organ played by Connie Tantrum announcing the Procession after which the Bishop welcomed everyone and then led the service.
The normally sparsely populated pews were amply filled with parishioners, friends from the ecumenical and political wider community of New Ross.
Special guests included the Rt Revd Mgr Joseph McGrath from New Ross, Cllr Anthony Connick, Cllr John Fleming and Cllr Michael Sheehan.
The Bishop made mention of those who allowed the ministry to continue during the vacancy, especially the Ven. Chris Long and the Revd Canon Roger Harmsworth assisted in many ways by the parishioners. He also welcomed the Revd Richard Greene. It is not often that the previous cleric in charge would be present but in this case it was good to have him present amongst Margaret’s colleagues.
He reminded the parish that this is a part-time ministry and that there are certain boundaries and he urged the parishioners to respect that, notwithstanding emergencies.
Also present were many from the family of the Mothers’ Union who had come to support their president-elect.
The Bishop also welcomed those who had come from areas where Margaret’s ministry had previously been relished: Gorey, Ardamine, Ferns and most recently from Baltinglass.
The Bishop thanked all those who had prepared the service for the evening and the hospitality afterwards and he also looked forward to hearing the preacher Dean Leslie Forrest.
The archdeacon presented the Revd Margaret Sykes to be introduced by the Bishop who commended the prayers of the congregation and silence was kept.
Ministry of the Word:
The lessons were read by Joan Deacon and the Revd Margaret Sykes and the Gospel by the Revd Canon Roger Harmsworth.
The Sermon was given by the Very Revd Leslie Forrest former Dean of Ferns.
The dean began by thanking the Bishop and Margaret for the invitation to speak. It was, he said, a time of considerable strife in the world but everyone had come this evening to bear witness to God’s love and hope. The French have a saying plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more change there is, the more things stay the same); St John spoke of the light that shines in the darkness that can never be overcome. The Dean went on to relate a recent experience in Galway with the story of the man who had suffered a diving accident but had survived to recover and tell the tale. ‘A new broom sweeps clean’ maybe an old cliché but the Christian life is more than that: it is a whole life’s journey with all its challenges and opportunities and perhaps sometimes near death experiences.
The River Jordan where Jesus was baptised appears insignificant and for many appears less than there own home waters, nevertheless putting aside dignity and bathing there, it can bring healing and faith. Crowds flocked there to be baptised by John the Baptist and they thought he was the expected Messiah. He assured them he was only the forerunner, the messenger. Nevertheless there was an air of excitement and of expectation, of something about to happen. There was, but Jesus was to arrive quietly and without fuss to seek John’s baptism.
The Dean underlined that everyone had come this evening with expectation and in prayer and in this season of Epiphany to support a new journey of hope that begins for Margaret and for all the parish and community. He told the congregation that the people are fortunate to welcome Margaret as their priest and he knows from working alongside her, of her pastoral gentleness and compassion and of her wisdom in preaching and of her faith in the God that both loves and challenges. Just as Jesus reached out for strength from his Father, all here must reach out to minister one another.
The Dean concluded by recalling the words of Archbishop Tutu in that a congregations needs a priest just as the priest needs the people and which he or she serves, existing on their behalf, to help them to love God. The priest is there to serve and to love the people. According to St Paul, there is not an expectation to be successful but rather be faithful – a great relief to all.
So whether Margaret as president of the Mothers’ Union, a role for which she is eminently suited or as priest-in-charge of the parish, she will need everyone’s prayers as she journeys on through her life and now here in the New Ross area in this exciting stage of her life, the Dean blessed the parish and their new priest.
The Archdeacon presented Margaret to the Bishop who introduced her to the congregation and commending her ministry, aasked her to entrust to her a share in the care of God’s people here and invited her to serve as priest-in-charge of the parish.
The Bishop and Margaret as priest-in-charge stood and faced the people as he presented her to the congregation as priest and pastor asking them to support and encourage her in her ministry, praying for her as she will pray for them to which they agreed and they welcomed her with enthusiastic applause.
Then followed the ‘Charge’ to the congregation to be called to witness to the love of Christ and to serve others in the name of Christ. This is shown by presenting symbols of the teaching, pastoral and sacramental ministry of a priest by members of the congregation.
Desmond Thorpe brought a bible from the pulpit; Neill Williams presented a container of water from the font; Suzanne Barrett brought a copy of the Book of Common Prayer from the Prayer Desk; Mike Barrett brought forward bread and wine; Ruth Watchorn presented a vial of oil; Sam Watchorn presented a towel representing the washing of feet; and the Revd Canon Roger Harmsworth presented copies of the Diocesan Directory and finally Nicola Foley as churchwarden brought forward the key of the church, which the Bishop remarked, hoped to keep the church open to parishioners, to holidaymakers and visitors.
As the sign of Peace was exchanged by everyone, Margaret was greeted specifically by Olive Thorpe, churchwarden of?? – a little clarification possible needed here about Olive’s precise ofices New Ross and Hon. Secretary of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union, and also by Olive Power Branch Chairperson of the MU.
Prayers of the People:
The Prayers of the People were led by Margaret who prayed in particular for her fellow colleagues, for Christian Unity, that there be a light for those who mourn and strength for those who are ill. She lovingly remembered her late husband.
She then announced the services for the Union for the following Sunday in Fethard and Killesk.
There followed the commissioning of Margaret for her additional and very important ministry in the wider Diocese as President of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union. As the members of the MU stood in solidarity, Margaret was asked by the Bishop if she would accept the office and serve God in the role. Margaret having accepted he admitted her to the office which was acclaimed with loud applause by the assembly.
Witnessed by the All-Ireland President Phyllis Grothier, Janet Crampton handed over the badge of office to Margaret. Janet had been the custodian of the badge and the office as vice-president since the death of Maureen Lanigan last year and who was fondly remembered.
Some words of welcome were then spoken by various representatives: Michael Barrett from Whitechurch who said, on behalf of all the churches, that they would the benefit from Margaret’s counsel and welcomed her into the community and looked forward to her time in New Ross.
Fr McGrath welcomed Margaret on behalf his community and hoped that the good relationships that had existed with Richard and those who preceded him would continue.
Phyllis Grothier spoke of meeting with Margaret some time ago when Phyllis persuaded her to become a trustee. Phyllis remembered the talents of Maureen and that Margaret was now in office with her gifts and enthusiasm and it would be a pleasure and a privilege to serve with her.
Phyllis also paid tribute to Janet Crampton for her wisdom and experience and the vice-presidents for all their endeavours to keep the work and vision of Mary Sumner and indeed of Maureen Lanigan going over the past year and a half.
Phyllis offered her best wishes to Margaret as she took up office – the 2015 MU theme is ‘United in Prayer’ – and the hope that would be especially so for Margaret and her new parish and with the Mothers’ Union.
Before Margaret replied the Bishop recalled the first ordination he had in this diocese eight years ago. The three priests ordained then were present on this evening: Robert Stotesbury, Richard Greene and Margaret herself whose ministry is now blossoming even further. She is, said the Bishop, a person of common sense and someone who is calm, two attributes which would sanctify each day for her and those in which she was contact. And not to forget her impish good humour and those who know her waits for the moment when her eye twinkles – tension is relieved and perspective restored. Also her experience of life has brought her depth and she can sit in a kitchen, have fun and at the same time talk about God. Treasure her!
In reply Margaret thanked everyone for coming and supporting her, especially all those who had travelled, including the busload who came from Baltinglass. She mentioned Dean Leslie who encouraged her to follow the path of ministry and thanked for his helpful address.
She thanked Phyllis for her words and Margaret would endeavour to her best both for the parish and the Mothers’ Union and that she would fulfil God’s calling in her two roles with New Ross as a new base for her.
Finally following the procession of the clergy to the vestry, tea and refreshments were served in the church.