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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

The Institution of the Revd Brian O’Rourke to Portlaoise


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St Peter’s Church, Portlaoise – Friday 9th January 2015 

‘A new coming together as a community and a family’

The congregations from Portlaoise, the Rock (Dunamase) and Ballyfin along with clergy and lay members of the wider, ecumenical and civic community and those who had travelled from Cork, filled St Peter’s Church in Portlaoise to witness the Revd Brian O’Rourke becoming rector of the parish.

St. Peter's Portlaoise New Rector

Brian was accompanied by his wife Agnes and his two children Harriet and Philip and his parents and extended family and the Bishop wished them all well and hoped they would find much joy in their new surroundings.

The procession and organisation of the proceedings were led by the churchwardens Jean Dobson, David Clegg, Denzel Mills and Ian Thompson and the organ was played by Rosemary Day.

Special guest was Brian’s former tutor Dr Richard Buxton from the Church of Wales and the address was given by the Revd Bruce Pierce, Director of Education, St Luke’s Home and Education Centre, Cork.


The Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory the Rt Revd Michael Burrows welcomed everyone and led the service.

He thanked all those who had helped in the preparation for the occasion: the service, the hospitality and the work in the rectory.  The Bishop also thanked all those who had been involved during the vacancy: Archdeacon Andrew Orr, Archdeacon John Murray, Canon Harvey, Diocesan Reader Nicola Rowan and others.

Conscious of the stream of ministry, the Bishop announced that he had been in touch with the previous rector, the Revd Stanley Monkhouse, who sent greetings and blessings.



The Bishop presented the Revd Brian to the congregation and commended his ministry, asking him to accept a share in the care of God’s people here in Portlaoise and invited him to serve as Rector of the parish.

Service of the Word

The lessons were read by Diocesan lay reader Nicola Rowan and the Revd Brian O’Rourke and the Gospel by the Revd Canon Patrick Harvey rector of Abbeyleix and Killermogh.



In his address the Revd Bruce Pierce began by saying it was a time of expectation and anticipation. It was for him a bitter-sweet night for he will miss Brian’s rich presence in Cork. However, he is excited for him wishing him all the best, an opportunity for him to share his gifts in a new setting.  The Diocese of Cork will miss a man who is warm, witty and at times quirky!  He has been an innovative and caring chaplain and indeed his wife Agnes is a most gracious and gifted lady.

It is a new stage of life for the O’Rourkes moving to pastures fresh and shortly to see their growing family leave the nest to make their own way in life.

Ordained in 1992, Brian has come from a successful career in teaching to a role as school chaplain and also as a rector in Co. Wicklow and then on to 16 years of ministry in St Luke’s Nursing Home in Cork.  He was also rector in St Ann’s where the stranger at the door received a real welcome: ‘well that you have come to us’, a real example of a seed being sown and a community of faith taking that welcoming vision and owning it for themselves and all encouraged by Brian.


He has, Bruce said, guided the church as it negotiates the changing and challenging milieus of education in Ireland. As pastor of prison and nursing chaplain he has brought the simple message that we are loved even in times of brokenness and despair and as a preacher he has painted the gospel story which has given the tools to help the visitor to self-reveal the message of God’s love as it sits best with them.

He has the ability to explore the boundaries of faith for a community in respectful and sincere manner.

There can be differences of view but he will respect all opinions.


Brian is been a transformer rather than a ‘changer’ – not always acceptable – who nurtures and encourages a community of faith.  A transformer is obliged to dialogue and explain, something for both rector and each member of the congregation to consider, to be open and through conversation there is the potential for transformation.

The Revd Bruce emphasised that one should look forward while respecting all those who had gone before but not to be limited by the past.

The new rector is appointed to be the faithful provider of word and sacrament in a rapidly changing and less secure world; such a ministry can be a source of meaning and identity.  He will journey with those in care in times of joy and sadness; to pray for and with the people who in a gentle accompanied hope will be brought along.  Shared relationships is the form and the future of the Christian church. Striving for right relationship with all will provide transformation, justice; personal relationships with ourselves with God and also within the community in which everyone lives. Love, nurture all things that strive for right relationships and so walk the journey of faith together.


‘ Contract signed’

As the service moved from the Word to the Institution there is a logic and shape to the proceedings. The acting registrar, the Ven. Andrew Orr read the certificate of appointment and with legal the declarations made and the paperwork completed in public, the Bishop and Brian stood and faced the people as the Bishop presented him to the congregation as priest and pastor asking them to support and encourage him in his ministry, praying for him as he will pray for them to which they agreed and welcomed him with enthusiastic applause.


The ‘Charge’

Then followed the ‘Charge’ or ‘Commission’ to the congregation, a symbolically working out of the legalities, as it is 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.

Emma Holohan brought a bible from the pulpit; Rory Foyle presented a container of water from the font; Dennis Walshe brought a copy of the Book of Common Prayer from the Prayer Desk; Simon Wheeler brought forward bread and wine; Jane Byrne presented a vial of oil; Gillian Rowe presented a towel representing the washing of feet; and the Revd Alec Purser presented copies of the Diocesan Directory and finally three of the Union’s churchwardens each brought forward a key of the three churches: Jean Dobson, David Clegg and Ian Thompson. The Bishop exhorted the new rector to be more enthusiastic about keeping the churches open rather than closed.



The Prayers of the People were led by the Revd Brian remembering in particular the four young people who tragically lost their lives nearby and also for the bewildered people of Paris. He then announced the services for the Union for the following Sunday.



Refreshments were offered in the Parish Hall afterwards where a number of representatives formally welcomed the new incumbent.  They were introduced by Phyllis Clegg and Archdeacon Orr and speakers included the Bishop, representatives from the three churches: Denzel Mills (Portlaoise), Robbie Wheeler (Ballyfin), Audrey Kidd (The Rock), Fr Pat Hennessy (Ballyfin), Dr Richard Buxton who concluded his words in Welsh and a representative from Brian’s previous parish in Shandon, Co. Cork.


Comments were made on the shortage of the vacancy and how other vacancies were now being filled.  Representatives of the parishioners and the ecumenical community promised to help the Revd Brian in any way they can and were delighted to have him on board.


In reply the Revd Brian thanked everyone for the welcome; he especially complimented the parish nominators and Bishop Michael and for persuading him to make the move to Portlaoise.  He mentioned his former archdeacon the Ven. Robin Bantry White and the presence of the Revd Cecil Bryan and his wife Primrose.  As rector of Castlenock, Cecil had baptised Harriet now a number of years ago and so things come full circle.


Brian informed everyone he likes to cycle – ‘An Revd ar rothar’ – and was relieved to see the lack of hills as opposed to Cork.  We are nowhere he said if we are not community and family; he had spent 15 years developing this ministry in Shandon.  His philosophy was not just going to work with them on Sunday – it was family – and inferring of course it would be the same approach in Portlaoise.


He acknowledged the presence of his parents and his brothers as well as his own family  and also for those who had travelled not only from Cork but from the Netherlands and Scotland – a coming together which he hoped heralded a new coming together as a community of himself, the Rock, Ballyfin and Portlaoise.  A bouquet of flowers was presented to Mrs Agnes O’Rourke.