Last week I was down in Bundoran on a course with the priests of the Diocese of Armagh.  Now it wasn’t a golf-course we were on!  It was a learning course – to learn something that might help us to be better models of right conduct for you as priests.

At the end we had the usual assessment of what went on.  One of the questions we had to try to answer was:  What gives you joy in your life as a priest?  I scratched my head for a while.  I decided that one of the things that makes me happy as a Bishop was to discover the different ways in which God comes to help me in my work.  Very often that help comes through other people.  For example, on Monday we had three talks given by a Carmelite Priest.  He spoke to us on how we might help you have a real religious experience every time you go to Mass or go to Confessions or go to a Baptism or go to a wedding. 

On Tuesday we had three talks from three lay people which I found very helpful.  First we had a talk from a young married Armagh mother who is a teacher.  She spoke to us about finding God in the ordinary things and events of life.

Next we had a talk from an ex Manager of a county team who is also a teacher.  He spoke on Time Management – not Team Management – so as to find time for family as well as work in a busy schedule. 

Finally, we had a Tyrone lady – a married woman – speaking to us about the place of the Holy Spirit in her life.

The Carmelite priest was Father Chris O’Donnell.  He took us right back to the day of our ordination as a priest.  He reminded us of some of the things that were said to us on that day. 

Today I went back to that same ceremony and read again a part that gave me great joy as a Bishop.  It is called the Prayer of Consecration of the New Priest.  He is kneeling before the Bishop.  With his hands extended over the candidate, the Bishop says the Prayer of Consecration aloud.  It goes like this:

Come to our help.
Lord Holy Father
When you had appointed high priests to rule your people
you chose others to be with them and to help them in their tasks
In the desert you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men
Who help him to rule the great company of his people
With the same loving care you gave companions to your apostles
To help in teaching the faith:
They preached the Gospel to the whole world.

Then the Bishop takes a deep breath and says:
Lord – grand also to us such fellow workers
for we are weak and our need is great
I think all of this is relevant this evening as we welcome a new fellow worker in the person of Father Gabriel Bannon, OSM – Order of the Servants of Mary and entrust to him this office so that the words of the Gospel may reach the ends of the Earth and so that the family of nations may become God’s one, holy people.

So tonight we install the new Parish Priest of Clonfeacle – in succession to Father Vincent Darragh.  We give heartfelt thanks. 

First, we give thanks to God for that same loving care to help us in teaching the faith.

Next, my thanks to the Servite Order for agreeing to take on this extra responsibility.  The Servites are no strangers to you.  They are the Order of Friar Servants of St Mary – to give them their proper title – founded in 1233 near Florence in Italy.  They have many Saints and Blesseds in their ranks such as St Philip Benizi, St Peregrine and St Juliana Falioniezi for example.  It is a great privilege to have an Order with such a distinguished history in our midst.

Finally, I thank Father Gabriel for agreeing to take on this new task.

Father Gabriel’s arrival is just one more example of God’s loving care for his people.  I can think of many more examples. 

Last Saturday I was in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  There 141 young men and women graduated with degrees in Philosophy and Theology, Arts and Communications.  They will be hoping to find jobs in this country so that they can share with us and especially with the young people, the knowledge of God and of his plans for the world which they have acquired in their studies.

Last weekend ten men gathered in Dromantine Conference Centre.  They are preparing and hoping to be ordained Deacons in four or five years time to serve in this diocese.

There are other signs of God’s loving care for his people.  We now have two Polish priests as well as two Nigerian priests working in this diocese.   We also have a number of religious priests who joined the diocese in recent years.  You see God does keep his side of the bargain in caring for his people.

At the same time we have to ask ourselves some basic questions.  In the last number of years we have had only one priest ordained for this diocese. 

•    What message is that giving to us? 
•    What is it saying about our faith and the way we live it?

As we welcome Father Gabriel and wish him well, we reflect that God’s chosen people will always have need of prophets – to speak in God’s name and to proclaim his message. 

There are certain basic things that we tend to forget – such as the fact that Jesus said that he will come again in glory at the end of time to gather his chosen ones into the glory of His kingdom. 

No matter what or how our past life has been, we have still time to put is all right.  In that respect I want to thank the Servite Fathers for the wonderful service they offer in the sacrament of Confession in the Priory at Benburb as well as for the wonderful example of a humble prayerful life.  Fathers and Brothers we thank you.


This evenings Readings tell us that Jesus will cojme again after all the pains and distress of this life have ended.

He will come in glory – brighter than the sun or the moon and call his people.

The big questions is:  We will be ready?

Will we await the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus with fear and trembling or will we learn to meet and greet him now in every moment with our every breath in every circumstance?