Dear Friends,

Change continues apace across our diocesan family. It has been great of late to welcome the Revd. Suzanne Cousins to Aughaval Group where she has certainly been hitting the ground running!

On Sunday October 22nd at 17.00 in St. Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe Canon Dr. Richard Marsh will be installed as Dean and introduced as Priest in Charge of the Killaloe group of parishes.   He will also play a significant role in the delivery of Reader Training and other forms of accredited theological learning across the entire bishopric. Richard is currently Bishop’s Vicar at St Canice’s Cathedral Kilkenny but many in the Co. Mayo area of this diocese will know him thanks to his valued volunteer ministry in those parts following his move from England. He was engaged in community work for a number of years having taken some time out from fulltime ministry:  previously in the Church of England, amongst other things he had served on the archbishop of Canterbury’s personal staff with special responsibility for ecumenical and international affairs. It was good news for the Church of Ireland when he considered it timely to resume full time ministry in Kilkenny, and now he will bring to Killaloe and to the wider diocese truly manifold gifts.

The Institution in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Killala to Killala Group of the Revd. Alex Morahan is planned for Friday November 3rd at 19.30. Alex is a proud Mayo man (who also recognises with relish that part of his new cure is in Co Sligo) and he returns ‘home’ after a varied ministry which has included fulltime chaplaincy both in healthcare and in education. He is currently chaplain to Kilkenny College.

It was good to announce recently the appointment of the Revd. Diane Matchett to be Dean of Tuam and incumbent of the associated Group of parishes, in succession to the late and greatly beloved Dean Grimason. Her installation is planned for Sunday January 14th at 17.00 in Tuam. Diane is at present serving near Cookstown in the diocese of Armagh, but many holidays in Roundstone in her formative years gave her a deep-down love for the West and for the possibility of ministry here. We know she will embrace the challenge with energy and enthusiasm.

A number of diocesan Readers are being commissioned around now, following completion of the course requirements of the House of Bishops. (Here I would like to say thank you to Dean Tom Gordon, well known to many of us, for his contribution to reader training via the academic pathway accredited and certified through Maynooth, as he now steps down from coordinating that programme.)

On Saturday October 7th at 15.00 in Clifden Frances Hill Thornburgh will be commissioned, and on the same day at 20.00 in Killanley, John Gawley will be commissioned. We rejoice with them both as they embark upon this new phase of ministry and look forward to the invaluable contribution which they will make.

I now want to pay a special and grateful tribute to the Revd. Maebh O’Herlihy, who has retired from active Ordained Local Ministry focused on the Achill Island part of Aughaval Group. Maebh has been a Pioneer OLM in our midst, and on the island, she combined pastoral presence with the rich vision associated with the Sacred Path, with its opportunity to offer retreat, pilgrimage, refreshment and Celtic spirituality. We have all been moved in more recent times by how Maebh had faced life-changing illness with courage and determination. She has written powerfully of her experiences, and of how the church must find enrichment through the special ministry offered, not least by ordained people who live with disability. While Maebh can no longer speak to us as she once did, the cry of her soul and the power of her courage resonate. She is ever in our hearts and in our affections.

In separate materials to be delivered to the parishes shortly, on paper and online, I will again have much to say concerning the details of my November/December plans for a sponsored musical ‘church crawl’ (if the phrase may be forgiven), bringing me over a period of just over two weeks to the nearly one hundred churches across the diocese, giving me a chance to meet very many people, and above all bonding the diocese together in a seasonal common endeavour aimed especially at the empowerment of women through literacy through projects in Burundi and Madagascar. The timetable and other details are now nearly ready, and as I say, full details will be with you soon. I look forward to meeting very many of you as I peregrinate around.

Another important event for the diaries. I don’t know how many of the recently confirmed read Tidings … I hope some of them do… but the Diocesan Youth Council and I are inviting all those confirmed in 2022 and 2023 to a residential post – Confirmation weekend at the October holiday weekend, from October 27th in the evening to October 29th in the afternoon, at Wilson’s Hospital School in Co. Westmeath. The Council hopes to be getting brochures online and in print to every parish during September and we are endeavouring, thanks to generous support from the diocesan youth budget and from the Church of Ireland Youth Department, to keep participation costs very low. We also hope to arrange bus travel from a number of hub locations around the diocese. We really hope for a high level of participation in this, and seek the support particularly of the parish clergy in encouraging relevant individuals … it should be varied, fun, informative, memorable … I could pile up the words and I look forward to being personally present throughout. We decided that this should be an event that follows, rather than precedes, Confirmation ….  After all Confirmation is a major hinge moment in the journey of life that needs to be followed up actively, imaginatively and strategically and as I often find myself saying at Confirmations using the parlance of several sports ….The follow through is the most important part of the shot. And, of course, I look forward myself to learning a great deal from participants about what Confirmation meant to its recipients as they look back at the occasion, and what is their emerging view of the likely nature of future church life and what they can contribute to it.

I have been able recently, at last, to spend some of my time in the new ‘second base’ for the bishop of the now not-so-new United Diocese, the address of which is (most ecumenically!) 4 Fr Angelus Park, Westport. Here there is an apartment with wonderful views of the town and of Croagh Patrick, as well as a very useful meeting room. On the stairs looking down at all my doings is the splendid portrait of my predecessor, Bishop Rooke, presented at his retirement. It has been good already to hold several meetings and conversations in Westport, and I do realise the provision and appropriate use of this property was an important building block in the process which led to the emergence of the new ‘diocese of the West’.  There have been practical challenges along the way, but the property department of the RCB was determined to deliver a good outcome — and that they have done. So, I look forward in times ahead to greeting many of you there, to using it as a base, and to spending a bit more of my time truly in residence in Connacht. We have decided to name the premises CASA EPISCOPI, literally the cottage or small humble dwelling of the bishop!!

And, thinking finally of the building blocks that now bind us all together, I look forward to presiding over the shared business of the whole united  bishopric at the Diocesan Synod to be held in Ennis on Saturday October 14 … and I have every hope that it will be an upbeat and confident occasion once again.

Michael, Tuam Limerick and Killaloe