Dear Friends,

As we all know, this diocese is hugely dependent on and grateful for the ministry of Readers, whether on the diocesan canvas or in the more local parochial context. Without them, we could not maintain our normal liturgical life. Even more importantly perhaps, the preaching ministry of our diocesan readers brings with it genuinely lay perspectives that the clergy ( here I certainly speak for myself ) could not readily emulate…. this is a refreshing experience for the expectant listener.

Recently, the Very Revd Lynda Peilow stepped down as ‘Warden’ of Readers …. The Warden is the member of the diocesan clergy who serves as Chaplain to the readers, who takes a special interest both in their selection and ongoing training. We much appreciate Lynda’s service and pastoral support in this particular setting.

In early February we had a day gathering of our diocesan readers in Killaloe Cathedral …it was a very fruitful occasion of reflection and sociability guided by the Revd Dr Leonard Madden. On that day too the dean, Dr Richard Marsh, was able to say something of the forthcoming roll out of our next training programme for future diocesan readers. The essential training comes via an accredited Certificate in Theological Studies from the University at Maynooth ; this course is delivered largely online but there will be a number of face to face seminars and get togethers for students over the two academic years normally involved in its delivery. While many of the students studying for the Certificate will be aspiring Readers, recommended by their rector with the approval of the Dean of Killaloe ( the course director ) and the bishop, some will wish to study the course simply as a means of developing their theological knowledge. To do so has always proved an enjoyable and enriching experience for those who have risen to the challenge. Those hoping to be commissioned as Readers take an additional bolt – on module in worship and preaching. Many in the diocese will already be familiar with the previous Maynooth – accredited programme ; it was delivered in partnership with the diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory under the stimulating guidance of Dean Tom Gordon. Dean Gordon has just retired from Leighlin in Co Carlow … we thank him for his great contribution to education and training and we wish him well as he comes back in his ‘retirement ‘ to his home among us in Headford Co Galway. The certificate course, now somewhat revised and reviewed, will be offered from now on still in partnership with the diocese of Cashel etc, but with the course director in our midst in the person of Dean Marsh. We are truly blessed to have someone with such scholarly and teaching gifts amongst us to do this. The review of the programme, and its reaccreditation, also owe much to the input and involvement of the distinguished Galway historian and parishioner of St Nicholas’ Parish, Professor Steven Ellis. Dr Ellis, himself one of our readers emeriti, will continue to offer invaluable expertise in the academic oversight of the course. But a course needs students! And the diocese definitely needs more diocesan Readers (even though we have happily added four to our ranks in recent times ). These are people who give willingly of their time, and who are trained and licensed for a distinctively lay albeit essentially liturgical ministry which can extend beyond their own parish and gives them the authority to preach the Word, as well as to lead many services and to assist at the administration of the Sacraments. Why could this ministry not be for you, the reader of  these lines? Talk to your rector, contact Dr Marsh in Killaloe, discuss it with your friends,

consider the enrichment provided by taking the course, put aside your fear of public speaking, remember you may have perspectives and experiences which after suitable training could be put at the disposal of the preaching/ teaching ministry of the church. We already have a small cohort ready to take on the first rollout of the revised course, but more enquirers would be welcome. We need readers urgently, and we need readers who represent the necessary variety in terms of age, gender , background and ethnicity that reflects the reality of the worshipping community today.

Of course, as well as our team of diocesan readers, we also have at local level our invaluable band of parish readers, now coming also to be called local lay liturgical ministers [LLLM]. Their ministry may be less expansive in terms of location and content, but their role and their commitment is utterly invaluable to us also. Once Dean Marsh gets the new diocesan reader programme rolling, he has plans for the online delivery of the necessary basic skills in terms of training to those who might be identified by their rectors in the months ahead as candidates for LLLM … so watch this space.

Ministry is something ever changing and on the move. As I write I hope and expect that it will soon be possible to name the priests who will be coming among us shortly to exercise ministry in Clonfert Group, and on the Dingle Peninsula in partnership with Canon Jim Stephens. Attempts to identify new priests for Rathkeale and Kilcolman parishes continue too, and I dare to hope that before too much longer they may be crowned with success.

Michael, Tuam Limerick and Killaloe