Dear Friends,

This letter, as I wish you all blessings for at least some times of refreshment and change during the summer, will be something of a chronicle regarding diocesan events and personalities.

We have recently welcomed to our diocesan staff team Mr Damian Shorten, who will have a part – time role in the diocese as our Safeguarding Compliance Officer. News of his appointment has brought encouragement and a measure of relief to our many volunteers in this area who will now have the benefit of expert backup and guidance. ‘Compliance ‘ may seem a rather off – putting word but already people are realising that Damian is here to affirm and to encourage, and to help workers with children feel more confident and secure in the truly vital ministry which they carry out among us.

At the end of June, in the ‘northern ‘ district of the diocese , Ms Marian Edwards finished her fulltime work with Ballina Churches Together, under the auspices of Church Army. BCT is an ecumenical project shared by the churches in Ballina, seeking in particular to reach out to the edge and to address social need. It will for now continue its work with largely volunteer leadership, but during the years of her contract Marian has injected energy, focus and infectious leadership into so much of what has gone on. We wish her well as she charts her own future in ministry and evangelism. In the context of changes in Ballina, I also want to offer good wishes to the retiring Roman Catholic bishop of Killala, Bishop John Fleming , who has been a great supporter of BCT and a very good personal friend to me long before I ever found myself moving West. I look forward to seeing him frequently in his retirement home in his native Limerick. With his retirement and the departure to Dublin of Bishop Paul Dempsey of Achonry, the Roman Catholic Church in its Tuam province is witnessing much organisational change, including a substantial reduction in the number of bishops. As they are well aware, we might have a few modest things to teach them in all this !

On Thursday September 5 at 1930 in Clonfert Cathedral the Revd John McGinty will be introduced as priest in charge of Clonfert Union. John comes to us from a busy ministry in Massachusetts, but his Irish roots are legion. He is one of a number of people who have come across the Atlantic to enrich our ministry team of late. The Revd Willa Goodfellow has arrived in Camp Rectory to assist Canon Jim Stephens in Tralee / Dingle parishes and it is great to have resident ministry on the Dingle peninsula again. Willa is joined in Camp by Ms Helen Keeffe who, having exercised ministry as a Reader in The  [US] Episcopal Church, will be licensed for a similar ministry as a Diocesan Reader among us on July 21.

At the time of writing I am truly hoping that there will soon be auspicious developments in terms of the provision of ministry in Rathkeale , Co Limerick and in Kilcolman Union in Co Kerry.

Another piece of good news is that , after much discussion and a lengthy application process, this diocese is one of the first four to be allocated substantial central church funding for a pioneer ministry initiative under the new scheme recently launched with much publicity across the Church of Ireland. Pioneering is about going to the edge and connecting with people often beyond the  usual frontiers of church life in a manner that is sensitive to context and culture. In our case we have been successful in procuring funding for a project to be  led by a fulltime trained  lay pioneer which will focus on the possibilities of developing pilgrimage and spiritual tourism in these parts. This is something truly exciting …. Pilgrimage is such a popular thing these days, our resources of history and holiness are huge, visitors flock to the Wild Atlantic Way, there are many tourists who seek spiritual enrichment and renewal from their travels, it is time for some strategic joined – up thinking in terms of how we harness the spiritual energy that is all around us and renew our own confidence through the way we offer a transforming experience of spirituality and pilgrimage to others. We hope this wonderful project will start to take off in the autumn … watch this space.

We also think of those among us training for various forms of ministry. I have written before of our training programmes for lay ministry and in that context our accredited certificate in theology, offered in partnership with Maynooth under the leadership of  Dean Richard Marsh, will commence with a goodly group of students probably in late August. We remember too our ordinands. We have Siobhán Wheeler from Limerick , now entering  her final year of fulltime training , which will involve a substantial pastoral internship in Killaloe while she also writes her academic dissertation. Jessica Brown from Killaloe  begins her second year of training in the Theological Institute, where she will be joined in his first year by Stuart Broomfield from Killorglin. Also embarking on the MTh programme in Dublin will be the Revd Karen Duignan from Co Sligo who is obviously not an ordinand as such but who , having served already as a priest in the context of Ordained Local Ministry , is now journeying courageously in the direction of further training for fulltime ministry. Last but not least, Michael Mulqueen from Ahaskragh Co Galway is continuing his training and journey towards OLM in the Aughrim /Creagh /Clonfert parochial region. All in all we have a fine body of ordinands of which many dioceses would be envious. But we still have continuing areas of Ministry shortage too!

The summer always brings staff changes among the various schools in the diocese of which I am patron. I want to pay a special tribute to Mr Ivor Hayes who retires this summer as principal in Cloughjordan. Ivor’s inspirational principalship there has been characterised by dedication, conscientiousness, efficiency and commitment to his students. He has in in his person generously built connections between the parish and its school, not least through his parallel ministry as a church organist. I have known Ivor for almost forty years, since I had a part time job teaching (or attempting to teach!) music and choir at the then Colaiste Moibhi in the former Church of Ireland College of Education in Rathmines. We wish him a very happy retirement.

We also think in these days of another of our Principals, Mr Niall West of Rathkeale , following the death of his mother Mrs Joan West. Niall comes from a remarkable lineage of teachers, and his mother’s formative influence as a teacher, also in Rathkeale and previously  in Killarney , is gratefully remembered by generations of students.

Finally, next year is likely to see changes in the content, format and title of this very magazine as we move towards a single production shared with our Tuam Killala and Achonry partners in the now single diocese. You’ll learn much more of this after the summer, but we are grateful to all our readers and advertisers for their vital support and especially to our editorial team whose readiness to continue their commitment in the context of a somewhat ‘new look ‘ future is hugely appreciated. In that context Ros Stevenson and Janet Bray to whom we owe so much wish to put on record their and our thanks to Jennifer O Leary who has assisted them greatly over the years, not least with the financial affairs of the magazine, but who for family and work reasons now wishes to step down. Thank you Jennifer !

And enjoy the summer

Michael Tuam Limerick and Killaloe