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Bishop Denis’ Homily on Safeguarding Sunday 2024

Second Sunday of Lent – Year B:                                                            25.02.24

St. Joseph’s Church, Baltinglass


Already we are twelve days into Lent, we find ourselves at the juncture of the Second Sunday of Lent. I’m delighted to join Fr. Ger and all of you here in St. Joseph’s Church, Baltinglass to celebrate this Sunday Mass.

I welcome the candidates for Confirmation along with their families, who will receive the sacrament from me on April 20th. Today is Safeguarding Sunday across our diocese. An opportunity to understand what we mean by safeguarding, the shared community responsibility in which each one of us has a part to play. 

In our scripture we find ourselves alongside Abraham making the hardest calling ever and we find ourselves eavesdropping alongside Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor, at the moment of Transfiguration.

Like them we too must come down from the mountain, we live on terra tirma, solid ground, that can often be shaky and anything but solid. Sin fractures that ground; but as Pope Francis reminds us even the intention of sorrow is enough to be on that road to mercy and so we pray …


Names are important. We take on a new name at Confirmation. The most popular names to date, and I realise I’ve only confirmed 384 young people since Wednesday, so it’s a relatively small and not a very clinical sample, is Patrick or Joseph for the boys and Brigid for the girls in this 1500th anniversary year of her death. Now there are many other names but these are the ones that seem to feature more often at ceremonies over the past four days.

I noticed Jack and Grace were the most popular baby names last year. You can easily check up on the CSO Visual to find out where your own name featured with newly born babies in 2023. I checked mine. In 2023 ‘Denis’ was ranked 224 of all baby boys recorded in Ireland; in total 20 baby boys were given the name Denis. I ran the check for the three who accompanied Jesus up Tabor Mountain in today’s gospel – Peter, James and John. James ranks the third most popular boys name, and that’s a consistent trend over the last few years. John is further back at 31, while Peter comes in at 130, all well ahead of Denis!

The context for today’s gospel is that the three disciples were feeling demoralised and fearful about talk of Jesus’ imminent death; perhaps they felt that the goal they had been working towards was not the goal of which Jesus was now talking. Maybe like ourselves they had slumped a little. And while we might turn to a therapist or coach, they turned to Jesus and he brought them up a high mountain to see things from a new, broader perspective. The moment of glory they visualised, while not being able to capture it by erecting tents, its memory would sustain them for tougher times ahead. And they too, in time, would embolden their even more deflated colleagues who were not part of that Transfiguration experience.

Safeguarding Sunday is about putting children, young people, vulnerable adults at the heart of parish life and its activities. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the many who serve in the ministry of safeguarding across our many parishes. Safeguarding, as the Diocesan Review by the National Board attested to in their report is very much embedded into all our parish activities. Youth activities are critical for the life of our parishes. To those preparing for Confirmation from Baltinglass, Stratford and Grangecon, (hands up!) I encourage you all to get involved in your local parish – become an altar server, sing in a choir or whatever might keep you engaged in your local parish to allow you to deepen your understanding of faith. Safeguarding in its proper understanding is not about having no activities and therefore no risks but having plenty of activities, properly supervised and organised. Our parishes are safe places for young people, in ways the parish is like an extension of the family.

Family is very important to us. On March 8th, Friday week, we will asked to vote on two referendums, one deals with ‘family’; the second with ‘care’. The family, based on the exclusive, life-long and life-giving public commitment of marriage, is the foundational cell of society and essential to the common good. The reality of the family corresponds to the unchanging plan of God for humanity. Of course there are families in all our parishes which are not founded on marriage. Pope Francis speaks of the “challenging mosaic made up of many different realities”. While marriage entails a public and legal commitment, the term ‘durable relationship’ is shrouded in legal uncertainty and open to wide interpretation. Various commentators have suggested that such a term risks leading to unforeseen and unintended consequences.

The second referendum addresses ‘care’. Contrary to recent commentary, the present constitutional provision emphatically does not state that a “woman’s place is in the home”, neither does it excuse men of their duties to the home and family. Is it reasonable to ask what benefit is it to Irish society to delete terms such as ‘woman’, ‘mother’ and ‘home’ from the Constitution? The State has failed to financially acknowledge tole of women in the home; once again there is no indication that there will be provision for the adequate financial remuneration of carers. The proposed term ‘strive to support’ seems to weaken any State constitutional responsibility.

I cannot emphasise more strongly how important it is to exercise our democratic right and vote. We can pride ourselves in a country that guarantees that freedom to vote. The longer version of the Bishop’s Statement will be available on KandLe and all other platforms.