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Bishop Denis’s Address at a Day for Newly Appointed Principals – 28 February 2023, Mt St Anne’s

‘On This Day …’

I am told I am what is called a diarist. A diarist is someone who keeps a diary! I’ve been keeping one since 1973 – that’s 50 years of diaries! I recall the simpler entries in 1973, full of misspellings! “Visited Bigstown” that was code for the cousins. And then an addition some weeks later “We crashed the car”, Dadda wasn’t a bit impressed – it was only a skid into a ditch, the imagination of a ten year old!

I loved the Drivetime pocket histories of Ireland entitled ‘On This Day’ presented by the broadcaster Myles Duncan. They were a quirky take on history, always worth hearing! The oldest known diaries I think are those associated with the great explorers.

A quick look at my own collection beginning …

On This Day – 28th February 2013 – I was doing fasting calls, anticipating the First Friday. I celebrated Mass in a Nursing Home and arranged First Reconciliation for the Educate Together school in my parish. I was then PP in St. Mary’s, Drogheda.

On This Day in 2014, I became Patron of the Laois Hospice Foundation and visited Heywood School in Abbeyleix arranging their Graduation Mass some months later.

On This Day in 2015, I celebrated Confirmation for 82 in Kill and later for 27 in Ardclough. I recall the Confirmation letter from one of the Ardclough confirmandi offering to wash my car, it was a business the young 12 year old had started. I imagine today he is running several car-washes!

On This Day in 2016, I celebrated Mass for all our School Boards in the Cathedral and in the afternoon had a gathering for World Youth Day in Solas Bhríde, Kildare.

On This Day in 2017, I was here in this very room in Mount St. Anne’s at a day long Diocesan Gathering with our Priests and Deacons.

On This Day in 2018, we were experiencing the Beast from the East, I spoke with Fr. Thomas, who was then in Myshall/Clonegal, cancelling Confirmations in Myshall and Drumphea, and later I cancelled Askea and Benekerry. Drumphea would weeks later be confirmed at the 8.30pm Saturday Vigil Mass, a ceremony still remembered by parents and confirmandi!

On This Day in 2019, I celebrated Confirmation in Suncroft – 42 were confirmed.

On This Day in 2020, I issued the first list of precautions around coronavirus. I would later confirm 75 young people in Our Lady & St. David’s, Naas and 40 later in the Church of the Irish Martyrs, Ballycane.

On This Day in 2021, I was a patient in the University Hospital, Waterford and we will pass on that one!

On This Day last year, I spent most of the day recording in the iCatholic Studios in Leopardstown and then later preparing for this event, which was to take place in the Killeshin Hotel the following day.

And that’s only the last ten years! Why am I telling you all this? Keep a diary, it can come in very handy. We forget things, we are very busy. And this room is full of the busiest people!

Pope St. John XXIII is reputed to have said: “See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little”. It’s powerful advice. You could do worse than heed it. A friend of mine used to have it framed on his wall when we worked together in Cathedral House, Mullingar. The poster I liked best from my seminary days that always found its way with blue-tack onto my walls through all my seven years: “Bibles that are fallen apart are usually read by those who aren’t”. I’m afraid my bible is still that little bit too intact!

You are a newly appointed Principal and that is what brings you here today to Mount St. Anne’s. I congratulate each one of you. I thank those of you who are generously in the role of Acting Principal; I thank our Chairpersons who are present, your role is critically important in the school and I thank you for saying Yes to being Chair. I still recall the letter sent to me by Bishop Emeritus Colm O’Reilly of Ardagh & Clonmacnoise ten years ago when I was announced as Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin. It was a short note that simply said “thank you for your generosity in saying Yes”, the yes was to becoming the 24th Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

The Diocesan Education Council members, many of them are present here today (Geralyn, Hazel, Paula, Patricia & Ann) and have different roles as the day unfolds. I find our meetings invaluable with their advice, their counsel, their direction. Our Diocesan Education Council is chaired by Fr. Thomas and resourced by both Maeve and Bryan who are very well known to all of you. I thank Maeve, Bryan, Br. Camillus, these are names and numbers you should have on your speed-dial! They follow a long tradition in Kildare & Leighlin where our Primary Schools are always given huge support, names like Sr. Evelyn Byrne, Fr. Frank MacNamara and Fr. Tom Dooley immediately come to mind.

On This Day in 2007, I was dealing most of the day with a persistent group who wanted to set up a Child Care facility adjacent to one of our schools then, my port of call was to the patron, because what looks like a good idea can bring with it many complexities. I mention 2007 because it was that year that the late Bishop Jim Moriarty using the programme ‘Wellsprings’ expanded the Diocesan CPSMA Group. I was glad to further develop the group into our Diocesan Education Council in 2013, with the most recent members joining the group: Eimear Hennessy from Scoil Bhríde, Clane and David O’Brien from the Heath, Portlaoise.  

Back to keeping that diary, back to remembering those who sat at that desk before you, back to being conscious you are one in a line, there are things in your in-tray that most likely were in the in-tray of those before you. It doesn’t mean you do nothing, it just means you stay calm, surround yourself with supports. Take advice and remember “See everything, overlook as great deal, correct a little”. And don’t forget to buy yourself a good bible, I recommend the Revised New Jerusalem, that you can dip in every so often to get a line, a verse or a passage that speaks to a moment.

Patronage means support and support comes in many ways. The Diocesan Education Council is but one example of that support, the availability of Maeve and Bryan and Br. Camillus is a huge other one, days like this and the many zoom gatherings offered are further examples.

There are 169 Catholic Schools (most but not all under my patronage), 35,555 pupils, 100 Administrative Principals and 62 Teaching Principals. And we know those figures are only a part of the picture. I want to thank you for applying for the Principalship, I want to thank you for acting up, I want to thank you for volunteering to be a Chair. On behalf of the Diocese and those who have gone before me and who will come after me, I say “míle buíochas go leir”. I know you’ll have a great day. It’s a day about making connections and staying connected. Many thanks!