Read some of the remarks by the newly ordained Bishop of Killaloe, Bishop Kieran O’Reilly and the full text of the homily given at the Ordination Mass in Ennis on 29 August 2010.

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Remarks from Bishop Kieran O’Reilly

….. Bishop Willie, it is not possible for me to express adequately the gratitude that is due to you for your ministry as priest and bishop. You have shepherded the flock of Killaloe since 1994. I know you are held in high esteem by the people of the Diocese and, indeed, well beyond the Diocese, not only for your public presence but also for your quiet ministry of kindness and compassion to so many people. Your leadership and commitment to the development of the church in the Diocese, to ensure that it is alive and relevant to our times, through the reorganisation of pastoral areas of the Diocese, will be, I believe, your lasting and enduring legacy. I hope over the coming months and years to build on what is now in place and with the collaboration of all the faithful to ensure that the gifts and the talents, very often hidden, of the members of our communities are brought to the fore for the good of our faith communities. Thank you Bishop Willie for your kindness and welcome to me over the past months since my appointment was announced….

… I welcome to our celebration those who come from cultures very different from our own. The Church in Ireland has been particularly blessed by your presence. You come to Ireland to build a future for yourselves and your families – you come from Africa and Asia; the Americas and countries of the new Europe. You bring a rich liturgical background from your home faith communities. I hope that our Church in Ireland, not only here in Killaloe, will be continually enriched by your presence. In time, I believe that one of the legacies of the recent years in Ireland will be the presence of people from other cultures in our faith communities. As our missionaries were warmly received and welcomed in many of your countries, I hope that you, too, will experience a similar warm welcome here in the Church and be fully involved in all aspects of our Church life.

In his well known work, the poet Robert Frost speaks about choosing the “Road less travelled. Perhaps that is the road that we, members of the Church are asked to travel into the future, a pilgrim road. A road that offers us opportunities and challenges in preaching the message of love and hope brought by Jesus Christ. While it may be the road less travelled – without prestige and power, different from what we have known in the past, for us, disciples of the Risen Lord, it is the road to Emmaus where we journey together with our Lord as he unfolds the mystery of life and love that we have received though his life, death and resurrection.

To the priests of the diocese and their many co-workers I thank you for your steadfastness and witness in these times through your devotion to your ministry and to the people with whom you live and work. St Paul asks that we “fan into a flame” the gift we have received from the Holy Spirit. I pray that together we will journey forward in hope to make the Lord more present in our world and fan into a flame the gift of faith we have received.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to all who have joined in prayer throughout the Diocese in preparation for this day and who have extended a warm welcome to me since my appointment was announced. I look forward to working closely with you and please continue to pray for me.


Fr O’Reilly was born in Cork on 8 August 1952 to Seán and Theresa O’Reilly. Educated at Presentation Brothers and Scoil Chríost Rí, he entered the Society of African Missions in Wilton, Cork in 1970. Fr O’Reilly was ordained for the Society on 17 June 1978 and he served in Liberia for two years before studying for a licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. From 1984 to 1989 Fr Kieran lectured in Scripture at the major seminary in Ibadan, Nigeria. Since 1990 he has served on the Irish and International Councils of the Society of African Missions. At the time of the announcement of his appointment as the next bishop for the Diocese of Killaloe Fr Kieran was serving his second term as Superior General of the Society. As a member of the Union of Superiors General Fr O’Reilly has attended and contributed to two Synods of Bishops in Rome.

His Episcopal motto will be “Your Word is Truth”.

Ordination Mass of Fr Kieran O’Reilly SMA as Bishop of Killaloe

Homily of Father Tim Cullinane SMA

At the moment it may be winter in the Irish Church and in the country at many levels but spring will come because Christ our hope has risen and is always with us. Indeed, the first green shoots are already visible, in the Church and in the country as a whole, for those who wish to see them.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ

We have just heard the mandate from the Holy See appointing Fr Kieran O’Reilly as the new bishop of Killaloe to which you have given your warm assent. As a member of the SMA, on this special occasion, I feel a bit like the father of the bride. Fr Kieran has been a member of our family for nearly forty years. After Ordination he worked first in Liberia and after his Biblical Studies he taught in the Major Seminary in Ibadan, Nigeria. Since 2001 he has been our Superior General leading an international group of over 1000 members from Europe, America, Asia and now in increasing numbers from Africa. Today, with the Church, we are giving him in marriage to a new family, the Diocese of Killaloe. While he will always be a member of our family, the relationship will now be different as he becomes part of a new family. When the news of his appointment came, we were certainly surprised. Fr Kieran himself was surprised and I am sure the diocese of Killaloe was also surprised. However, I am not surprised that Kieran chose, for this occasion, the prayer of St Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians, which is today’s second reading. There is a wonderful old lady in Ibadan, Nigeria, now over 90 years of age – we call her Auntie Katie. She told me that when Fr Kieran was teaching in the Major Seminary that he led a small scripture group of lay people, of which she was a member. One day, she asked him if there was one piece of Scripture that she should read what would it be? And he gave her this prayer of St Paul, “that Christ may live in our hearts through faith and that we may live lives built on love,” and she told me that this passage, which she quotes by heart, has made a big difference to her life ever since.

Today the passage may be seen as a mission statement for the bishop-elect Fr Kieran and the diocese of Killaloe as they begin a new life together because the purpose of the Church is to help people encounter the Christ that St Paul talks about in the reading. In his recent letter to the Church in Ireland, Pope Benedict said, “a young person’s experience of Church should always bear fruit in a personal and life giving encounter with Jesus Christ within a loving community.” Of his own encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul later wrote, “I believe that nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme knowledge of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For Him I have accepted the loss of everything and look on everything else as so much rubbish, if only I can have Christ… All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” Being a member of the Church is about having a similar encounter as Paul had. Everything else is secondary. While we can meet Christ anywhere, the Church is meant to be a special meeting place with him. It is meant to be our road to Damascus, the place where we meet him as Paul did. That is why Christ founded the Church. Through the Church he has given us the Mass, the sacraments, the word of God and a Spirit guided leadership, who as the instruction for the ordination of a bishop puts it,” have been entrusted with the task of witnessing to the truth of the gospel and fostering a spirit of justice and holiness.” Unfortunately, at the moment in Ireland, we know that some people’s experience of Church and the way the Good News of Jesus Christ was at times presented did not lead to a life-giving encounter with him. In one of his poems, Brendan Keneally, gives a disturbing picture of the way that what should have been the good news of Jesus Christ was sometimes transmitted:

I stood with a catechismal God
In the gravelled yard of the National School
In Religion Class, Mulcahy taught us God
Testing with his fingers the sally rod
Explain the Immaculate Conception, Maguire
And tell us about the Mystical Body
Maguire failed…Mulcahy shoved him stuttering across the desks
You can guess what came next.

Having encountered not this God of Mulcahy, but the God of love, made visible in the person of Jesus Christ, we will be moved to love and to form a community of love which the Church is meant to be. We do this, as a Church and as individuals by who we are as much as by what we say. Pope Paul VI in one of his letters said, “modern man is more impressed by witnesses than by preachers and will only listen to preachers if they witness to what they preach.” St Francis made the same point when he said to his followers, “preach at all times, if necessary use words.” In his letter to the Philippians Paul says, “have that mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. We are called to have the mind of Jesus and to act as He would act if he were in our situation. There is a story of a parish priest who had always been on his own and then got a curate, something he was not too happy about. When the curate arrived he decided to take a month’s holidays but went away worried about how the curate would manage in the parish in his absence. When he returned he asked the curate how he had got on. He was happy to hear from the curate that things had gone well and you could see the relief in his face but then the curate said, “there was just one thing, while you were away there was funeral in the parish and a Protestant in the town, a Mr Montgomery, came for the funeral Mass. When I was giving out communion I could see in the distance Mr Montgomery kneeling at the altar rails. I did not know what to do and I prayed that the ground would open under my feet but then an inspiration came to me, ‘what would Jesus do in this situation?” You could see the change in the parish priest’s face as he said, “Oh no, you didn’t, did you? ” Now I am not saying what the curate did or even what Jesus would have done but what I am saying is that as a Church and as individuals whose mission it is to be the face, the eyes, the mouth, the heart of Jesus to the world we should be always asking this question, what would Jesus do in this situation? All the failures in the Church are because we have not always asked that question and we have not always done, what Christ would have done and would want us to do.

In the same letter to the Philippians, St Paul says that Jesus emptied himself taking the form of a servant and he did not just say it, he did it. At the Last Supper, he knelt down, took a towel and a basin of water and washed the feet of the apostles and afterwards said to them, “if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you surely ought to wash one another’s feet.” In the instruction, I mentioned earlier, the bishop-elect is reminded that, “the title of bishop is not one of honour but of function, and therefore a bishop should strive to serve rather than to rule. Such is the counsel of the master: the greater should behave as if he were the least and the leader as if he were the one to serve.”

Having encountered Christ, he wants us to be part of His mission to the world as St Paul was. What was that mission? Christ set it out very clearly in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry using the words of the prophet Isaiah which we heard in the first reading. This too is the mission of the Church today and by Church, I do not mean just bishops and priests but all the baptized. Empowered by the Spirit of Christ, we are called to bring the good news of God’s love to the poor who have never even seen the tail of the Celtic Tiger. Christ comes to us today not just in Holy Communion but in the distressing disguise of the poor. Mother Theresa said, on one occasion, that when she went to Mass in the morning she met Christ under the appearance of bread and wine and that when she went out during the day to the slums of Calcutta she met Christ under the appearance of the poor. I was once in a church where the bronze doors of the tabernacle were covered with tiny faces – the faces of men and women of all ages and conditions but mostly poor and sick, symbolizing Jesus in the Eucharist looking out through their tiny eyes and faces at the worshipping community. Material poverty is a bad thing but Mother Theresa said on another occasion that the poorest people of all are those who have not experienced love, the love of God or of other people. The Church is also to bring liberty to captives, to those imprisoned by sin, hatred, addiction, prejudice and discrimination. It has a mission to bring sight to the blind, to those who have lost their way in life and for whom life has lost its meaning and lead them to Christ, the way, the truth and the life.

There is, especially in the aftermath of the Celtic tiger, a restlessness in people today as they search for happiness and a meaning and purpose in life. There is a stall in a market in Nigeria which purports to sell everything you would need to make you happy. Over it is a sign saying, “if shopping does not make you happy, you have been shopping in the wrong places.” Today many people are shopping in the wrong places for happiness and for a meaning and purpose in life, which only Christ can give. St Augustine discovered this a long time ago. After shopping in many places for happiness he at last found it in Christ and wrote, “you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” When people were leaving Jesus because they found his teaching too difficult, Jesus asked his disciples, ‘will you also go away also?’, Peter replied for all of them: “to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life” or as Fr Kieran’s Episcopal motto puts it, “your words are truth.”

In his letter to the Irish Church, Pope Benedict asks us “to remember the rock from which we are hewn.” That rock is Christ, coming to us, in a special way, through our own faith tradition passed on from our forefathers and going right back to St Patrick. Examples of this long tradition in the diocese of Killaloe are very well illustrated in the brochure for today’s celebration. This faith tradition is the rock from which we are hewn and the reservoir of faith that we are called to drink from in a world where there are many attractive but polluted pools of water. Fr Kieran is fortunate to be entering a diocese with this long tradition of faith and following a Bishop, Bishop Willie Walsh, who has a special gift of showing forth the compassionate face of Christ to the poor and marginalised.

As I said earlier, the Church is all of us: lay people, priests, religious and bishops. To make Christ and his Church come alive in ourselves in our diocese, in our parish, in our pastoral areas and clusters we all need to work together. The Instruction calls for a listening Church. It calls on the people to listen to the bishop and to remember the words of Christ to the apostles, “whoever listens to you listens to me,” but also calls on the bishop to, “encourage the faithful to work with him in his apostolic task and to “listen willingly to what they have to say.” Speaking of the role of the laity, Cardinal Newman who lived for a time in Ireland and who is to be beatified next month when the Pope visits Britain, said on one occasion, “I want a laity who know their religion, who enter into it, who know where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent well instructed laity.” For this to happen, all of us laity, priests, religious and bishops need first of all to listen to God in prayer.

For the Church to grow, most of all we need the help of Christ and his power is available to us. The gospel chosen for today’s ceremony is the prayer of Jesus for the apostles at the Last Supper. It is also a prayer for Bishops, as successors of the apostles. In the context of today’s celebration it is in a special way a prayer for Fr Kieran. It should be very encouraging for Kieran that Christ is praying for him and through the laying on of hands of the bishops Christ is laying his hands on him and giving him the same Holy Spirit that he gave to the apostles. I would ask you too pray for him not just today but also into the future as he is entering the Irish Church at a time when the Church is having a Good Friday experience. However, as a Church, we do need, especially at the moment, to remember that after Good Friday came Easter Sunday and new life with Christ rising, wounded but glorious.

There is a small book called “The Practice of the Presence of God” written by a 17th century Carmelite brother, Brother Lawrence who spent most of his time washing dishes in the monastery kitchen. One day in the middle of winter he was very sad and depressed and looking out the window he saw the ground covered with snow and frost, the trees dead with no leaves on them or birds singing on their branches; everything seemed dead reflecting exactly how he felt, and perhaps that is how some people feel about the Irish Church at the moment, but then it struck him that in a few months time it would be spring and there would be new life, the days would be getting longer, the trees would put out buds and leaves and birds would be singing on their branches and this lifted his spirit. At the moment it may be winter in the Irish Church and in the country at many levels but spring will come because Christ our hope has risen and is always with us. Indeed, the first green shoots are already visible, in the Church and in the country as a whole, for those who wish to see them.

The Church, as Vatican II tells us, is missionary by it very nature and towards the end of the instruction that we quoted from earlier, the new bishop is reminded that he is being incorporated into the College of Bishops and should therefore have “a constant care for all the churches and gladly come to the aid and support of churches in need”. This concern is already being expressed by the diocese of Killaloe with personnel from the diocese working in South America and formerly in Zimbabwe. It is also being expressed over the years by your support through prayer, money and personnel for the SMA and other missionary congregations. On this day, I am very conscious of one SMA priest from this diocese who was with me in the seminary, Fr John Hannon from near Newmarket-on-Fergus, who has made a difference to the lives of many people in Africa. With his passion for justice for the poor and marginalised, he certainly lived out the first reading of today and like Christ before him suffered the consequences by being brutally murdered in Nairobi in November 2004. May he rest in peace.

I began by comparing today’s ordination celebration to a wedding. A wedding is a very joyful occasion and with the Psalmist we are called to “sing a new song to the Lord and ring out our joy.” This should be easy here in Ennis for Clare is noted for its music and singing. It is good to see so many people, lay and clerical, with different ministries in the Church and in the nation answering the invitation to be present and to join in this celebration. The occasion is unique because of the presence of such a large contingent both of Fr Kieran’s SMA brothers from all parts of the world, including our new Superior General, Fr Jean-Marie Guillaume and a large number representing the Church in Africa, including colleagues and former students of Fr Kieran led by Archbishop Job, the President of the Nigerian Episcopal Conference. Africa often gets a bad press in the western media but those of us who have lived for an extended period in Africa have a different story. One cannot but be enriched by the welcome of the people, their sense of hospitality, their sense of community, their active involvement in the Church which is at the moment undergoing a springtime, but most of all by their zest for life, their sense that God is good and very near to us, that life is good and should be celebrated, sung and danced about. The presence of so many of you here today, shows your high regard for Kieran who has also been part of your family and gives the occasion an African flavour, though we cannot promise that the ceremony will go on for over four hours as it most certainly would in Africa.

The occasion is also special because of the presence of Fr Kieran’s family, especially his father Seán and his mother Theresa. We thank God that they have lived to see this day. It was they who gave Kieran the gift of life and the faith that he brought to Africa and the work of the SMA. Now they are giving him to the diocese of Killaloe to be their bishop. You have blessed us with Kieran. May God bless you a hundredfold in return.

Finally, as a Church and a nation with a long tradition of faith going back to St Patrick, let us end on a note of hope with these words from the letter to the Hebrews, “with so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us,” including Sts Peter and Paul, St Flannan and St Kieran, “let us throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily and keep running in the race we have started. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.”