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Homily of Bishop Denis at the Ecumenical Service for the World Ploughing Championships 2022

World Ploughing – Ecumenical Service:                                                             18.09.22

St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Portlaoise @ 6.30pm

Words of Welcome:

It is my very pleasant duty to welcome you to this Ecumenical Service as we prepare for both the National & World Ploughing Championships during the coming week at Ratheniska. The National Ploughing Championships began in 1931 in Athy, County Kildare. The World Ploughing Championships began at Workington, Cumberland in England in 1952, with the first world contest in Canada in 1953.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Ratheniska will host the 67th World Ploughing Contest when twenty-five countries will compete for the coveted titles and trophies. On behalf of Msgr. John Byrne and his team here, I warmly welcome each of you to St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Portlaoise this Sunday evening. I welcome Reverend Paul Mooney, the Church of Ireland Dean of Ferns and Commissary of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory and Archdeacon of Ossory & Leighlin who joins me here on the sanctuary.

Our Ecumenical Ceremony also incorporates a Parish Harvest Thanksgiving, as together we give thanks for the fruits of the earth, mindful that we are very much now in the Season of Creation.


The World Ploughing Contest has been held in the Republic of Ireland on 5 previous occasions: 1954 – Killarney, 1973 & 1981 – both in Wexford, 1996 & 2006 both in Carlow.  This is the 6th time we are hosting it.  The contest was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic and it was to be held in Russia this year but due to the circumstances there, the National Ploughing Association decided to step forward and offer to host it. And to do so within a record time of fieldwork and preparation. They are owed a huge debt of gratitude.

The World Ploughing Association has among its main objectives to foster and preserve the art and improve the skill of ploughing the land, while also fostering a vigorous spirit of cooperation and enterprise in producing food for an increasing world population. In their own words they see their purpose as the material and moral betterment of society. The fundamental problem is that of growing enough food for all, and anything and everything that tends to the betterment of agriculture adds to the betterment of humankind.

There is nothing more spectacular than watching a plough turn over a sod and the seagulls swooping down as soon as the sod settles. I always say there is no greater friend to the environment than a good conscientious farmer. A farmer knows his land. A farmer knows its capacity. A farmer respects the cycle of nature.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us in the first reading that “swords will be beaten into ploughshares[1] and “spears into pruning hooks[2]. We have witnessed the devastating force of war on a country like Ukraine. I regret we do not have anyone representing Ukraine at this competition in the coming days; I assume national and regional finals were very low in the pecking order when you are being bombarded by missiles. Let us pray this evening for the people of Ukraine, while not on the tractors or guiding the plough on this contest, they are very much part of our communities and parishes and have enriched them accordingly. In the same respect it is a joy to see a competitor here from Kosovo. In itself it shows there is life after the destructive forces of war have passed.

Luke’s text is a teaching of the words of the Lord’s prayer and that request “give us each day our daily bread[3]. Let us remember those who hunger as we exploit resources and waste food. And here we include the many countries where too many are living below the minimum standard of nutrition. It is incumbent on all of us to respect this planet, globally and locally, for future generations. The cry of the earth is the cry of the poor. Pope Francis has offered us great leadership in this respect. He sees it as the defining issue of this generation. Some of you come from parts of the world where the effects of climate change are stark and bleak, let us all be responsible in facing up to our responsibilities to our marginalised brothers and sisters. A global gathering of the most proficient plough men and women is an opportunity to take stock when we return back home and ask is there more we could be doing to protect, enrich and cultivate this common home we all share. Amen.      

[1] Is.2:4

[2] ibid

[3] Lk.11:3