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Homily of Bishop Denis celebrating Fr Ruairi O’Domhnaills Silver Jubilee

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A: 25.06.23
St. Conleth’s Church, Newbridge @ 11am
Silver Jubilee: Fr. Ruairí Ó’Domhnaill


We gather on this the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time. It’s the month when most of our priests celebrate their Ordination Anniversaries, with two-thirds of those anniversaries falling this very month.

This morning, here in the beautiful St. Conleth’s Church, Newbridge, we gather to honour the Silver Jubilee of Fr. Ruairí Ó’Domhnaill. Last Tuesday by date – June 20th – was Fr. Ruairí’s date of ordination twenty-five years ago! Fr. Ruairí we all wish you every blessing on this the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of your Ordination.

Matthew’s gospel carries the instruction to the twelve, opening with the reassurance: “Do not be afraid” . Many fears face those in ministry – fears of being unable, of being unworthy, of being inadequate but they subside when we come to realise the Lord is the One who actually works through us, without him we are nothing and can achieve nothing.

I warmly welcome all Fr. Ruairí’s family and friends who gather with us this day. And I include those who join us on the webcam. And indeed those who join us from their eternal home, especially Ruairí’s dear parents, Mary who died in January 2020 and Padraig who died in November 2022.

Gathering as a community of faith, let us call to mind our sins and pray for God’s love and mercy …


In 1936 a novel was published by the French writer Georges Bernanos entitled ‘The Diary of a Country Priest’. It tells the story of a young priest who keeps a diary of his experiences and struggles in his first parish in an isolated French village. The novel, divided into three parts, explores many themes including suffering, faith and humility. The young priest enjoys poor health but despite his weakness and the many gifts he feels he lacks, God’s grace shines through. A theme equally evidenced in our psalm just sung by the Gospel Choir ‘You Say’.

The Prophet Jeremiah says it beautifully, despite being attacked from every side, he declares “But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero” . There is no priest and Fr. Ruairí will be no different who doesn’t feel challenged at time, if we rely on our own resources, we flounder, but with the Lord at our side we can pull through. Before Jesus instructs the Twelve in the gospel, he begins: “Do not be afraid” . He walks with each one of us.

Fr. Ruairí was ordained in 1998. His first appointment was up this end to Naas where he was for seven years before being appointed onto the team here in Newbridge where he served until 2014. In 2014 I took him out of everyday parish ministry and assigned him into the role of full time vocations director, a role he relished in. A role he made his own.

Ruairí has done more than anyone to promote vocations and accompany prospective candidates as they discerned the Lord’s call in their life. In 2016, I appointed him into the Cathedral Presbytery, a year later he became Administrator. And then in 2020 I appointed him here to Newbridge to lead the team following Bishop Paul’s appointment to Achonry. Ruairí has a deep love of Our Lady, and she is very much part of his life and mission.

Staying with the vocations theme, a year has just begun especially dedicated to the promotion and encouragement of vocations to the diocesan priesthood. The theme is “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” with the tag line ‘Take the Risk for Christ’.

Fr. Ruairí took that risk in 1988; Fr. Joe in 1969; Fr. Michal in 2007; Fr. Eugen in 2015, Fr. Piotr in 2008, Fr. Joe Bulman OP in 1993 and Fr. Eamon Bourke in 1996. Taking a Risk for Christ is putting ourselves up front and out centre as the hands and feet of Christ working alongside wonderful lay people, for whom their faith remains very important to them.

At the moment across the diocese we are reflecting in the newly formed Pastoral Areas as how best together we might serve the Lord in a very different Ireland, a very different diocese. Within the Pastoral Areas are cluster groupings of parishes, for example Newbridge, Caragh and Allen are one such cluster. It’s important to work together, to work collaboratively. Long gone has to be the days when the life of a parish waxes or wanes with the personality of whoever the priest may be. It’s not about the priest, it’s about all of us, working together, co-responsible for our faith and the faith life of the community. It’s about all of us living out our baptismal calling.

When Priests are ordained, when Permanent Deacons, like Jim are invited forward, when the names of Confirmation Candidates are called out, the only response all are invited to give is ‘Present’. A Silver Jubilee is a celebration of twenty-five years of that presence, that response, in several parishes, in several appointments.

In every appointment, a priests vocation is endorsed and affirmed by the privileged intimacy he enjoys with those he serves. An intimacy where boundaries are respected. An intimacy where trust is core. An intimacy where ministry is affirmed.

I absolutely accept that the culture today is not near as conducive or receptive to religious vocations as in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s. There are less going to Sunday Mass, the pandemic has done a huge disservice to public worship and for some it has simply slipped off their radar. I want to encourage you all, including those on webcam, back to Mass. There is nothing to equal the physical gathering, when we feel able to do so.

The decline in the interest of things spiritual accompanied by sickening reports and enquires where the abuse of the most precious was uncovered has rightly so angered many, including our very good priests. Religion is not at the centre of society, we have been relegated to the side-lines but the voice of Church is still important and must be heard today. We need priests. And we need them very much in Kildare & Leighlin.

My message today if you are a parent or grandparent, a friend or a sibling and a young man confides in you, encourage them. If you think someone would make a good priest one day, hold them in your prayers and gently invite them to consider the priesthood.

No one more able, more interested and more tuned into the area of vocations than our Silver Jubilarian this day. If you want any more information speak directly to Fr. Ruairí. Every blessing and good wish Ruairí on this the Silver Celebration of his Ordination.