More than 500 people gathered in Saint Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan on Sunday 10 June for a Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the ordination of Bishop Joseph Duffy, Bishop Emeritus of Clogher.
Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator of Clogher, was chief celebrant at the Mass, which was concelebrated by more than thirty priests from across the diocese. Bishop Duffy was joined on the occasion by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh, and Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop Emeritus of Clogher. Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Right Rev John McDowell, was also in attendance as a guest on the day. Bishop Duffy is a former Chair of the Council for Communications of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Martin Long, as director, represented the Catholic Communications office at the Mass.
Music during the Mass was led by Saint Macartan’s Cathedral Folk Choir.
In his homily during the Mass Father Paddy McGinn said, ‘At Ordination we are asked “are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of priesthood as a conscientious fellow-worker with the Bishop in caring for the Lord’s flock?”
‘One of the most popular images of pastoral care is that of the shepherd who leads his large flock and protects them from harm. At the time of Jesus, flocks of sheep spent most of their time in vast open uplands. The shepherd’s care and courage were legendry. The sheep often strayed onto private lands, so the shepherd was often unpopular, but the good shepherd tends his sheep to the point where he is willing to give up his own life for them. This image that Jesus uses about himself – one of care and sacrifice – is one that sums up his practice of leadership: his own life matters less than the life of the sheep.’
He added, ‘This Gospel image of the Good Shepherd reflects the pastoral care of Bishop Duffy for the past sixty years. He has lived his priesthood by being faithful to the Gospel and working hard, dutifully and sensitively. The past sixty years have seen profound change in our culture, Church and society. The Second Vatican Council was difficult for many, but Bishop Duffy embraced the change. The renewal of the liturgy and the general high standards of liturgical practice in the Diocese of Clogher owes much to his commitment.’
Father McGinn continued, ‘Over the past sixty years, there have been many crosses. The way of the Church has in many ways been the way of the cross, but God’s Word has sustained us and helped to remind us that the cross is at the centre of the Christian story – but not the end of the Christian story. Bishop Duffy’s open-mindedness, forward-thinking and pastoral leadership has guided us all through challenging times – times of traumatic troubles in the north, together with difficult and politically sensitive situations. His work in the area of Ecumenism has been outstanding and noteworthy and it is great for us to have Bishop John McDowell, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, with us here today.
He concluded, ‘Today, we thank God for Bishop Duffy’s contribution to making the Church a house of the Father where there is a place for everyone with all their problems. We wish him continued health and God’s blessing for many more years to come.’
Speaking to the congregation at the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Duffy said, ‘My dear friends, we are all in this celebration together, you are the community of my priesthood. You may not have averted to it, but each of you here today, whatever your circumstances or state of mind, has a bond with me which is supportive, which is of mutual benefit. Being a priest is, of course, a personal vocation, but it’s also a public badge of solidarity with the entire human race, especially those who are considered the less fortunate of this world. We know that they were the main concern of the Master.’
He continued, ‘Last week, we were blessed to have Cardinal Seán Brady, also present here today, direct our clergy retreat in Dromantine, County Down. He spoke of the Magnificat, that wonderful prayer of Mary when she visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, thanking God for the gift of her own Son. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the unique role of Mary, how she, a young woman, without any special status in the community of Nazareth that we know of, was entrusted by God with the Saviour of the World.
‘The example is there for all of us, especially for priests. Just as Mary was called by God and sustained in her vocation, God’s power is at work in us. This does not mean that we ever understand more than a fraction of his ways or that we have a trouble-free life. Indeed, at times it must occur to you as it does to me, that the whole business of preaching the Gospel in today’s world seems an impossible venture.’
Bishop Duffy concluded his address by saying, ‘As a priest, I have often been asked: would you do it again? At the superficial level, I can only say: I don’t know. But when I think again, and the more I dig into the subject, the more I must say sincerely that I don’t see, and have never seen, any other option for me. It is as if the matter is mysteriously taken out of my hands, certainly out of the realm of discussion or conversation, however serious and sympathetic. This means that when I try to explain to you why I am a priest, I have to fall back on the language of faith, which many good people find so difficult to express these days.’
Bishop Duffy continued, ‘What I am saying is that I sincerely believe that my priesthood has been God’s gift to me, a gift away beyond my capacity to describe, a gift for which I have staked my life and for which I am deeply grateful.’
As part of the celebrations Bishop Duffy’s new book Saint Tiarnach of Clones was launched by Monsignor Dick Mohan, President of the Clogher Historical Society, PP of Clones and former Prior of Lough Derg.
For more information and pictures from the Mass of Thanksgiving, see www.clogherdiocese.ie.