In his Chrism Mass homily Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin, reflected on priesthood and the nature of commitment. Speaking in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo on Wednesday evening, Bishop Doran described commitment as ‘the gift of myself in the service of others’.
In his homily, Bishop Doran welcomed all those who care for the sick at home and in hospital. He said ‘Like parents, these days, doctors and nurses seem to have more to do and less time to do it. Yet we depend on you to make sure that the holistic care of people remains central to our healthcare institutions.’
Bishop Doran recalled a scene from the movie Wit in which a nurse applies cream to the hands of her patient, saying, ‘It is a simple gesture and it is not just about the cream. It is a reminder that, in the midst of all the treatment, people need tenderness. They need the healing that comes from the touch of another human being, who sees them as more than just a body in need of repair.‘
He continued, ‘In the Gospel of Saint Luke, we read the story of the Good Samaritan who brings the wounded traveller to a place of safety and pours oil on his wounds. It is the same kind of symbolic gesture. Healing is part of the ministry of Jesus and it is has also been part of the mission of the Church. Here in this diocese, we can be particularly grateful for the generous commitment of religious sisters, such as the Sisters of Mercy, the Nazareth Sisters and the Daughters of Wisdom, who have given particular witness to the healing presence of Jesus down through the years. Today, the sisters are greatly reduced in numbers, but the Church continues to be active in healthcare through the dedicated service of so many Catholic lay people. It is no harm for us to remember this evening that, when you were baptised, you were anointed with Chrism, the oil which symbolises being entrusted with a mission. This is not an empty gesture; it is a sign that, in each one of you, Jesus the healer is present.
‘In the Sacrament of Anointing, in a gesture very much like that of the nurse or the Good Samaritan, the Church celebrates the healing presence of Jesus through the ministry of the priest. This is not an empty gesture either. It is rooted in our faith that Jesus is alive and that he still cares for the sick, as he did during his earthly ministry.’
Bishop Doran reflected on the nature of commitment and obedience, saying, ‘In our modern culture, there is a certain negativity about obedience and it is certainly unhelpful if we think about it as a control mechanism. Obedience is really about letting go of my need to always have things my own way. It is about the gift of myself in the service of others. Obedience to the bishop is not about the bishop, it is about sharing with the bishop in the mission of caring for God’s people.’
‘As a bishop, I must say I sometimes feel a bit sad that the nature of my own work is less directly connected with the pastoral care of people, but I take some comfort from the possibility of being able to support and encourage you the priests, who are so generous in your commitment to the communities in which you serve. I want to express to you, both on my own behalf, but more importantly, on behalf of the people of the diocese a deep appreciation for the warmth and generosity that you bring to your ministry, especially at this time, when the life of the Church is undergoing such significant change. A particular word of thanks to those priests who have come to us on loan from missionary societies and from other dioceses overseas. In order to be with us and to share in the mission of our diocese, you have taken time away from the diocese or missionary society to which you belong, through the promises of your ordination. We are very grateful to you for that act of generous solidarity.’
He concluded his homily, saying, ‘Finally, speaking of solidarity, I am very conscious that no diocese stands alone. Every diocese is part of the Universal Church. It is appropriate this evening that, as a diocese we would join in solidarity with the Christian communities who are being persecuted for their faith in various part of the world, and particularly with the Coptic Christians who, in a particular way, during these days, share in the cross of Jesus Christ. May they also experience the joy of His Resurrection.’