His Holiness Pope Francis has appointed Father Paul Connell, a priest of the Diocese of Meath, as the new Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois. The news of this Episcopal appointment was announced by Monsignor Julien Kaboré, Chargé d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Ireland, in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois yesterday at 11am, followed by Mass in the Cathedral.
During Father Paul’s address on his new appointment, the bishop-elect said, “As we gather this morning on Spy Wednesday in the midst of the holiest of weeks in the Church calendar, there is no one more surprised to be here than I am. When I was asked early last week by Monsignor Julien to come to see him at the Nunciature in Dublin, I was rather hoping it was for the purpose of briefing him on an educational issue. Given my presence here today you can see that the Lord had something else in mind! Monsignor Julien was most gentle and kind in relaying the news to me that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, wished to appoint me as the new Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois in succession to Archbishop Francis Duffy.
“I am most grateful to the Administrator of the diocese, Father Tom Healy, for his gracious warm welcome and encouragement. Over the past fifteen months he has served this diocese with great commitment and generosity. My grateful thanks to Father James McKiernan and his team here in Saint Mel’s Cathedral for their help and support and in particular the organisation of today’s event. I am acutely aware that I have added greatly to their burden on this the busiest of weeks. Finally thank you all for coming here this morning.”
Bishop-elect Paul Connell, a native of Mullingar, Co Westmeath, was born on 27 January 1958, the second of four children to Thomas and Philomena Connell. He began his primary education with Mrs Katherine Mullaly before attending Saint Mary’s CBS primary school in Mullingar. In 1970, he commenced his secondary education in Saint Finian’s College, Mullingar, sitting his Leaving Certificate in 1975. From Saint Finian’s he entered Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he completed his seminary training in 1982. He was awarded a BA in 1978, followed by a BD in the Pontifical University in 1981. The following year he was recipient of the Gilmartin prize in Ecclesiastical History from the Pontifical University.
Bishop-elect Connell was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, on 20 June 1982. Following ordination, he was briefly attached to Rochfortbridge parish before being appointed to the staff of Saint Finian’s College, completing his Higher Diploma in Education in 1983. He became Vice-President of the College in 1989 and succeeded as President and Principal in 1998. From 1992 to 1994 he completed an evening Masters in Local History in NUI Maynooth, and was awarded a doctorate in history by the university in 2002. Subsequently, Bishop-elect Connell spent a number of years lecturing part-time in Ecclesiastical History at the Milltown Institute of Theology, Dublin, and has published a number of works in the area of local history.
Bishop-elect Connell remained as President and Principal of Saint Finian’s College until 2019. Under his direction the college became a co-educational secondary school in 2003, and its boarding school closed in 2007. In addition, he was President of the national support body for secondary schools, the Secretariat for Secondary Schools, from 2013 to 2018. In January 2019, he resigned his position as Principal of Saint Finian’s, whilst remaining as its President. This following his appointment as Executive Secretary of the Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference, based in Columba Centre of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. In 2020, he was appointed by Bishop Tom Deenihan, Bishop of Meath, as Chancellor of the Diocese of Meath.
Since his appointment to Saint Finian’s in 1982, Father Paul has held the position of chaplain in Saint Mary’s Hospital, Mullingar (Cluain Lir). For many years during the summer months he has worked in the dioceses of All Saints and Saint Gabriel’s in the Archdiocese of Miami, USA, and more recently in the parish of Saint Gregory, San Diego. In August 2021 he was appointed as Administrator of the Parish of Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.