A shepherd from the flock

A shepherd from the flock At the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Larry Duffy as Bishop of Clogher were (L-R) Archbishop Eamon Martin, Bishop Joseph Duffy, Bishop Larry Duffy, Bishop Liam MacDaid, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo and Bishop Noel Treanor. ©Rory Geary
The ordination of Bishop Larry Duffy was a powerful expression of a deep faith in Clogher, writes Greg Daly


“He’s common sense down to his fingertips – a deeply spiritual man, but a very ordinary one,” a former parishioner of Ireland’s newest bishop said as the crowds struggled to make their way down the packed centre aisle of Monaghan’s St Macartan’s Cathedral to speak with and shake the hand of Bishop Larry Duffy. As for the homilies that the new bishop had preached as a parish priest, “he’d say more in three sentences than many others would say in maybe half an hour”.

Votes of confidence could hardly be more emphatic, and the ordination Mass was a powerful testimony for the faith life of a diocese glad to have “one of their own” succeed Dr Liam MacDaid as Bishop of Clogher, with a tightly-packed cathedral full of Clogher’s clergy and faithful.

Ireland’s bishops were there in force too, with all bar a handful present and with the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, presiding as chief ordaining prelate, assisted by papal nuncio Archbishop Jude Okolo and Bishop Duffy’s erstwhile classmate and fellow Monaghan-man, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor.


Ahead of the bishops’ arrival, Lough Derg Prior and Parish Priest of Pettigo Fr La Flynn guided those gathered in the hymns they’d be singing on the day, starting with ‘Priestly People’, a 1965 French hymn written to remind those gathered, as Archbishop Martin put it, “that all baptised people share in the mission of the Church”.

On a day that Castleblaney did Monaghan proud by almost taking the honours against Kilkenny’s Dunnamaggin side in the All-Ireland junior hurling club final, it seemed fitting to have a Castleblaney parishioner, Deslit Georg, read the first reading, with Edel Holland of Donagh then singing Psalm 39. Joe Kirke of Clones read the second reading from First Corinthians, and Deacon Martin Donnelly proclaimed the Gospel and Jesus’ call for the apostles to follow him and become fishers of men.

To the strains of the Veni Creator Spiritus the bishop-elect took his place at the foot of the sanctuary, facing Drs Martin, Okolo and Treanor, and diocesan administrator Msgr Joseph McGuinness read aloud the mandate from Pope Francis for the ordination of the new bishop.

“We have therefore considered, dear son, given your proven work for and commitment to the good of souls and also your human virtues, that you will be seen to be worthy to be raised to the office of bishop,” Msgr McGuinness read. “Accordingly, having consulted the Congregation for Bishops, and with our full Apostolic authority, we appoint you as Bishop of Clogher, with all the rights and obligations which the law confers.”

“Thanks be to God,” the crowd responded, and then Dr Martin began his homily, opening with how in1976 the young Larry Duffy had been ordained a priest in the very same cathedral where he was now to be ordained bishop. Mapping out the commitments he would be called upon to make, Dr Martin admitted that they can only be made with the help of God.

“It is only human to be anxious or uncertain about what lies ahead,” he said, stressing that “God knows our weakness and our capabilities, our sinfulness as well as our good points, but God still calls us forward – to do his will.”

Praising the bishop-elect’s decades of faithful service on both sides of the Irish border and in Kenya, Dr Martin described becoming a bishop as a “call within a call”, and called for the new bishop to keep encouraging his people.

Recalling the words of Pope Francis and Pope St Paul VI about the Church’s need for a Pentecostal spirit that rejuvenates it, the archbishop said: “This is not a time for us to yearn for, or mourn for, a bygone era, but to prepare and till the soil for the ‘new springtime’.”


He was convinced, he said, that the Spirit is already at work in Ireland preparing for this, and that the country’s clergy’s task is to “walk with” the lay faithful and jointly discern what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Ireland. Pointing to the Gospel reading where the apostles had fished all night and caught nothing, he said sometimes God wants us to try new things, even if this means “letting go, leaving behind some of the ways we have been doing things in the past”.

Dr Martin warned against clergy thinking themselves alone in this task, and said now is the time to encourage and form the lay faithful, most especially young people, to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He stressed his constant call for clerical and lay vocations, but said it’s vital too that every baptised Catholic should realise that they have their own personal vocations, and called on those present to imagine what it would be like if they all answered the Lord’s call and became part of a new evangelisation in Ireland.


After a public examination and a recitation of his commitments, the bishop-elect prostrated himself before the altar while the Litany of the Saints was prayed around him, and then the new bishop was consecrated, with bishop after bishop laying hands upon him ahead of the prayer of ordination, anointing, robing, and the bestowing of ring, mitre and crozier.

Lest there be any doubt about the range of people gathered at the ceremony, an impression array proceeded to greet the new bishop, starting with the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Dr John McDowell. Fr Seán Mulligan represented Clogher’s clergy, Fr Joseph Mwongela greeted him on behalf of the Diocese of Kitui in Kenya, and the bishop’s cousin Fr Lawrence Duffy approached as a representative of the many priests who came from diocesan families.

Sr Pauline Haughian from Carrickmacross represented the various religious working in the diocese, with Ederney’s Veronica Baird representing the diocese’s pastoral councils and three generations of the Hagan family from Clogher parish representing the diocese’s laity in general.

Francis and Jo MacDonald from Castleblaney represented those with special needs and their carers, Jacqueline Sultan Sultan from St Patrick’s Accommodation Centre represented migrants and refugees, and Deirdre Boyle from Aghadrumsee represented the army of volunteers who work to ensure Ireland’s parishes are safe places for children and vulnerable adults.

After the Creed, led by Bishop Duffy, the gifts were brought up by family and friends of Dr Duffy and parishioners from across the diocese, and following Communion and a procession around the cathedral Dr Duffy would thank all those involved in the ceremony for their involvement and presence on the day, describing the presence of so many young people as “heart warming”.

“When the diocese of Clogher became vacant over two years ago, I frequently prayed in public that the Holy Spirit would guide those responsible for choosing a bishop, and that the one chosen would be God’s choice,” he said. “All I can say is that the God of surprises surely has a sense of humour and a sense of fun. What I will say is that I will do my very best to serve as best I can, for whatever time God gives me.”

He described how in the process of packing to move from Carrickmacross to the cathedral he came across a letter full of reflections he had written in 1975, on the eve of being ordained a deacon.

“My view of what I am taking on could never be put into one sentence,” he read. “I know that the more I trust in you, Lord, the less worry I will have.

“You have called me, Lord. I am your instrument, use me in whatever way you will. I will not always understand your will as exercised through people and events. Lord, from here in it is you who will take care of me. I fling myself with all my weaknesses into your lap,” he read.


His prayer as bishop, he said, would be no different, save that in living out his priesthood he had learned that we don’t walk alone with God, and that he had journeyed with a host of friends as a priest in parish life. The ordination Mass, he said, was a practical demonstration of this, thanking all those involved, starting with the car park attendants.

Focusing on Jesus to finish, he described Jesus as someone who is “not so much interested in past sin as in the grace of the present moment”, who never gives up on people as he invites them to follow him into the depths of God’s love.

“My dear friends,” he concluded, “may we all experience that gift of the love of God as we journey through.”