Armagh’s new Auxiliary Bishop Michael Router said that the Church of the future will be smaller and humbler – but those who practice the Faith will do so because Christ is at the centre of their lives.
Speaking at his ordination Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday, the former Kilmore priest said that our striving for purpose will always lead us back to the Church.
“The Church will be smaller and humbler in the future but those who are involved, who practice regularly, who volunteer their time, energy and resources to support the mission will not be doing it for any social or economic advantage but because they want to; because they see that life has no meaning without Jesus Christ at its centre. The quest for meaning, such a central issue in the modern world, will always bring people back to the faith,” he said.
Among those in attendance were Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel and Emly, Bishop Emeritus Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore, and many of the diocesan bishops around the country. Archbishop Richard Clarke represented the Church of Ireland and Rev. Louise Donald attended for the Methodist Church.
During his homily, Archbishop Eamon Martin said that life as bishop is both “fulfilling and interesting”, but it comes with many challenges.
“The burden of administration has grown much heavier since then, and the needs of our people, priests and society have become more complex. The Church’s teaching on many important social and moral issues, including marriage and the sacredness of all human life, has become increasingly countercultural,” the Primate of All Ireland said.
“With the decline in religious practice and fewer vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, we have once again entered ‘mission mode’ here in Ireland, and sometimes it’s difficult to discern precisely where the Holy Spirit is leading us.”
He added that despite this change, the fundamental calling of the bishop is to be a devoted father and brother who loves all those that God has placed in his care.
On May 7 of this year, Pope Francis appointed Dr Router – now former parish priest of Bailieborough – to the Armagh role, replacing the late Bishop Gerry Clifford, who died two and half years ago. He was assigned to the Titular See of Lugmad, an ancient episcopal see in Co. Louth. Previous bishops who held that title included Bishop Thomas Winning, Auxiliary Bishop and later Cardinal Archbishop of Glasgow.
Speaking to hundreds in the pews, Bishop Router said that the future will necessitate a greater education and formation of committed lay people, who will be able to provide leadership in the Church and create Christian communities.
“Now is the time for us, people and clergy together, to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order to shape a Church fit for purpose in the 21st Century and to continue to bring ourselves and our communities into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ who will take on all our burdens and our anxieties if we trust in him,” Dr Router said.
“To know Jesus in prayer and in the reading of Scripture is to allow him to change us from the inside out. That is our task as ministers of his Sacraments and of his word; not to place burdens upon people’s shoulders but to give them hope. None of us are perfect, all of us are sinners but we won’t change or strive to be better unless we first encounter the real Jesus and let him touch our hearts.”
Bishop Router is a native of Virginia in Co. Cavan and was born on April 15, 1965. He was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Kilmore in St Matthew’s Church, Maghera, in his native parish, on June 25, 1989.