Madam Bishop a first for these islands as Derry rector becomes ‘The Most Rev’
First woman bishop in Ireland or UK to be consecrated in Dublin on Saturday
When the children were a bit older she wanted to do more with her life. She and Earl discussed it. He thought “two ministers in the family would be chaos” so when she was accepted it was “a bit of a shock”. She began training in 1994. Her first curacy was in Ballymena, Co Antrim. Earl was by then working in Belfast. She became curate at Glenavy parish there when Earl was rector. “Actually, it was grand but we wouldn’t have done it long term. It was a very happy time . . . we’ve been happy everywhere we’ve been.”
In 2004 they moved to Derry where she has been rector at St Augustine’s since. Earl has set up a PR business there. “It’s devastating to be packing up and leaving. I love Derry. It’s a very special city.”
She was on the road to Derry when she got that “most unexpected” call from Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke. She had been at a wedding in Wicklow and was driving home.
“The archbishop said something like: ‘Look Pat, this is going to be a surprise. You’d better pull in’.” He told her she had been elected Bishop of Meath and Kildare. “I fall on the floor of my little MX5 and think how will I get home with this news?” She asked for 24 hours to think about it.
She rang Earl. “I think he thought from the tone of my voice someone had died.” The family discussed it. She and Earl went for a long walk over the Foyle bridge, and back.
“It would have been a very hard thing to turn down.” She recalled how Archbishop Clarke had said “trust the church. Trust the process. You’ve been elected. It’s not tokenism. Those sort of things helped. I felt like I had to trust the Holy Spirit.” The following morning she rang to accept.
She and Archbishop Clarke have discussed how she is to be addressed and decided that, on formal occasions, she will be addressed as “Madam Bishop”.
This afternoon, in Maynooth, she and Earl will move into the residence of the Bishop of Meath and Kildare. She will be consecrated in Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday.