History was made in Galway on Sunday afternoon with the installation of Catholic Bishop of Clonfert Michael Duignan as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and apostolic administrator of Kilfenora. For the first time in Ireland one bishop will serve two Catholic dioceses, which take in parts of counties Galway, Clare, Mayo, Roscommon and Offaly.
Speaking at the installation Mass in Galway Cathedral, Bishop Duignan spoke of it as a “moment of transition from the past to the present to the future”.
“We can no longer ignore the fact that much of what the church has built up in Ireland over the last two centuries is crumbling before our eyes.”
He added: “The more and more I see, the more and more I am convinced that much of our infrastructure, our systems, our pastoral practices that were beneficial in the past, now hinder rather than help the life of faith.”
In Ireland today “many no longer believe the message. Many of our parishes are struggling, on so many levels, to support a vibrant faith community. Despite the great work done by generations of priests, religious and lay people now, at times it feels like we have been out all night without a single catch.”
Inevitably, he said, “there will be a sense of genuine mourning in letting go, but these Easter days tell us that out of such death comes new hope and new life. Perhaps the Lord is asking us to throw out our nets in a different direction – in the direction of a new and profound re-evangelisation of ourselves.”
It was clear “that in the future, we will be a smaller faith community, but with the help of God we will be a more faith-filled, vibrant, welcoming, grounded community”, he said.
Such a community would live “the message of Jesus in a way that better speaks in equal measure to the lives of our fellow women and men”. It would build “bridges not barriers” and reach out “in compassion to aid those who find themselves in need”.
It would be “a faith community that is less afraid of those who see life differently from us” and would find “its appropriate place within Irish society and an Irish society that finds a fair place for people of faith”, he added.
It would be a community “that is filled with the sound of young voices and that is inspired by their idealism and urged on by their energy” and where “people, priests and bishop walk side by side in a truly synodal manner as companions on the great adventure that is the Christian way of life”, he said.