Introductory remarks: Episcopal ordination of Fr Niall Coll, Ossory
St Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny
January 22, 2023
It is a great honour for me, in the name of Saint Laurence O’Toole and St Kevin, to come here this afternoon to ordain Father Niall Coll as Bishop of Ossory, the next successor of Saint Kieran. I welcome Cllr David Fitzgerald, the Lord Mayor of Kilkenny City, Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick, Cathaoirleach, Kilkenny County Council, and Cllr P J Kelly, Leas Cathaoirleach, Laois County Council, the representatives of the people, priests and religious from across the Diocese of Ossory. I am delighted to welcome Niall’s parents, Willie and Kathleen, other family members and close friends, my co-consecrators, Bishop Denis Nulty and Bishop Alan McGuckian. Unfortunately, the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Eamon Martin, would like to have been present, but today he is marking the centenary of the Irish Council of Churches and the fiftieth anniversary of the Ballymascanlon Peace Talks.
I welcome Monsignor Julien Kaboré, Chargé d’affaires a.i. at the Apostolic Nunciature, my brother bishops, the priests who will concelebrate this Eucharist, as well as those who are joining us online. I welcome Bishop Adrian Wilkinson, Church of Ireland, and the leaders of other Christian denominations and other Faiths. Most of all, I welcome the laity of Ossory, present here, on this important day in the life of the Church in this diocese, in this place which is your home. You are the flock of the Lord and today you receive a new shepherd and guide. Together, with Christ the Head, you are the Body of Christ which is the sacrament of his presence in the world, our common home.
Today, in the Cathedral, in this church of the Shepherd’s chair, the Church in Ossory is particularly itself. Every family has its highpoints, and today, the Family of God in Ossory—the Church, lives a highpoint: you welcome your new bishop, you witness to his ordination, the formal beginning of his ministry. You give thanks, and put flesh on your faith and your hope. Today your cathedral is most truly what it was built for: the first Church of the diocese, its true centre.
We come to invoke the Holy Spirit on this priest, Niall Coll, called to the office of Bishop in the service of the Church of Ossory, to be a pastor in the midst of the people. Through the laying on of hands and the Prayer of Consecration the grace of the Holy Spirit will be bestowed on him so that he may carry forward the mission of Christ himself as teacher, shepherd and high priest, and can act in the person of Christ in a special way. Niall, the call is to love the people you serve, sanctify them, teach them, shepherd them.
We come to pray for Niall, who today begins a common journey with the people and priests and religious of Ossory. We value the prayer of the people asking a blessing for their bishop. I would like to thank on this day Bishop Denis Nulty for the manner in which he has led this diocese as Apostolic Administrator over the past two years, as well as the priests, religious and lay leaders who share in the mission of the Church.
The role of a bishop is to be a father to his people, a brother to his priests, and a witness of Jesus Christ to the world. The ministry of the Bishop is priestly ministry. At its heart is moving forward together, responding together to the call of Christ—the call we hear again in today’s Gospel (see Matt 4:21–22). Together, we embrace the future God offers us. Priests and people as one, young and old together, we put flesh on the Lord who is present with us. (See Matt 1:23).
At the heart of Christianity lies not an idea, not a system of thought, not a plan of action. No, the heart of Christianity is a person: Jesus Christ. It is “Christ who is our life” (Col 3:4)—a person who is alive, who is with us, who is within us, and among us. Niall, your mission as a Bishop is not just administration, but to devote time to listening attentively to the people, priests and religious, to listen attentively to the Word of God, and to witness to others of what your own encounter with Christ brings to you, and to share that experience with others, especially the young people, and those for whom life has become a cold, difficult place.
Pope Francis has clearly articulated the mission of the Church, the mission of the Bishop: “We cannot keep ourselves cloistered in some parish, in our communities, in our institutions … when so many people are waiting for the gospel! We have to go out as ones sent. It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome because they come, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people! … beginning on the margins, with those who are farthest away, with those who have little to do with your parish” (Pope Francis, World Youth Day Homily, Cathedral of San Sebastian, Rio de Janeiro, July 27, 2013). The heart of the Church is the heart of Christ: a heart that is open, a heart filled with compassion (see Luke 10:33), a pastoral heart.
My prayer for you, Niall, in the days and years to come, is that you will discover ever more deeply the joy that comes from sharing with others the life and hope Christ brings to you, and discover ever more deeply the peace and consolation that come from being a member of the community of believers, the Church. If you are even half as blessed as I was in my ministry here, you will be blessed indeed.
Now, as one, let us renew our commitment to the life we received in our baptism, and with deep humility and gratitude welcome God’s tender mercy.