We have been talking about you in the past few days. I guess it’s important to be clear who the ‘we’ is. By ‘we’ we mean those of us here in the Faith Community of St. Matthew’s in Ballyfermot, I include myself, here in the Bunker, from where I write every week. I think this particular ‘rumbling from the bunker’ brings me to over three hundred. We have also been talking about you in the Roncalli Community, as you know this was formed last October for the reform and renewal of the Church. (No schism here Archbishop, no rather love and loyalty to the Church, but not without a gutsy rage.) Yes given your roots, and your love for Ballyer we decided to put pen to paper.
We are conscious that your time with us as Archbishop may be getting short and so timely to offer you a few thoughts. Some of these are from the wider parish community, some from Roncalli and I suppose a few find their origin in my own reflection. For the moment there’s no reason to distinguish one from the other.
The first word we wish to offer you is Thanks.
Thanks for a powerful legacy most especially in the area of safeguarding. In this you have given courageous leadership, never shirking your responsibility in media and thanks for your obvious empathy with those who have suffered. Thanks for your energy. Thanks for your smile.
Another word is Prayer. As part of our debt of gratitude to you we promise to pray for you. We will of course pray in thanksgiving for you. We will also pray for your health in its widest context. We pray that the Lord will protect you from all sickness, all suffering, all anxiety and all darkness. We ask the Lord to bless you abundantly in the next chapter in your life. We pray not only for length of life for you but also that you be blessed with joy and fulfilment.
Perhaps a word on the Irish Church Today is appropriate. Of course there are lovely things happening. We are conscious of our young pilgrims preparing for Panama. There are many people in the diocese who are committed and dedicated to their faith. However that said we are in serious trouble. We are in a crisis and it’s not new and it’s deepening. Let’s name it:
- We are, to many of today’s Irish citizens, largely irrelevant. This is particularly true when it comes to morality.
- We continue to cheapen the sacred and most especially the sacramental. We continue to ignore the sacramental conveyor belt as the gap between faith and practice widens.
- Our seminaries are empty. We have failed to attract suitable candidates for priesthood and we stubbornly cling to a tired old model of formation that has not been fit for purpose for a long time.
- The shades of being a true school of faith found in our Catholic schools has a huge variance from the spiritually vibrant to the spiritually comatose.
- (These are just a few examples of many in the overall malaise in the Irish Church).
Our hope Archbishop is that you will not go gently but go with flourish and panache. Yes we would love to see you dance off in the Holy Spirit. We hope you will not wind down but rather give a resounding splurge of creativity! A crescendo! Could it be that there will be no farewell whimper but a resounding roar? Could you bring some spiritual Semtex or gelignite into the Episcopal Conference before you go? Might you leave us here in Ballyfermot, your home patch, with something new and fresh as part of your legacy?
Finally Archbishop, forgive the impertinence of mentioning your successor, but given the continuous haemorrhage of the life blood of our Church we must speak. Whilst we understand that you do not pick your successor we believe your opinion will matter. It should. If you know of someone who has his tongue out for the job we implore you please rule him out. Please Archbishop, for our sake, trip him up. In God’s name sabotage his application. Whilst we are not anti-intellectual please do not land us with a pastorally inept academic. We ask you for us here in Ballyfermot, for the Dublin diocese and for the sake of the Irish Church at this crucial juncture do everything in your power to see that the next Archbishop of Dublin is both prophet and shepherd.
We will continue to hold you in prayerful affection in our hearts, we remain yours, the Faith Community of St. Matthew and the Roncalli Community.