Bishop of Kilfenora Writes Church History

MAY 1 saw the historic installation of Bishop Michael Duignan at Galway Cathedral, formalizing his status as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora. Monsignor Duignan will exercise the ministry as bishop of Clonfert.

The Roscommon native is the first Irish church leader to administer two Catholic dioceses. His dual role, which was announced in February, was ratified on Sunday, May 1. The ceremony took place in the presence of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo Martin and Cardinal Seán Brady. Another first, the ceremony was broadcast live on YouTube.

The day before the installation, a prayer vigil in thanksgiving for the ministry of Bishop Brendan Kelly, who is now retiring, was held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Oranmore.

Because Bishop Michael Duignan was already a bishop, he was installed rather than ordained and he served as the main celebrant, along with the apostolic nuncio, and the homilist during Sunday’s ceremony.

Representatives from each of the parishes in the dioceses of Kilfenora, Kilmacduagh, Galway and Clonfert attended the installation, as did members of the community. Bishop Martin Drennan, Bishop Emeritus of Galway and Bishop John Kirby, Bishop Emeritus of Clonfert, were also present alongside Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland: Archbishop Dermot Farrell, the Archbishop Kieran OReilly ADM; Bishop Michael Crotty, Apostolic Nuncio to Burkina Faso and Niger; Bishops of the Western Province, including Archbishop Emeritus Michael Neary and other bishops. Representatives of the Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian communities were also present and the Islamic community of Galway and other faith traditions were also represented.

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Michael Duignan, Bishop of Clonfert, to serve simultaneously as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora on February 11. The Dioceses of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora comprise parts of Counties Galway, Mayo and Clare, while the Diocese of Clonfert comprises parts of Counties Galway, Offaly and Roscommon.

Each diocese maintains its identity and manages its own cultural heritage as it sees fit. Each keeps its own staff or can share with other dioceses; priests will not normally be invited to exercise their ministry beyond their own diocese, except by request or special mandate. Each diocese will also manage its financial administration independently and make its own pastoral decisions as usual.

A spokesman for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said having one bishop for two dioceses did not amount to a merger. “Based on the experience of other dioceses where this has been tried, it is proven that many factors enhance the future survival of dioceses, which unite and cooperate in persona episcopi,” they said. “This form of union under a single bishop is not a merger and does not suppress either of the two dioceses. It respects the autonomy and allows the functionality of individual jurisdictions. It is a gentle and practical form of union between dioceses and can be a temporary or permanent arrangement.

Bishop Duignan is from Athlone and was born on 15 July 1970. He is the eldest of six children and attended Cloonakilla National School, Bealnamulla and Saint Aloysius College, Athlone. He studied for the priesthood at Saint Patricks Missionary Society at Kiltegan, Co Wicklow, and at the Pontifical Irish College at Rome. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Elphin on July 17, 1994.

Jerry B. Hatch