Back in May 2010, Fr Kieran O’Reilly was appointed Bishop of Killaloe, replacing Bishop Willie Walsh. I liked the sound then of a bishop whose whole life experience as a pastor had been in a missionary context.
Now, that missionary approach is even more topical, even more a focus of the Church’s approach to evangelisation, since it is a key theme of Pope Francis pontificate: the word ‘missionary’ appears 74 times in Evangelii Gaudium, the apostolic exhortation which is really this Pope’s manifesto, the guide to his thinking and his vision. A Church which has moved to missionary mode is central to that vision:
“I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (EG 27)
It isn’t really surprising then that Pope Francis has today appointed a missionary to one of the key roles in Church leadership in Ireland: Bishop Kieran is to be the new Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, joining Archbishops Eamon Martin, Diarmuid Martin and Michael Neary as one of Ireland’s four Archbishops.
The appointment is another source of hope for the future of the Irish Church: recent episcopal appointments have added a group of young(ish!), dynamic, courageous – and (hopefully!) holy – people to the Irish Bishops Conference, men such as Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop Kevin Doran, Archbishop Eamon Martin among others – people who inspire confidence, who are not shy about speaking in the media, presenting the vision of the Church calmly, compassionately, clearly. Along with the many groups of lay people who are creating pockets of dynamic evangelisation, they seem well prepared to man the missionary field hospital the Pope is calling the Catholic Church to be.
In all this, I think we should be ever grateful to Pope Emeritus Benedict for sending us Archbishop Charles Brown, a truly outstanding Nuncio, at a most opportune moment.