LIMERICK’S new bishop hopes to draw inspiration from Pope Francis as he prepares to lead 170,000 Catholics across the diocese.
Ahead of his ordination at St John’s Cathedral on Sunday, Fr Brendan Leahy said he was “particularly pleased” to be the first Irish churchman to be elevated to bishop under the papacy of Francis - and only the eight worldwide.
The new pontiff’s simple lifestyle had been “an inspiration to us all”, Fr Leahy said.
With Francis’ desire for “a poor Church, for the poor”, Fr Leahy said he was well aware that some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country were within walking distance of St John’s.
According to the latest census results, it is in the regeneration areas that people are more likely to identify themselves as Catholics than anywhere else in the city, if not in the whole diocese.
“He (Francis) is emphasising something that the Catholic Church for the past 50 years since Vatican II has been constantly emphasising as a theme - the theme of the Church of the poor, poor in all its senses. Poor in socioeconomic terms, of course, but also poor in terms of values or direction or meaning in life and we have a lot of forms of poverty today. There are issues here in Limerick as there are in other cities.
“I have good friends in Dublin who are ministering in very, very poor parishes and some of those parishes I used to help out in a good bit. Sometimes, I would find that in those parishes were the liveliest liturgy, the liveliest participation of the mass,” Fr Leahy said.Schoolchildren from across Limerick city and county will play a central role in the ordination and it is Fr Leahy’s hope that their enthusiasm will prove a foil to the pomp and ceremony.
“Naturally, there will be a lot of highbrow stuff going on in terms of the ritual ... but hopefully we will have more of a family atmosphere as well,” he said.
Diocesan secretary Fr Paul Finnerty said the office had been “inundated” with requests to attend. Over 1,000 people have been invited and once participants are factored in, the numbers could reach 1500.
Invitees are asked to be seated by 2.30pm and requested to attend well in advance of this time to ensure matters run smoothly for a ceremony that it expected to last at least two hours. Only after invitees are seated will walk-ins be accommodated although any overflow can view a live stream of proceedings at St John’s National School.
The ceremony will also be streamed live on the websites of the Diocese of Limerick and Limerick’s Live 95FM.
Such media were unheard of the last time Limerick saw an episcopal ordination. Limerick were All-Ireland champions when Dr Jeremiah Newman was ordained in July 1974.
“It has been a long time since a bishop’s ordination although we had an installation ceremony (for Dr Donal Murray) in between,” Fr Leahy said.
Fr Frank O’Connor said the ordination would be “a very beautiful and very moving” event.
Chief celebrant will be Archbishop Dermot Clifford, assisted by the papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Around 15 bishops and over 200 priests will also attend.
Part of the ordination rite will be the reading of the apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI appointing Fr Leahy, who joked that he hoped the appointment had nothing to do with the pope’s later decision to retire.
Parking around the cathedral will not be permitted on Sunday with people asked to use facilities being provided by Irish Rail on Roxboro Road and at Limerick CBS and Presentation Secondary School on Sexton Street.