Bishop Browne looks back on an extraordinary year
2013 marked an extraordinary year for one man whose relocation to the county sparked massive interest in all areas.
Looking back on the past six months since receiving episcopal ordination in the Cathedral, Bishop Ray Browne said he has been 'overwhelmed' by the welcome extended him by the people of Kerry.
The Athlone native is already feeling more and more at home in the county and indulging - whenever he gets the chance - in one of his favourite pursuits: exploring the parishes and beauty spots of the county on foot.
"I am overwhelmed by the welcome I have received, the goodness and affection of so many, their love of and committment to the Church," Bishop Browne told The Kerryman.
In familiarising himself with the work of the diocese, he was mindful of what he described as the 'most important' aspect of his work.
"The most important work of a bishop is to go among the people, get to know them and encourage them in the faith." Indeed, he has been praised in many quarters for the hard work he has put in in travelling to so many parishes and getting to know the faithful.
"The diocese is not just the bishop.
"At all levels so many people are involved. People, sisters, priests, committees. For years now the diocese has developed strong, mature systems. Everything is well organised. At diocesan and parish level there are many strengths.
"I have got great support in getting to understanding my role and, of course, for all of us there is time in the day for prayer and celebrating Mass."
He was surprised by the relative ease of access into even the most remote areas of the diocese the Bishop's seat in Killarney represents.
"The diocese is surprisingly accessible, transport wise. It is a tremendous asset that the Cathedral is at the geographic centre of the diocese, most parishes can be reached within an hour."
As he accessed more and more parishes, the Bishop found a Church in good health.
"There are many people of all ages deeply committed to the Church in every parish. In so many parishes the people are totally united with their priest. It is all not surprising given the strength of local communities throughout the diocese and also the huge number of selfless missionaries, priests, sisters and brothers, that came from every parish."
He says he is still finding the balance between work and play.
"It takes time in a ministry that is so new to get the balance right in terms of work, rest, play and prayer. People are very understanding. At times in the past few months I have been very busy, at other times I have had time and space to rest and relax and count my blessings."
And he is certainly making the most of one famous aspect of the county in his time off: the great outdoors.
"I like to relax in my new home at Bishop's House, read a bit, go for a walk. I love to see and explore the countryside. The beauty spots are spectacular, but so too are quiet corners in every parish. There are hundreds of wonderful places to stroll and explore."