Diocesan delight: Pope appoints new bishop after rumours Clonfert would be lost in merger
The appointment of Fr Michael Duignan as the new Bishop of Clonfert has been welcomed.
Bishop John Kirby (80), who has been waiting five years for a replacement, recalled how much has changed since his appointment 31 years ago.
It is the first episcopal appointment in the west of Ireland diocese since April 1988 when "Ronald Reagan was president of the USA, Mikhail Gorbachev was in charge of the USSR and the Berlin Wall looked impregnable", he recalled.
Bishop Kirby welcomed the appointment of his successor as he expressed satisfaction that the Pope chose to ensure that Clonfert continues to have its own identity and its own bishop, quashing rumours it would be merged with another diocese.
Bishop Kirby and Bishop-elect Duignan hail from the same parish, St Peter's in Athlone. Fr Duignan was ordained for the diocese of Elphin on July 17, 1994.
A native of Bealnamulla, Athlone, he is the eldest of a family of six. He is one of the youngest priests in the diocese of Elphin and has played a prominent role in education and administration there for the past 25 years.
He was director of religious education, theology and chaplaincy in St Angela's College, Sligo, and chairperson of the board of management of Summerhill College, Sligo.
The incoming Bishop of Clonfert said a new chapter was opening up in his journey of life. He added: "The voyage of the years ahead will require all of us - priests, religious and laity - to become, each in our own way, navigators of a new and ever deeper evangelisation. It will require us to work together, shoulder to shoulder, to renew our own hearts in the faith."