Fr Michael Duignan appointed as the new Bishop of Clonfert
POPE Francis today announced the appointment of Fr Michael Duignan, a priest of the Diocese of Elphin, as the new Bishop of Clonfert, replacing Bishop John Kirby who has been at the helm for the past 31 years.
The announcement was made in St Brendan’s Cathedral, Loughrea by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo.
The bishop-elect turned 49 on Monday and is the eldest of six from Bealnamulla, Athlone, Co Roscommon.
He studied for the priesthood in Rome, where he also studied for a number of qualifications in theology, including a doctorate.
Fr Duignan taught Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at St Angela’s College in Sligo and has also held significant administrative roles such as Assistant Diocesan Secretary in Elphin. He was a member of the Elphin Diocesan Pastoral Council, Council of Priests, Finance Committee, College of Consultors and the Diocesan Safeguarding Executive.
In recent years he has been involved in the restoration and formation of men for the Permanent Diaconate in Elphin and in 2014, he was appointed by Irish bishops as National Director of the Permanent Diaconate in Ireland.
In 2015, he spearheaded a new initiative to recruit and form diocesan catechists for ministry in the Diocese of Elphin and the first of these are due to graduate in 2020.
Bishop-elect Duignan was a member of the Theological Commission of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska in the US which examined the cause for canonisation of Fr Edward J. Flanagan, who founded the orphanage known as Boys Town in Douglas County, Nebraska.
A 1938 film ‘Boys Town’, starring Spencer Tracy, was based on the life of Fr Flanagan, who was highly critical of the harsh regimes operated by religious-run industrial schools in his native Ireland.
Fr Duignan has served as Spiritual Director to youth faith groups such as Youth 2000 Ireland, Elation Ministries and has worked with organising young adult and student involvement in International World Youth Day celebrations, youth pilgrimages and events.
In Loughrea, the incoming Bishop of Clonfert said a new chapter was opening up in his journey of life and in the journey of the people of Clonfert.
He said that the faithful were called to traverse waters that are very different today to those of the past.
“They are ever changing and difficult to negotiate in sometimes old and leaky boats. They 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.
“Our greatest challenge will be to show in deed and word the value of knowing Christ and the life-changing potential of the Gospel, especially to those who lie hurt and broken, feeling rejected, on the edges of church and society.”