A local lad who went away...and came back

There is a lot to be said about being able to work in your own place, among your own people. It’s very parochial and comforting to be walking the paths of your childhood, waving good mornings to people you grew up with. There is a familial concept to it that forms your every decision for the day.

In your own place, there is no need for airs and graces, no need for pretentiousness. Here among your people, people know your faults and your attributes and they are prepared to accept you warts and all.

There is a comfort hidden deep within our psyches to be in a place familiar; and because it is so close to our soul, it is easier to get to the rhythm of it and to use its force to make yourself more effective.

Being Bishop of Galway is a big gig. Being any sort of bishop is these days. It is akin to being CEO of an organisation. But Galway, well that is something else.

The term Bishop of Galway is almost a brand in itself. So many big shoes have to be filled. So many preconceptions have to be shattered. So many images come to mind when we use the term.

What people would give for a job in Galway.

And especially a Galway lad.

I remember a politician telling me once that an expert is just a local lad who went away. And so it is for our new Bishop.

Bishop Brendan Kelly is of Galway; he is cognisant of the modern realities of the city and its diversity and culture. He is not bombastic or provocative, nor is he is a man who is confrontational. He is someone who is aware of the pain and suffering that exists out there in modern society and he aims to do his best to make sure that we are just nice to each other a bit more, that we empathise with one another, respect what each other is going through and help where we can.

It is fitting too that both he and his new neighbour across the road in Newcastle, the new president of NUI Galway, Ciaran O hOgartaigh, are both fluent in the native tongue and are both actively involved in its promotion; this is a double appointment that will do no harm to the city’s bilingual status and the great work of organisations like Gaillimh le Gaeilge.

This is an appointment that is already proving very popular among the clergy and the congregations. It is one that might have been made over a decade ago, but now, the new bishop comes to the position having had a decade of experience in Achonry, valuable management experience that will stand to him in the demanding role that faces him when he takes over in February.

Bishop Brendan Kelly was much loved everywhere he went and now that he is back in Galway, he brings a quiet but learned authority to his task. He told me this week that the Church accepts that we live in a world that runs to a different beat. And he wants to work with the team he knows so well in presenting a church that is humble and welcoming, is receptive and cognisant.

He says that ‘we are becoming a smaller, weaker, and poorer church and that this is not necessarily a bad thing.’ Such an acknowledgement will be welcome in this, the most diverse city in Ireland.

The Bishop of Galway may be an identifiable brand, but it is a brand we need. The city needs leaders in all its sectors, people who will speak out when necessary, who will give voice to those who have none. These leaders will be religious, civic, and lay. Indeed, we should all be leaders of opinions and justice when the need arises. Even if our audience is just ourselves.

He is just the type of Bishop we need right now. We welcome him home and wish him the best of luck in his new task.

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