Athlone native to serve dual roles following Bishop of Galway appointment

Athlone native, Michael Duignan, has been appointed Bishop of Galway, confirmation of the news emerging on Friday morning last.

The current Bishop of Clonfert will minister both dioceses, united in persona episcopi, simultaneously, as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora.

The eldest of six children, Bishop Michael Duignan attended Cloonakilla National School, Bealnamulla and Saint Aloysius College, prior to commencing his studies for the priesthood at St Patrick’s Missionary Society in Kiltegan and at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.

He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Elphin on July 17 1994. Returning to Rome to complete postgraduate studies, he then served at the Cathedral Parish, Sligo and as Chaplain to the Institute of Technology, Sligo. Subsequently, he completed Doctoral Studies in Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He returned to Ireland in 2001 to take up the position of Curate in the Parish of Ahamlish and Innismurray in north Sligo and was appointed Diocesan Secretary before taking up the position of Lecturer in Religious Education and Theology at Saint Angela’s College, Sligo and later Head of Religious Education and Chaplaincy Programmes.

In 2014, he was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Elphin and Episcopal Vicar for Education and Formation. Bishop Michael was also National Director of the Permanent Diaconate and National Co-ordinator of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate.

On July 16 2019, Bishop Michael was named by Pope Francis as Bishop of Clonfert succeeding Bishop John Kirby and was ordained at Saint Brendan’s Cathedral in Loughrea on October 13 of the same year.

Heritage of Faith

Bishop Duignan noted the honour of being named Bishop of Galway, detailing the rich heritage of faith in the diocese.

“I am conscious of the rich heritage of faith in these parts of Galway, Clare and Mayo that has deep roots in the early days of Christianity in Ireland. Born in Athlone, I am familiar with the city of Galway from my childhood days. In later years, my work with Saint Angela’s College in Sligo brought me frequently to the University across the road.

“I have always enjoyed the vibrancy and creativity of the people of this area and their deep rich appreciation for the best of our Gaelic traditions in the arts, music, sport and learning. I am also conscious of your genuine love for the Irish language.

“Like most people, I studied Irish at school. I then studied abroad for many years and had few opportunities to use the Irish I had learned. At this stage, my Irish has grown rusty. It is not as fluent as I would like it to be.

“I have a great interest in the language and I now have a motive that I have not had before to rekindle that interest and improve my Irish. It is my hope that I can do this in particular with the help of the people of our Gaeltacht parishes. I hope you will be patient teachers and I look forward to visiting you soon.

“On a personal level, these last few years have had more of the feel of a giant rollercoaster than the gentle rocking of a childhood swing. In October 2019, I was ordained Bishop of Clonfert and received a warm and generous welcome from the priests, religious and people of the diocese. In March 2020, we entered what has until now seemed to be an interminable battle with Covid-19.

“At a stage when I had hoped to meet people, we had to stay apart for the health of everyone. On one hand, lockdown after lockdown presented great challenges to ministry and curtailed many of my plans.

“On the other hand, it gave me a great opportunity to spend time on the phone in conversation with and to get to know our priests. It also allowed me the opportunity to reach out by means of the wonders of the internet to the diocese as a whole.

Bishop for the First Time

“Last week when Archbishop Okolo asked me on behalf of Pope Francis to become the Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and the Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora along with being the Bishop of Clonfert it was like being asked again to be a bishop for the first time.

“A moment, where half of you feels like turning away, while the other half of you feels called to stay and do the Lord’s work. I am very conscious of my own sinfulness, of my own flaws and weaknesses, my particular ways and shortcomings, my need to listen and to learn.

“At times, the thought has crossed my mind that the Holy Spirit must indeed have a sense of humour in trusting me with the care of not just one but with two distinct dioceses. Such however is now the reality I find myself in. I pray as I have done on many occasions in my life for the grace to leave to my God to order and provide.

“I would like to thank His Holiness Pope Francis for placing this trust in me and also to his representative in Ireland, Archbishop Okolo, for his gentle encouragement, guidance and support this past while,” Bishop Duignan stated.


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