Pope Francis has appointed Father Alphonsus Cullinan as the new Bishop of Waterford & Lismore. This announcement will be made today in the Vatican at 12pm local time (11am Irish time).
In his address just now, Fr Cullinan said: "Your Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio, your Grace Bishop William Lee, Monsignor Nicholas O’Mahony, Diocesan Administrator, brother priests, members of the many religious congregations here and you good people of Waterford & Lismore.
I greet you all. Dia ’is Muire Dhibh go leir. I am honoured and humbled and excited to have been nominated as bishop of this Diocese.
I thank Bishop Willie Lee for his most gracious and warm welcome. I congratulate him on his shepherding of this diocese for twenty years and I look forward to his friendship and advice in the years to come. I thank Monsignor Nicholas O’Mahony who has looked after the diocese so well since October 2013. I thank Archbishop Charles Brown for his help, his advice in the last week or so since he told me that Pope Francis had appointed me. I wish to thank Pope Francis also and I am looking forward to meeting him in person in September.
This is an historic city and Waterford and Lismore is an historic Diocese with a Christian heritage going back to the earliest days of Christianity on this island and I am very proud to be called to do something to continue that wonderful tradition.
Up to last week I had under my care the 4,000 or so souls in my parish. Now I am moving to the other side of Munster and am called to be the shepherd of over 150,000 souls! I don’t have any illusions about the difficulties of the job which I have been given and I know my own unworthiness and limitations. In that sense I have a mountain to climb but mountains are made for climbing! And I am not the only one with a mountain to climb. There are so many people with troubles of their own – illness, loss, worry about children, about making ends meet, depression, loneliness, lack of meaning in life, being marginalized, - the list of human suffering and pain is long.
The Lord Jesus has come, not to add a further complication to life, but to set us free - to bring us his grace, help, wisdom and his peace and joy. He knows us and what it is to live a human life. He himself worked as a carpenter, working with his hands in the carpenter’s workshop. He is human like us. This is what we celebrated just a few weeks ago at Christmas. He was born of Mary in a simple stable.
“the Word was made flesh and lived among us”
And he is still among us and cares for us and loves us and is here now to help as we journey along. It is my honour and privilege to be part of his work, to follow his command to go out and preach the Good News. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that all who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life.” It is also my honour and privilege to be chosen to be his and your bishop here in what will be my new home.
I have been much encouraged by the words and example of that wonderful young man Donal Walsh from Blennerville, Tralee, who died of cancer last year. If he were here he’d probably say; “ Look, keep climbing the mountain because it’s God’s mountain –and God is asking you to keep climbing”. On my own I won’t get very far, but together, people and religious and with my brother priests and Bishop Willie, we will do great things for God.
I entrust my future work here in Waterford and Lismore to Mary, the dear Mother of the Lord, to Saint Joseph the patron of the universal Church and to Saints Otteran, Declan and Carthage the patrons of this diocese.
I look forward to meeting you all. I will try my best to be a good shepherd and I wish you all joy and peace.
Archbishop Eamon Martin congratulated Father Alphonsus Cullinan in a message, saying:
"I wish to congratulate Father Alphonsus Cullinan on his appointment today by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of Waterford & Lismore. On this special day I offer Father Alphonsus my prayerful good wishes as he prepares to take on his new, important and challenging ministry. This is a very happy day for him, his family and friends, and it is also a day of new beginnings for Father Alphonsus himself.
As a bishop, Father Alphonsus will be called to teach, to lead, to govern, and to shepherd his people. He brings to his new role a wealth of experience as a teacher, a parish priest, and of chaplaincy in both hospital and further education settings.
His pastoral insights will be of immense value not only in his leadership role among the people, priests and religious of Waterford and Lismore, but also as a member of the Irish Bishops' Conference. Pope Francis is encouraging all of us - as priests and bishops - to go out and minister to the margins. In September 2013, when I met the Holy Father with a group of other newly-ordained bishops, he told us: “Do not close yourselves in! Go down among your faithful, even into the margins of your dioceses and into all those ‘peripheries of existence’ where there is suffering, loneliness and human degradation". As a priest who is already well used to being out among his people, Father Alphonsus will have so much to offer as a Bishop.
I look forward to meeting with Father Alphonsus soon and I trust that the people of Waterford & Lismore will welcome him to their diocese with love and prayerful support.
On this day I also wish to acknowledge and salute Bishop William Lee, Bishop Emeritus of Waterford & Lismore. I worked closely with Bishop Lee in Maynooth when he held the important post of Episcopal Secretary to the Irish Bishops’ Conference. He became, and has remained, a good and supportive friend to me. I find him to be a true gentleman and a kindly, totally committed and sincere priest and bishop. Before his doctor strongly advised him to retire, I know that he remained loyal and completely dedicated to his episcopal duties despite struggling with increasingly poor health. Bishop Lee will be relieved that a new Bishop has been appointed to lead the diocese. I wish him every blessing for a long and healthy retirement.
Finally, I wish to thank Monsignor Nicholas O’Mahony for taking stewardship of the Diocese of Waterford & Lismore in November 2013 when Bishop Lee retired due to ill-health. Monsignor O’Mahony took on the onerous task of Diocesan Administrator in addition to his existing duties as parish priest. He has served in this role with quiet commitment and has faithfully represented the diocese at the Bishops' Conference during the period of the vacant see. The people and priests of the diocese, as well as the Church in Ireland are indebted to him.
Father Cullinan was born in Lahinch, County Clare in 1959 to Christy and Rita and has four sisters and five brothers. Father Cullinan is a priest of the diocese of Limerick. His family moved to Limerick city where he attended the Salesians for early education, John F Kennedy National School and the Crescent College Comprehensive (SJ) for his secondary education. From 1978-1981 he attended Mary Immaculate College of Education Limerick and qualified as a primary teacher (B.Ed) in 1981, and taught for six years in Castleconnell, County Limerick. He worked part-time during that time for four years with the Bunratty Castle Entertainers before going to Spain where he taught English for two years in a school in Valladolid.
Father Cullinan studied at Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth from 1989-95 where he completed an STL (Licentiate in Theology). He was ordained by Bishop Jeremiah Newman in 1994 in Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick, and appointed Curate in Saint Munchin’s Parish Limerick city 1995-1996. Father Cullinan’s next appointment was as chaplain to the Regional Hospital in Limerick from 1996 until 2001. He studied for his doctorate in moral theology in the Alfonsianum in Rome 2001-2004. Appointed chaplain to the Limerick Institute of Technology 2004-2011. He was appointed Parish Priest of Rathkeale , County Limerick in 2011.
Bishop William Lee, Bishop Emeritus of Waterford & Lismore, retired on the grounds of ill-health on 1 October 2013. Monsignor Nicholas O’Mahony has been the Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Waterford & Lismore since 11 October 2013.
The Diocese of Waterford & Lismore includes County Waterford, and part of Counties Tipperary and Cork. There are 45 parishes, 85 Churches and a Catholic population of 152,107. The patrons of the Diocese are Saint Otteran, Saint Carthage and Saint Declan.
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