Bishop Michael Router ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh

New Bishop Michael Router with Archbishop Eamon Martin

New Bishop Michael Router with Archbishop Eamon Martin

Source: Irish Catholic Media Office

Bishop Michael Router was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh on Sunday afternoon at St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh.

Among those attending the Mass was Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh; Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh; Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly of Cashel & Emly; Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland; Bishop Leo O'Reilly, Bishop Emeritus of Kilmore Diocese; Monsignor Liam Kelly, Administrator of Kilmore Diocese, and many of the diocesan bishops from around the country.

Archbishop Richard Clarke represented the Church of Ireland and Rev Louise Donald represented the Methodist Church.

Also in attendance were Bishop Michael's parents Anthony and Nora Router, his sisters Breda Murphy and Martina Keville, his brothers-in-law Derek Murphy and Ollie Keville, his nieces Aoife Murphy, Orla Keville and Riona Keville, and his nephews Killian Murphy and Niall Keville.

In his introduction Archbishop Eamon Martin said: "This weekend we're celebrating the Feast of the Dedication of this splendid Cathedral which took more than sixty years to build and decorate from the time Archbishop Crolly laid the foundation stone on St Patrick's Day, 1838.

We are blessed with such a fine building, but of course we know that the Church is made up of living stones - and we, the baptised children of God, we are called to be those living stones, making up a spiritual house with Christ as our sure foundation. So let us begin by remembering our baptism and asking God to keep us faithful to the Spirit he has given us."

Archbishop Eamon Martin gave the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters, I remember six years ago sitting where Father Michael is right now, awaiting the central moment of my episcopal ordination - the laying on of hands by all the bishops present. Cardinal Brady was the principal consecrator that day, and also present was Bishop Edward Daly who had ordained me as a priest in Derry, back in 1987 - may God rest his soul. A bishop receives the sacrament of Holy Orders three times in his life: firstly, when he is ordained as a deacon; then, at his priestly ordination; and, finally, when he receives 'the fullness of orders' as a bishop.

In a few moments the bishops here present, by the laying on of hands and by praying together the prayer of consecration, will continue to pass on the line of episcopal succession that is unbroken since the time of the apostles. In that way, Bishop Michael will not only become a close co-worker with me here in the Archdiocese of Armagh, but he will also become a brother within the "college of bishops" and under the authority the successor of Peter. He will share with all the bishops here, and around the world, the task of maintaining the deposit of faith, and "witnessing to the truth of the Gospel".

I'm fondly remembering today the late Bishop Gerry Clifford, the last auxiliary bishop of Armagh, who died two and half years ago. I know that, like Bishop Clifford, Michael has great personal and pastoral gifts to bring to our diocesan projects and initiatives. For this I am grateful to God; to Pope Francis; to you, his parents and family, and to his brother priests, religious and people from the diocese of Kilmore - thank you for nurturing and sustaining Michael's vocation. Fr Michael I want to assure you of my own personal closeness and support. I am confident that you will receive a warm welcome and prayerful good wishes throughout Archdiocese of Armagh, and also when you visit the Diocese of Dromore in support of my assignment as Apostolic Administrator there.

Fr Michael you will find life as a bishop to be fulfilling and interesting - although not without its challenges! The role and ministry of a Bishop has changed immensely since the appointment of the first auxiliary bishop to Armagh, Bishop William Conway, who came to us from Down and Connor more than sixty years ago.

The burden of administration has grown much heavier since then, and the needs of our people, priests and society have become more complex. The Church's teaching on many important social and moral issues, including marriage and the sacredness of all human life, has become increasingly countercultural. With the decline in religious practice and fewer vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, we are have once again entered "mission mode" here in Ireland, and sometimes it's difficult to discern precisely where the Holy Spirit is leading us. However, despite all this change, the fundamental calling of the bishop remains as it has been handed down to us since the earliest days of the Church:

You are called to be a devoted father and a brother who loves all those whom God places in your care - especially the priests and deacons who share with you the ministry of Christ. You are asked to be a good shepherd, praying and caring for the whole flock, loving especially the poor and infirm, the stranger, and those who are isolated, lost or going astray,

Believe me, you will never have a dull moment! I have to admit, Fr Michael, that when I listen to today's Gospel story about Martha and Mary, my sympathies often lie with poor Martha - who ended up rushing around, fussing and fretting to make sure everything possible was being done for her guest, while her sister Mary sat quietly at the feet of Jesus, enraptured as he spoke to her. You will find, as a bishop, that it is very easy to get pulled this way and that, with so many demands, duties, meetings and administrative responsibilities, that it is not always easy to find time to be still in the presence of the Lord, and to listen to Him in prayer.

Forty years ago, when Pope St John Paul II came to Ireland, he spoke of the danger of becoming so immersed in the work of the Lord that we forget the Lord of the work - "Your first duty", he advised us, "is to be with Christ" (Maynooth 1.10.1979).

Last August, when Pope Francis spoke to the bishops of Ireland at the end of the World Meeting of Families, he said something similar: "What is the first duty of the bishop?", he asked. "I say it to everyone: it is prayer".

Of course there is no contradiction between spending time in pastoral activity and giving time in prayer before the Lord. Indeed the opposite is the case. Listening prayerfully to God's Word gives meaning and purpose to all our daily actions and helps us avoid becoming overburdened, as Martha was, with "too much serving". The grace of the Holy Spirit found in prayer, strengthens us with hope to face the anxieties and struggles of daily living.

Pope Francis said shortly after his election: "Prayer and action should never be separated, but lived in profound unity - They are essential - together" (Angelus 21.07.2013).

Spending time with God's Word in prayer offers inspiration for each day. Take, for example, today's First Reading: When young Jeremiah heard God calling him to be a prophet to the nations, he protested, "Ah Lord; look, I do not know how to speak: I am only a child!'

Michael, there will be times as a bishop when you, like Jeremiah, may feel overwhelmed by your own limitations and by what God is asking of you. On those occasions, take some time to be alone with God, and find comfort in God's reply to Jeremiah:

"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to protect you - it is the Lord who speaks!' I am putting my words into your mouth".

In a few moments, as you kneel in silence to receive the laying on of hands by all the bishops here present, I encourage you to be at peace with God's new call and plans for you. You will never be on your own.

"Attend to the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit appoints you an overseer of the Church of God -- in the name of the Father, whose image you personify in the Church -- and in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, whose role of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd you undertake -- and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church of Christ and supports our weakness with his strength".


In his address, the new Bishop Michael Router thanked all those present. He paid particular tribute to his parents: "The most supportive and loving people in my life" - Tony and Nora, his sisters Breda and Martina,brothers in law, Derek and Ollie, nieces and nephews and all my family circle. "I know I am blessed by God to have my parents here with me today I thank them for all they have contributed to my life thus far. Especially for their witness to fidelity and love over 57 years of married life together and the support they have given me during my 30 years of priestly ministry."

Bishop Michael said: "For me the preparation for today began when my parents brought me to be baptised in Mary Immaculate Church in Virginia in April 1965. The grace of that sacrament stays with us all our lives and it anoints us for our God-given vocation in life. Each one of us has a vocation. Each one is here for a purpose. For me personally that was a calling to the priesthood and that vocation has been nourished and strengthened through childhood and into adulthood by the influence and example of lay people, clergy and religious, particularly in my home town of Virginia who were always a hugely positive influence for me.

I am a child of the 1960s born just as the Second Vatican Council was coming to an end. The Ireland of the '60s, '70s and '80s, though often criticised in popular comment, was actually, in my experience, a great time and place to be a young person. I am thankful to have grown up in those years and in many ways to have grown up in a more open society and in a more open church shaped by the council.

The welcome that I have experienced in every faith community where I have ever lived or worked in Kilmore, and which I have received here in Armagh, over the past two months has left me with a very strong appreciation of the goodness and faith of so many people. Members of the Church, both lay and clerical, have given hope, courage and strength to so many down through the years and provided a sense of identity, pride and community for millions of Irish people at home and abroad.

I am, however, sharply aware that some people do not share the same positive experience of Church that I have. The institutional Church in this country, from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century did not adequately challenge the social divide that existed in society. Despite the pioneering work of many Church personnel in the fields of education and healthcare, it did not adequately defend, in the way it should have done, the rights of the poor and vulnerable. The Irish Church's mistakes and failures have caused deep hurt and pain to many people and we must remember and acknowledge that, while we celebrate here today, many people have turned their backs to us and walked away.

There is much that we have relied upon as a Church in the past that will simply not be there in the future. The Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor in his essay 'A Catholic Modernity?' reflects on how modern secularism's process of 'dethroning' Catholicism throughout the western world, of gradually disentangling the Church from the dominant institutions of societies where it long held political and social power, has paradoxically liberated it to find a new and creative voice in the present. The fact that the Church has been stripped of its former power and prestige is not a negative thing. The Church will be smaller and humbler in the future but those who are involved, who practice regularly, who volunteer their time, energy and resources to support the mission will not be doing it for any social or economic advantage but because they want to; because they see that life has no meaning without Jesus Christ at its centre. The quest for meaning, such a central issue in the modern world, will always bring people back to the faith

I think today of the many lay people who ministered with me in the parishes I have worked in over the past 30 years and particularly in Bailieborough and the wider parish of Killann over the past five years. It must be said that as a Church we rely heavily on the cooperation, support and help of women to achieve anything worthwhile. Their contribution needs further enhancement and development if we are to flourish in the future. As Pope Francis outlines in his recent Exhortation Christus Vivit "a Church that is overly fearful and tied to its structures can be invariably critical of efforts to defend the rights of women, and constantly point out the risks and the potential errors of those demands. Instead, a living Church can react by being attentive to the legitimate claims of those women who seek greater justice and equality".

The future will also necessitate greater education and formation of committed lay people to provide leadership at a liturgical, spiritual and administrative level and at the level of evangelisation and out-reach. I see that very much in operation here in this Archdiocese in the opportunities available for Adult Faith Formation and in the ongoing planning for the future in parishes and pastoral areas that is advanced and productive. Developing and working with small groups of people, Basic Christian Communities, to provide support for the committed Christian in a hostile world and support for ourselves in our ministry, will be essential.

Now is the time for us, people and clergy together, to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order to shape a Church fit for purpose in the 21st century and to continue to bring ourselves and our communities into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ who will take on all our burdens and our anxieties if we trust in him. To know Jesus in prayer and in the reading of scripture is to allow him to change us from the inside out. That is our task as ministers of his sacraments and of his word; not to place burdens upon people's shoulders but to give them hope. None of us are perfect all of us are sinners but we won't change or strive to be better unless we first encounter the real Jesus and let him touch our hearts.

Finally, I am heartened by the words from today's second reading from The Letter to the Hebrews - "Every high priest…lives in the limitation of weakness". Even though I am very conscious of my own weakness and limitations I abandon myself to God's will and I call on the power of his Holy Spirit to guide and inspire me in the years ahead. That is why I have chosen as my motto "In Manus Tuas Domine" - "Into your hands, O Lord". I know that the Lord's help, support and encouragement will come through all of you here present and through the people and priests of this great Archdiocese who I have been called to learn from and work with in the future. Remember me in your prayers as I will remember you in mine.

St. Patrick, pray for us, St. Brigid, pray for us, Saint Benan, pray for us, St Malachy, pray for us, St. Oliver Plunkett, pray for us."

Tags: Bishop Michael Router, Armagh

We Need Your Support

ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.

Please support our journalism by donating today.