Words: Fr Richard Scriven
Photos : John Mcglone
From the Hills of Donegal to the Banks of the Silvery Nore, with a stop in Maynooth, Letterkenny, Rome, Carlow, Belfast and Donegal Town, Fr Niall Coll’s pastoral ministry began in Ossory on Sunday 22nd January when he was ordained and installed as Bishop of Ossory.
After nearly two years of an interregnum Fr Niall Coll was ordained by Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, in the presence of Fr Coll’s family and friends, priests and parishioners of the forty two parishes of Ossory.
A native of St Johnson, Co Donegal, Fr Coll was ordained by Bishop Seamus Hegarty in 1988. He now becomes the 96th bishop of Ossory.
Bishop Coll was joined in St Mary’s Cathedral by his family: parents Willie and Kathleen, sisters Anne Marie and Caitriona, brother Gerard and extended family.
Accompanying Bishop Coll were also classmates from Maynooth and Rome, former colleagues from St Mary’s College Belfast, and parishioners from his various pastoral appointments.
Every parish in the diocese was represented as we witnessed Bishop Coll being ordained by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, assisted by Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin and formerly Apostolic Administrator of Ossory and Bishop Alan McGuckian of Raphoe.
A procession of forty-two banners representing the forty-two parishes of the diocese of Ossory begun the liturgy.
Grouped and identified by colour the parishes are now organised in 13 different pastoral areas.
Priests had already taken their place in the Apse and the South Transept.
Secondary school students greeted those attending, bringing them to their seats and giving them the booklet for the day.
A group of eight secondary school students from Loreto, Presentation, CBS and St Kieran’s, under the direction of Master of Ceremonies Fr Roderick Whearty, assisted at the altar.
A choir of 80 with 20 musicians under the direction of Fr Scriven and John O’Neill gave the sacred music; much of the music had been chosen by the new bishop.
At 3pm twenty-two bishops entered in solemn procession to the singing of Holy is God by the choir.
Fr Coll was accompanied by two priest chaplains: Fr Brian Griffin, Parish Priest of Castletown and Camross, and Fr Stephen Gorman, Curate at Convoy in Co Donegal.
During the Prayer of Consecration the chaplains held the Book of the Gospels open over the head of the new bishop.
Standing at the cathedra (bishop’s chair) Archbishop Farrell began the mass welcoming all.
He greeted Fr Coll and assured him that he was certain that he would receive a wonderful welcome in the diocese.
He attested to this by referring to the heartfelt welcome that he himself had received throughout the diocese during his four years as bishop in Ossory.
The ordination rite began after the gospel.
Following the singing of Veni Creator Spiritus Fr William Dalton, Parish Priest of Callan and Chancellor of the Diocese, read the Mandate from the Holy See.
This document informed the diocese that Pope Francis had appointed Fr Coll to be Bishop of Ossory in succession to Archbishop Farrell upon his translation to Dublin.
Fr Kieran O’Shea, Parish Priest of Rosbercon, preached the homily.
In welcoming Fr Coll among us as bishop Fr O’Shea hoped that before too long “the words of The Moon behind the Hill, The Rose of Mooncoin, Lovely Laois and The Offaly Rover will be as familiar to him as The Homes of Donegal.
Fr O’Shea assured the new bishop that “in the forty-two parishes of this diocese, in the People of God gathered here today, in the People of God gathered in Croke Park today from Ballyhale and further afield, in the People of God from the peripheries to the centre, you will find signs that the reign of God is present.
Wherever faith is lived and handed on, wherever hope is share and wherever the price of love is paid you will find signs of God’s reign… you will find signs in the energy and giftedness of young people and in their searching for truth.”
Following the laying on of hands and his anointing Bishop Coll received the mitre and episcopal ring from Archbishop Farrell which had been presented by his family.
The Crozier, or Pastoral Staff, was also presented to the new bishop.
Archbishop Farrell then led the new bishop, crozier in hand, to the cathedra where he was formally installed as bishop of the diocese.
This chair has been the cathedra of bishops of Ossory since 1867 when it was installed in the cathedral by Bishop Edward Walsh.
The new bishop was then greeted by the bishops present and a selection of those attending the ceremony who represented many groups of the diocese. Civic leaders and politicians were lead by Mayor David Fitzgerald, other Christian churches by Church of Ireland Bishop Adrian Wilkinson, education by principals of the cathedral parish primary schools, religious of the diocese were led by Br Joe of the Capuchin Friary and Sr Helen Maher of the Sisters of St John of God.
Bishop Coll then became the principal celebrant of the mass.
To the sound of the Donegal traditional tune, the Waves of Gola, the altar was prepared by Caoimhe Campion from Rathdowney and the O’Neill family from St Mary’s.
Rebecca O’Neill also rang the bell during the Eucharistic Prayer.
At the end of the ceremony the new bishop was accompanied by Archbishop Farrell and Bishop Nulty as he walked through the cathedral to give his blessing to the congregation.
The choir and musicians sang St Peter’s Barque as Bishop Coll was presented.
This piece of music was written by Phil Coulter on the occasion of the opening of a new church close to where Bishop Coll lived with his family in Donegal.
The final procession of over 130 priests and 22 bishops left the cathedral to the sound of the words of St Patrick’s Breastplate: Christ be near at either hand. The new bishop greeted all outside the cathedral before joining his family and all present in Newpark Hotel for refreshments.