The Diocese of Kilmore covers most of County Cavan, large sections of County Leitrim, three parishes in County Fermanagh and small portions of Counties Sligo and Meath. 

The overall population of the diocese is 83,076 with a Catholic population of 69,758.

The diocese has 78 priests: 19 are retired, 2 are working outside the diocese:

There are 5 Congregations of religious sisters in Kilmore with a total of 50 members. 

Kilmore has 34 parishes; 32 in the Republic and 2 in Northern Ireland. Each parish has a parish pastoral council, a finance committee, a recruitment committee and a safeguarding children representative.


Percentage Catholic Population:             83.97%


Brief History

The Kilmore Diocese is approximately the same as the ancient territory of Breifne. In the sixth century St. Felim, the patron of the diocese, established a church at Kilmore near where Cavan town is now situated. The diocese was formally established at the Synod of Kells in 1152 and it was known in papal documents by a variety of names such as Brefinnia and Tybruinensis (Urney). Andrew McBrady, who was bishop of the diocese from 1445 to 1455, rebuilt the ancient church of St. Felim. Pope Nicholas V allowed him to make this his cathedral and it became known as An Chill Mhór, and this cathedral gave its name to the diocese, a name which has remained ever since. The Cathedral passed into the hands of the Church of Ireland at the Reformation.

During the period of persecution, the Franciscan bishop Richard Brady (1580 – 1607) was imprisoned three times and Blessed Conn O’Rourke, a native of Dromahair was martyred at Kilmallock in 1579 along with another son of Creevalea Abbey, the Franciscan bishop of Mayo, Patrick O’Healey. Hugh O’Reilly became Bishop of Kilmore in 1626 but was transferred to Armagh in 1628. He worked hard for the success of the Confederation of Kilkenny. Eugene MacSweeney, a native of Donegal, succeeded Primate Hugh as Bishop of Kilmore and at one time was the only bishop in Ireland. He died in 1669 and the See was vacant for almost sixty years.

The years of the vacancy were particularly difficult. The diocese was ruled by vicars who found it hard to maintain discipline. In 1715 the parish priests of the diocese asked Rome to appoint Michael Smith as bishop. “The diocese”, they wrote, ” was more than forty six years without a bishop to confer Orders and Confirmation and to settle with his authority the frequent disputes that arise. The clergy are in the greatest need. All the dignitaries of the Cathedral Chapter are dead and we alone are left, decrepit old men, no longer able to work”.

Religious toleration improved in the eighteenth century and Rome began to appoint bishops in Ireland. Michael MacDonagh, a Dominican, was appointed to Kilmore in 1728. He was succeeded by another Dominican, Laurence Richardson, in 1747 and Andrew Campbell, an Armagh priest, followed in 1753. All three were non-resident and visited the diocese for short periods only. The transfer of Denis Maguire, a Franciscan, from Dromore to Kilmore in 1770 gave a new stability. He began the process of rebuilding both discipline and churches.

James Browne, a priest of Ferns and Professor of Scripture in Maynooth, was appointed to Kilmore in 1827 to meet the threat of the evangelicals. He lived until 1865 and was Kilmore’s most outstanding bishop. He reformed the diocese, continuing the building of churches and schools, recruited more vocations to the priesthood, founded the diocesan college in 1839 and at the time of his death the modern diocese of Kilmore had taken shape. Nicholas Conaty, who succeeded Browne, continued the work of church building. Some of the finest churches in the diocese date from that period and are the work of the talented Cavan architect, William Hague Jnr. He was also the architect of St. Patrick’s College, Cavan. Bishop Patrick Lyons (1937 – ’49) built the Cathedral of St. Patrick and St. Felim. The setting up of schools and the building of churches continued in more recent times by Bishop Austin Quinn (1950 – ’72), Bishop Francis MacKiernan (1972 – 1998) and Bishop Leo O’Reilly (1998-2018).

Father Martin Hayes, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly, was appointed Bishop of Kilmore by Pope Francis on the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, Monday 29 June 2020 and was subsequently ordained bishop on Sunday 20 September 2020 in the Cathedral of SS. Patrick & Felim in Cavan by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, assisted by His Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo and Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA of Cashel & Emly.