THE EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF FATHER MICHAEL ROUTER AS AUXILIARY BISHOP OF ARMAGH AND TITULAR BISHOP OF LUGMAD –
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore and Primate of All Ireland, was the principal celebrant at Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh on Sunday 21 July 2019 to mark the episcopal ordination of Father Michael Router – former Parish Priest of Bailieborough (Killann) and a priest of the Diocese of Kilmore – as Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh and Titular Bishop of Lugmad.
Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland and Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop Emeritus of Kilmore Diocese were the co-consecrators. Also in attendance were Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh; Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel & Emly; Monsignor Liam Kelly, Administrator of Kilmore Diocese, and many diocesan bishops from around the country.
The Ordination Ceremony was the culmination of several weeks of planning by people from across the diocese and was a truly joyous celebration for the people of Armagh and for the new bishop and his family and friends.
Archbishop Richard Clarke represented the Church of Ireland and Rev. Louise Donald represented the Methodist Church. They were accompanied by members of the Cathedrals’ Partnership. 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.
Each of the 61 parishes of the diocese were represented as are many members of the Armagh Diocesan Youth Commission who participated in the ceremony. There was also a sizeable number of priests, laity and religious from Bishop Michael’s native diocese of Kilmore.
The Archdiocese of Armagh includes almost all of counties Armagh and Louth, approximately half of Co Tyrone and parts of counties Derry and Meath. It consists of 61 parishes and has a Catholic population of 267,803.
The new bishop was assisted by Fr. Kevin Donohoe PP, Castlerahan and Munterconnaught, and Fr. Eugene Sweeney PP VF VG, St. Peter’s in Drogheda – a classmate of Bishop Michael’s.
A number of his classmates also concelebrated including Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin. Also present in the sanctuary were the two permanent deacons from the Diocese of Kilmore – Deacon Andy Brady (Crosserlough) and Deacon Padraig Kelly (Glencar).
Words of Welcome of Archbishop Eamon Martin at the beginning of Mass:
Brothers and sisters, what a fitting hymn to begin our ordination Mass: “Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you”, and I hope the walls of this beautiful Cathedral will continue to resound with joy for the next couple of hours as we praise and thank God for calling Fr Michael Router to be our new auxiliary bishop.
I welcome you all – people, priests and religious from parishes across the Archdiocese of Armagh, the Diocese of Kilmore and beyond – including those who are watching in via our webcam. I am especially pleased to welcome Fr Michael’s mother and father, his family members and close friends. It is an honour to be joined by my co-consecrators – His Excellency Archbishop Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio and Bishop Leo O’Reilly – and by Cardinal Brady, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly and so many of my brother bishops and priests, including Monsignor Liam Kelly, Diocesan Administrator of Kilmore and members of the Cathedral Chapter of the Diocese of Dromore. We are grateful for the presence of representatives from other churches, including Archbishop Richard Clarke, Rev Louise Donald and members of the Cathedral partnership, as well as the Lord Mayor and other representatives from civic society – north and south. Céad míle fáilte romhaibh go leir.
[as Gaeilge] I welcome you, Father Michael. I wish you every blessing on this special day. Know that you are surrounded with love and prayer on this great occasion. And we call also on the great saints of Armagh to pray for you – Sts Patrick, Malachy, Brigid and Oliver Plunkett.
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.
Homily of Archbishop Eamon Martin:
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”.
Address of Bishop Michael Router:
Good afternoon everyone. May I begin by welcoming and thanking our special guests for their attendance here today especially the Bishops who came from all over Ireland, the clergy from the Archdiocese of Armagh, and from the Diocese of Kilmore and from other diocese along with my classmates from Maynooth College, and the members of Religious Orders and Organisations. A very special thanks to Most Rev. Dr. Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh, representing the Church of Ireland, Rev. Louise Donald, representing the Methodist Church, to Mrs. Mealla Campbell, The Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council, Mr. Paul Bell, The Mayor of Louth County Council, Mr. Shane P. O’Reilly Chairman of Cavan Co. Council, Liam Hannaway, The Chief Executive of the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Cathal Boylan MLA, Colm Gildernew MLA, Ms. Niamh Smyth TD, Senator Joe O’Reilly, local Councillors and representatives of the P.S.N.I., An Garda Síochána and the GAA.
Thank you to everyone else for being here on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of July when there are so many other alternatives available to you particularly if you are interested in sport. Of course, the people of Armagh, Louth, Derry and Cavan have not much more than a neutral interest in the super eights which are happening as I speak. Congratulations to the Tyrone people among us who do. In Cavan we thought we might have an interest in the later stages, but Tyrone saw to that as they inevitably do! There is always next year, but in Cavan we have been saying that for the past 22 years now.
I think you will agree that it was a beautiful ceremony today. So many people were involved in its preparation and execution that it would be impossible to mention them all, but the committee led by chairperson Deacon Paul Mallon and secretary Clar Doherty took on the brunt of the workload. Clar Doherty’s husband Cathal hasn’t forgiven me for the clash with Donegal and Kerry this afternoon so I better thank him as well. Behind every great woman is a patient man. When thanking Deacon Paul and Clar I would also like to include all the staff in Ara Coeli and in the Cathedral Parish for their help and support preparing for this day. The organising committee included Fr. Peter McAnely, Administrator, and Fr. Thomas McHugh, curate, in the Cathedral parish here in Armagh who were incredibly competent in the organisation of today’s wonderful liturgy and were superbly assisted by Fr. Aidan McCann, Fr. Barry Matthews, seminarians Stephen Wilson and Colm O’Hagan, the seminarians from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Dundalk, sacristans Roger Duggan and Denis Halligan and the parish altar servers and their coordinator Noreen Evans. The music and singing were beautiful and for that we must complement Colm Murphy and the wonderful Cathedral Choir. They worked hard to prepare for today and indeed gave up part of their summer break to be involved. Thank you to Dermot Kelly, The Diocesan Youth Commission and the young people from around the Archdiocese who were involved today in the procession and the sprinkling rite – it was great to have them taking part. Please God they will continue to contribute much to the future of the Church here in Armagh.
Thank you also to John McVey, the Diocesan Financial Administrator, Pearce Dynes and all the stewards and car park attendants, to Maura Kelly, Chairperson and the Armagh Parish Pastoral Council, the Knights of St. Columbanus, the Staff of the O’Fiaich Library, Dominic Clarke, Principal of St. Patrick’s College, and the College Staff, for their crucial contribution to the smooth running of this event and to the Corrin Pipe Band for providing entertainment outside the Cathedral.
It is truly an honour for me today to join the clergy and people of the Archdiocese of Armagh, the primatial see of Ireland founded by our patron, Saint Patrick. His successor, Archbishop Eamon Martin, has been most welcoming and helpful to me since my appointment was announced last May. Archbishop Eamon I thank you for your thought provoking and challenging sermon today and for all your kindness and hospitality. I look forward to assisting you in whatever way I can in the years ahead.
I want to thank Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo for his presence here today and for being a co-consecrator at this ceremony. His prayers, gentle reassurance and his guidance have been most helpful to me over the past few months.
Thank you also to Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop Emeritus of my native diocese of Kilmore, who has been a tremendous example and inspiration to me over the past 22 years. He is enjoying a well-deserved retirement since last January, but I know that his wisdom, guidance, and encouragement will continue to be available to me and to many others in the years ahead. Kilmore is fortunate to have during the interregnum, a very able administrator in Monsignor Liam Kelly and I wish to thank him for all his encouragement and support as well.
Thank you to Cardinal Seán for his presence here today and for his help and advice over the past few weeks. We can console each other when some of the local tribes beat our native county on the football field.
The most supportive and loving people in my life are, of course, my parents Tony and Nora and my sisters Breda and Martina, my brothers in law, Derek and Ollie, my 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.
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.
Bishop Router’s Coat of Arms:
The episcopal coat of arms chosen by Bishop Router is in the standard form of cross, shield and galero. The galero is traditionally the broad brimmed hat and tassels worn by a bishop.
The central symbol is the torch representing the flame of faith. This particular torch is a copy of the one Saint Benan holds before Saint Patrick in the stained-glass window by Harry Clarke located in the Honan Chapel in Cork. Saint Benan was one of the earliest disciples of Saint Patrick and he accompanied him on many of his travels around Ireland. St. Benan established a church in Drumbannon, near Bailieborough in Co. Cavan, the parish where, for the past five years, Bishop Michael has served as Parish Priest. Saint Benan left Bailieborough to join Saint Patrick in Armagh where he became his assistant bishop. He died in 467 AD.
The flame is a rich symbol representing the light of Christian faith which guides the footsteps of the faithful from birth to death. A lighted candle is handed to the parents of the newly baptised child as the priest prays “May they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts”. The mission of the Christian today is to keep the flame of faith alive in the darkness of evil that threatens our world.
In the top left-hand corner, as you view the crest, the dove represents the Holy Spirit who constantly renews the Church and ignites the flame of faith even in the most difficult of situations. The seven rays which proceed from the head of the dove signify the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgement, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence and Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence. The background colour of blue represents the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the top right hand corner, there is a representation of a yew tree. Bishop Michael is from Virginia in Co. Cavan and the Irish name for the town is Achadh an Iúir meaning the field of the yew tree. The background colours of black and yellow also represent his home place. The yew tree, an evergreen tree noted for its longevity, is a symbol of renewal, regeneration and resurrection.
Bishop Router’s Episcopal Motto: “In Manus Tuas Domine” (Into Your Hands, O Lord) which is taken from the Gospel of Luke 23:46.
Life and Ministry of Bishop Router:
Bishop Michael is a native of Virginia in Co. Cavan and was born on 15April 1965. His father, Anthony, was born in Bristol, England, to Irish parents and his mother, Nora, is a native of Glenamaddy, Co. Galway. He has two sisters, Breda Murphy and Martina Keville.
Bishop Michael was educated in Virginia National School and in Kells C.B.S. before entering Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to study for the priesthood in 1982. In Maynooth he graduated with a Bachelor in Divinity Degree and a Higher Diploma in Education.
Bishop Michael was ordained to the diaconate in the Maynooth College Chapel by Bishop Francis McKiernan, the Bishop of Kilmore, in 1987 and he was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Kilmore in Saint Matthew’s Church, Maghera, in his native parish, on 25 June, 1989.
Bishop Michael began his ministry as a curate in the parish of Killinkere and in 1991 he joined the teaching staff of Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan, where he taught English, Geography and Religion. He was appointed Chaplain of Bailieborough Community School in 1996 and Priest in Residence in the Parish of Kilmainhamwood and Moybologue. In 2002/2003 he studied at Mater Dei Institute of Education in Dublin and assisted during that time in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Drimnagh. He graduated with a Masters in Religion and Education in 2003.
On his return to the Diocese of Kilmore Bishop Michael was appointed the Diocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation and Pastoral Renewal while also serving as a Priest in Residence in the parish of Castletara/Ballyhaise. His role included providing training, encouragement and support for Parish Pastoral Councils, Liturgy Groups, Eucharistic Ministers and Ministers of the Word. He also helped to provide Adult Religious Education courses in the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, and in Manorhamilton, which were accredited by the Mater Dei Institute of Education and the Maryvale Institute.
In 2010, in addition to these roles, Bishop Michael was appointed director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre and in 2013 he was transferred as Curate to the Cathedral Parish in Cavan with responsibility for the Butlersbridge area. In 2014 he was appointed to his present position as Parish Priest of Killann Parish, which includes the towns of Bailieborough and Shercock, and as Vicar Forane for the Bailieborough Deanery. Bishop Michael was also a member of the College of Consultors of the Diocese of Kilmore and is chairman of the Diocesan Priests’ Council since 2017.
On 7 May last, His Holiness Pope Francis appointed Bishop Router, as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh, assigning to him the Titular See of Lugmad. The Titular See of Lugmad is an ancient episcopal see in County Louth. Previous bishops who held that title included Bishop Thomas Winning, Auxiliary Bishop and later Cardinal Archbishop of Glasgow.
Photographs courtesy of www.liammcardle.com
Bishop Michael greets his parents, Tony and Nora, after his ordination as Bishop
A unique photograph – All Kilmore men together: Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop-Emeritus of Armagh; Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop-Emeritus of Kilmore; Bishop Michael Router; and Bishop Francis Duffy, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise