A presentation function took place recently at the Church of Our Lady of the Wayside, Jenkinstown.
Fr Padraig Murphy PP was the principal celebrant at the Mass while Bishop Gerard Clifford and Fr Patrick Larkin (retired PP) concelebrated. Conor McCaughley, on behalf of the parishioners of Lordship and Ballymascanlon, presented the bishop with an inscribed Belleek china replica of the Ardagh Chalice.
Mary Cumiskey presented the bishop’s sister, Rose Briody, with a bouquet of flowers while Rose McEneaney gave an address and Aileen Murphy made a presentation on behalf of the parish pastoral council.
Bishop Clifford is a native of the area, so it seemed appropriate that the parish of Lordship and Ballymascanlon should mark his retirement as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh. It is the parish where he has lived during his 23 years as a bishop in the diocese.
While many know of his work as a bishop in the archdiocese, few may realise the contribution he has made to the Church in general.
After more than 10 years as catechetical advisor (or ecclesiastical inspector) in the primary schools of the diocese he was, while a curate in Portadown, appointed in 1979 as Diocesan Director for Ecumenism.
The following year he moved as curate to the parish of Kilmore in Armagh and continued his work in ecumenism. In 1984 he was appointed the first full-time executive secretary of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and held that post until 1991 when he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh.
The episcopal motto he chose ‘Ut Unum Sint’, (that they may be one), expresses the hoped-for reconciliation of the two principal Christian traditions in Ireland, something for which Bishop Gerard has worked assiduously over the years.
His many gifts and selfless contribution to the work of the Irish Bishops’ Conference over the last twenty years have been particularly marked in the areas of ecumenism, education and in pastoral care. He was a member of the Bishops’ Commission for Ecumenism, the Advisory Committee on Ecumenism, the Inter-Church Standing Committee on Mixed Marriages, the Irish Inter-Church Committee (also known as the Ballymascanlon Conference).
He was a member of the Episcopal Commission for Missions and in more recent years his sensitivity and compassion were evident in Cura during his successful tenure as president of the crisis pregnancy agency. Bishop Gerard is the longest serving auxiliary bishop in the history of the diocese, and the longest serving bishop in the diocese since Cardinal Michael Logue who died in 1924.