BISHOP NOEL TREANOR CELEBRATES FORTY YEARS IN PRIESTHOOD
Michael Fisher Northern Standard Thursday 16th June 2016 p.14
On the occasion of his fortieth anniversary as a priest, Monaghan native Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor has urged Catholics to continue to foster ways and means of promoting the human dignity of every person and to find new ways of doing so, like in the European Union. It was a new way, never a perfect one, pooling sovereignty and promoting the common good. We have a massive task to promote the social and ethical, he said.
Bishop Treanor is from Tyholland. The inspiration for the celebration in Belfast on Monday evening came from fellow Monaghan man Canon Brian McCluskey from Inniskeen, a retired priest of Clogher diocese and an assistant at St Brigid’s parish in south Belfast. He realised that the Bishop’s ruby anniversary coincided with that of the parish priest of St Brigid’s Fr Eddie O’Donnell and organised a joint celebration. Two other priests who concelebrated Mass were Fr Sean Emerson PP Antrim and Fr Patrick Winkle CC from Youghal in Co. Cork.
Bishop Treanor thanked Canon McCluskey for his friendship over the years. He said there was clear evidence in the parish of the difference everyone could make together in the community, in the diocese and in the world. It was great to see in St Brigid’s parish and in many others that people were joining them from different countries such as Brazil, the Congo, the Philippines and of course from Monaghan! This was most important at a time (in Europe) when there was a danger of rising nationalism. “We have to open our doors and find new ways of living, working and managing society”, Dr Treanor said, “in order to promote and foster the dignity of every person”.
Fr Eddie O’Donnell thanked Bishop Treanor for sharing the ruby anniversary celebration. He paid tribute to Canon McCluskey, who he met for the first time six years ago when he came to the parish. Brian was now a good friend and he couldn’t do without him in the parish, he said.
At the start of the Mass Bishop Treanor said he was privileged to share forty years of priestly service with Fr Eddie. He recalled that the day of his ordination (13th June 1976) was a very warm day in Monaghan during a beautiful and glorious summer.
The Northern Standard recorded the occasion at St Macartan’s Cathedral when the Bishop of Clogher, the late Dr Patrick Mulligan, ordained Fr Noel along with Reverend Laurence Duffy, Magheracloone (now Parish Priest in Carrickmacross) and Reverend Michael Daly, Killanny (PP Donaghmoyne).
Bishop Mulligan said in his homily forty years ago: “This is a day of rejoicing and gladness for the diocese to see the Church in Clogher renewing itself in the ordination of these young men to be priests…The Church lives and grows through its priests— preaching, offering Mass, taking the place of Christ among God’s people. Without priests the Church dies, the work of the redemption does not bear fruit. Thank God we have had enough priests in every generation to maintain the life of the Church…May Our Lord give these young men and all priests the rewards he has promised to those who leave all things to follow Him both in this life and in the life to come”.
Bishop Treanor said along with Fr Eddie he wished to thank his family, relatives and the local communities who had nourished and supported them in their vocation. He also thanked the parishioners of St Brigid’s for the support they had shown to Fr Eddie since his appointment as Parish Priest.
He reflected on how they were both children of the 1950s and 60s. They grew up in the era of The Beatles and in Monaghan, country and western music with stars such as Big Tom. They had been ordained with many others in 1976, a time of great hope and aspiration. They had moved through times of great change and scandals, even in the church. They had seen the arrival of different forms of fundamentalism and the rise of nationalism, which were recipes for war. But they still stood as a Christian community proud to serve the living word of God for our times and faith.
Looking back over forty years they were thankful. There had been much water under the bridge and now they must look to the future as people of hope. There was now a good balance between laymen and women and ordained priests working together to make parishes a welcoming place and centres of faith that were also part of a diocesan and a world church.
Bishop Treanor spoke of the need to find new ways of catechising for young people. He hoped there would still be Catholic schools in fifty years’ time. But if that was not guaranteed then the church might have to provide Sunday school education for faith.
He referred to the vibrancy of the Catholic church in places like Brazil, India, Korea, China and Myanmar and hoped that people from these countries would bring a freshness of experience to the church locally. They gave thanks to their forebears for the gift of faith and prayed they might hand it on to the next generation.
At the end of the Mass Fr O’Donnell told the congregation he had wanted a quiet anniversary, but Canon McCluskey had plotted with the parishioners to hold a double celebration. He described Canon Brian as a special friend, who he could not do without “in spite of his hang-ups with Monaghan GAA and the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh!” Reflecting on the shortage of new vocations, Fr Eddie said there was a great psychological difference in asking “do you need priests?” and “do you want priests?” If you said “want” then you were more likely to do something about it and gain the courage to ask a son or relative to consider seriously Christ’s call.
Canon McCluskey spoke afterwards during a meal organised at the parish hall. When he first met Fr Eddie six years ago, he had resided in the parish for a number of years (since his retirement from the diocese of Clogher). When he got into conversation with him, one of the first things he told him was that Monaghan had a (GAA) football team, something Fr Eddie didn’t know!
They were gifted that a Monaghan man had been sent to lead this diocese. He himself had been the precursor, the John the Baptist figure preparing the way for Bishop Noel to come to Down and Connor. Canon McCluskey said this would be a night to remember, the night of the great feast, just as people in the past had recalled the night of the great wind.
Bishop Treanor was born on Christmas Day 1950 at Silverstream, Co. Monaghan, in the parish of Tyholland. He attended St Brigid’s National School, Leitrim, and completed his early education at St Mary’s CBS, Monaghan. In 1968 he began his study of Arts and Philosophy at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and in 1971, commenced the study of Theology, achieving his Licence in Sacred Theology with special commendation in 1977.
Following his ordination he was sent by the late Bishop Mulligan to the Irish College in Rome to pursue his studies of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Recalled in 1980 by the then new Bishop of Clogher, Most Revd Joseph Duffy, he was appointed assistant in the Cathedral parish, in charge of the local Catholic Marriage Advisory Council.
From 1981 to 1985 he again pursued the study of theology in Rome, while at the same time serving as Prefect of Studies at the Irish College. Having returned to his Diocese in 1985, he was appointed Director of Adult Education. He organised a diocesan assembly of clergy held in 1986 to promote pastoral renewal within the diocese. His next appointment was as a curate in Enniskillen, where he also provided service at the general hospital and was active at Lough Derg pilgrimage centre.
In 1989 he was sent to Brussels to work with the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, COMECE. While deeply involved in the expanding endeavour of this Church body to project Christian values into the European process, he continued to engage in pastoral work through contact with the English-speaking community in the city. He also published and lectured widely on European construction issues, the Church and Europe, and Church-State matters.
On March 31st 1993 he was unanimously appointed Secretary General of COMECE for a three-year term and was reappointed for several successive terms since then. In May 1994 he was nominated Chaplain to His Holiness. His appointment as a Bishop was announced by Pope Benedict XVI in February 2008 and he was installed at St Peter’s Cathedral in June that year on the feastday of St Peter and Paul.
Fr O’Donnell was ordained for the Down and Connor diocese at St Patrick’s church Donegall Street in Belfast. He is a native of Magherafelt in County Derry and celebrated his first Mass there. His brother, sister and cousins attended the anniversary Mass. Fr Eddie as he is known went on to serve as a hospital chaplain before being appointed diocesan Secretary in 1982-1991 during the stewardship of Bishop Cahal Daly. He served in Antrim, Newtownards and was parish priest of St Anne’s Derriaghy before being appointed by Bishop Treanor to St Brigid’s in 2010.
Ad multos annos.