Bishop Noel Treanor reflects on the meaning of Pentecost at ecumenical prayer service


Clergy and lay people who took part in the prayer service at Pentecost

The ecumenical prayer service for Pentecost customarily led by the two Bishops of Clogher, took place on Sunday afternoon, 4th June 2017 in St Sillian’s Parish Church, an historic Church of Ireland church at Tyholland, Co. Monaghan.

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell, and the Rt Revd Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Roman Catholic Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Clogher, led this special annual service, together with local clergy including the Revd Betty Thompson, non-stipendiary minister in charge of St Sillian’s Parish, Tyholland and Fr. Hubert Martin, PP of Donagh.

The hymns and praise were led by a community choir, involving not only the choir of St Sillians but neighbouring churches, conducted by Mrs Ethne McCord.

Niall Hughes and Catherine Wilson

During the service, two young people, Catherine Wilson and Niall Hughes, gave their reflections on Pentecost.

The hymns reflected the uplifting spirit of the occasion; 'Come down, O love divine', 'Spirit of the Living God' and 'Come, Holy Spirit, come.'

The address was given by the Most Revd Noel Treanor, Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, who is a native of Tyholland.

He told the congregation which filled the church to capacity, that they were all bonded to continue to cherish this historic and hallowed site at Tyholland which had its roots from the late 9th Century.

He said: “We gather on this feast day of Pentecost in response to the movement of the Spirit of God into whose Easter new life we are baptised. Through baptism we all share the name and identity of being Christians, and live together a common faith in the person of Jesus Christ in our respective confessional and ecclesial traditions.

“Today, Pentecost Sunday 2017, in this 500th anniversary year of Martin Luther’s 95 Wittenberg theses, we gather here in this cemetery where Christians of our different confessions, Protestant and Catholic, have been laid to rest over the centuries. Here graves for deceased family members and friends were dug together by neighbours of both traditions. With its inclusive burial tradition St Sillian’s Churchyard and the congregation of this Church kept alive, the divine embrace of Pentecost which motivates diversity to seek unity, otherness to seek community and Christians in dissension to search for understanding and what St Paul in the first reading refers to as, ‘the good purpose'.

He said the readings from the New Testament at the service whispered to them of crossing boundaries.

“They speak of community and unity emerging from diversity, difference, divisions. In a salutary, counter-historical and prophetic way, this Tehallen churchyard gave permanent ecumenical witness in its reception in death of those born to the new life of the Resurrection.

Reflecting on the success of the ecumenical services over the years, Bishop Treanor stated: “It is therefore a blessing for the entire community of Christians and a prophetic sign for both society and our political orders that this initiative, rooted in our local history, in our culture as fertilised and enriched by so many diverse elements and in our common Christian tradition, has continued each year under the guidance of the bishops of the dioceses and with the support of diocesan and local personnel and communities. For as individual persons, as a society and as bodies politic, we have in our contemporary world, and here in deepest Ireland, a growing need for the spiritual capacity, for that combined rational and emotional Christian intelligence capable of discerning the call of the sacred and the holy in all life’s moments.

Bishop Noel Treanor

“Sites such as St Sillian’s on this hillside, steeped in the religious and Christian heritage and tradition of Ireland and of universal Christianity, are living symbols of a religious and cultural tradition charged with a hidden energy of meaning for a future that stretches out beyond our lifespans and beyond our time-bound predictions.

Looking at modern living, Bishop Treanor commented: “In our global village, now menaced by violence in our cities, by wars, by climate change and its effects on the ecosystem, by the urgent need to develop respect and historical understanding and reconciliation between peoples and cultures, we, Christians, have a shared and urgent responsibility to re-appraise ourselves of the irreplaceable contribution our faith heritage and tradition can and must make to shaping a saving view of the world, an anthropology, a humanism, which generates hope, spiritual energy and reconciliation with the ballast of history for the 'good purpose”, as St Paul puts it, (1 Cor 12:7), or “the common good”, as understood in Christian Social thought, for present and future generations.

“May our collective and ecumenical prayer be that we may re-awaken to the beauty and historic significance of this place in local history and in the history of Ireland, that we may cherish and protect this ecclesiastical site for posterity and that as a Christian community we may work for peace, justice, reconciliation and the integrity of creation in our time,” he asked.

Following the service, everyone was invited to Tyholland Community Centre for refreshments.