Archbishop of York visits Clogher

Archbishop John SentamuThe Archbishop of York, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, has made a short visit to the Diocese of Clogher. The visit, at the invitation of Bishop Michael Jackson, was to mark the 1500th anniversary of St Macartan, the Patron Saint of Clogher. It was Dr Sentamu’s first official visit to Ireland since his appointment as Archbishop of York.

During the four-day visit and at a variety of events, the Archbishop addressed some 2,500 people from across the community. From a walkabout in Enniskillen Main Street to a Mothers’ Union gathering, from a public lecture to a St Macartan’s Day celebration in Clogher Cathedral, from an Enniskillen civic reception to school visiting, the Archbishop interacted with many people of all ages.

At Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Dr Sentamu met with pupils from nine schools from across the community. He also visited St Macartan’s College whose board is chaired by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher, Bishop Duffy, and Monaghan Collegiate School chaired by Bishop Jackson. This occasion marked the first official visit of Bishop Jackson to St Macartan’s College and of Bishop Duffy to Monaghan Collegiate School.

At all the schools the Archbishop engaged with pupils as he shared about his life and faith. In response he met with challenging and imaginative questions ranging from how to be a disciple in the 21st century, and what does it matter if we don’t go to church, to what was life like under Idi Amin’s regime? In Portora School there was even a brief but animated discussion on the merits of Arsenal versus Manchester United football clubs! The Archbishop is an Arsenal fan.

In Enniskillen Cathedral Hall the Archbishop delivered to a full audience a public lecture on the theme of ‘Christianity and Conflict’. In his lecture he unpacked the issue of conflict as a reality of life and reminded people the importance of promoting understanding and justice. Referring to the situation in Northern Ireland as well as conflicts in other parts of the world, the Archbishop challenged the audience to ‘never allow love to be squeezed out’ when dealing with conflict and reconciliation. “The hardest thing of all is to deliver restorative justice to the perpetrator, and at the same time stand side by side with the victims.”

He said, “We need to develop a world view that gives us a clear understanding of our common humanity; a citizenship that guarantees human rights and responsibility for all. This is a world view which defines our essential relationship with God and our essential relationship with each other as human beings. We are called to love our neighbour as ourself.”

Fermanagh District Council welcomed the Archbishop at a civic reception held in his honour in the Town Hall. Those invited included councillors, members of the Church of Ireland diocese and people from across the whole community.

On St Macartan’s Day (24th March) in a special Holy Communion service at Clogher Cathedral, the Archbishop dedicated a new ‘Clogher Stone’ to mark the anniversary celebrations. Members of the congregation representing each incumbency in the diocese brought forward a stone to mark the active link across church, diocese and parishes and they were ‘built’ together with the new Clogher stone by Dean Raymond Thompson. The purpose of the act was to remember 1,500 years of Christian witness, faithfulness and service in the diocese and to look forward to the future. Describing this part of the dedication act the Dean said, “The stones are well formed and smooth representing the wholeness of the body of Christ as the redeemer of mankind. However among them is a broken stone representing the brokenness of mankind and the need for redemption.” As he dedicated the stone, Archbishop Sentamu placed upon it a small cross made from wood from the Holy Land that he had carried in his pocket for some 14 years. The Archbishop in his sermon then treated the congregation to some lively stories and personal anecdotes from Africa as he preached on the theme of being living stones and being built into a spiritual temple.

Following a diocesan Mothers’ Union gathering, Dr Sentamu preached at a Holy Communion service for clergy, lay leaders and MU members at Aghavea Parish Church. This was followed by an opportunity for lay readers and clergy to discuss with the Archbishop a vision of the church for the 21st century.

Enniskillen Cathedral was the venue for a praise service with worship lead by Ballinamallard Praise Band and a focus for young people on ‘If I follow Christ where will he lead?’ During the service Bishop Jackson commissioned a team of young people from the diocese to go to Chile to work with Project South America (SAMS) this summer.

On 26th March the Archbishop visited two rural parishes in the diocese: Templecarne Church, Pettigo and Ardess Parish Church. Both churches were packed for the Mothering Sunday family services and chocolates were offered and flowers were presented to all the mothers and grandmothers. At Ardess Dr Sentamu delighted the congregation by playing conga drums during some of the songs.

One of the more unusual aspects of Dr Sentamu’s visit was a presentation to him of a specially carved wooden cross made by local woodturner, Brendan Bannon. The cross was carved from oak bog wood that was 4,000 years old and took a year to season and to work.

For more details of the celebrations marking 1500 years of Clogher diocese, please visit the Macartan 1500 website.

29th March 2006