is now almost 40 years since
the late Bishop Cornelius Lucey wrote a letter to the people of the
Diocese informing them of his decision to establish a Diocesan Mission
to South America. Little could he have known, or indeed imagine, the
impact that decision would have. Since 1965, over 55 priests, almost
70 Bon Secours, Presentation and Mercy Sisters have served voluntarily
in the desert area of Trujillo, Peru and more recently in Manta, Ecuador.
The priests and sisters worked with a population of the poorest of the
poor which at times was over 300,000 people.
Primarily, the work
of the priests and sisters in South America was to make Christ better
known and loved. From this came a commitment to the material welfare
of the people. Churches were built, parish centres established, the
Good News of the gospel was preached and the local people were prepared
to become actively involved in organising the life of their local Church.
Parish schools offered hope for a better future, medical centres cared
for the sick and forgotten, food programmes fed the hungry. the first
local schools for children with special needs were developed and small
community projects to create employment were supported in an attempt
to break the cycle of poverty.
It is unusual for
a diocesan missionary project to last as long as that of Cork and Ross.
It survived terrorism, weather phenomena and political turmoil. How
does one explain the success of the Cork and Ross Mission? Beside the
grace of God, there are two possible explanations: continuous flow of
volunteer priests and sisters and the unfailing support by the people
of Cork. For this support and goodwill I sincerely thank you. The Lord
will reward you for your generousity over the years.
Due to the growing
shortage of priests here at home, the last remaining priests were recalled
in March and responsibility for the parishes was handed over to the
local Church. There is an obvious sadness in ending this link which
has been part of the life of the diocese for 39 years. Yet, there is
justifiable pride in what has been accomplished. The lives of entire
communities there have been transformed and enriched by our joint efforts.
We are happy that
the Mercy Sisters and Bon Secours Sisters who worked with the Mission
from the beginning will continue to work in the parishes in Peru. Both
Congregations are now receiving many local girls into their Communities.
This is not the end of our commitment to Peru and Ecuador. We will continue
to support the sisters and local churches in accordance with their specific
needs for as long as this is necessary.
Now is an opportune
time to celebrate what has been achieved. It is an occasion to give
thanks to The Lord for all the blessings during the past 39 years and
we look forward in hope as we face the challenge of finding new ways
of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to people at home and abroad.
I am inviting you
to a spacial Mass of Celebration and Thanksgiving which will take place
in the Cathedral on Thursday, the 23rd. of
September, at 7.30 pm