Monday, 12 September 2011

Bishop Kieran the First Ten Years - Part 2


FOR SOME, 10 years is a lifetime. For others, it is but a blink of an eyelid. How has it been for Bishop Kieran? Here he is in continued conversation with A & B News correspondent, Peter Burholt.

Bishop Kieran was ordained in Arundel Cathedral as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton on Saturday 9th June 2001.


What reaction have you had in the Diocesan ranks on the merits or otherwise of the New Translation of the Roman Missal 

I would say that the reaction has been fairly positive. This is a liturgical renewal, although the use of the word “consubstantial” is slightly more difficult for people to understand. Consubstantial = the Father and Son are “of one being”.

People are accepting the changes and they are seeing the beauty of the new translations. One church-goer from South Africa reported her experience there of being one of great spiritual renewal.

On a simple basis, it gives us all – including myself – a reason to think about what we say, what we listen to and how we pray. Maybe, if we could propel ourselves forward 10 years, I guess we would be saying “what changes?”

Last time we met you stated that you were a priest first and a bishop second. Does this still apply after 10 years and how do you manage the need for pastoral care in a job dictated by meetings and appointments?

Yes, I still firmly believe in this statement. A lot of what I do is pastoral - I get particular excitement and stimulation by the enthusiasm and commitment of the youth of the Diocese. As the years go on I try to get to know parishioners, such as the mother and young boy delivering a card to my front door when you arrived.

Yes, I do have many meetings to attend, both in the Diocese and in connection with my national commitments. They are often back-to-back and I must admit things do get forgotten.

You are an extremely accessible Bishop. Some might say that you have become the Diocese’s “Agony Aunt”. Does this lead to times when you would just like to close your front door and to be alone?

I get my fair share of counselling to do, but I try to manage the process – much like a parish priest.

Without warning the ring of the telephone abruptly broke into our conversation. “Yes, can I help?” The conversation went on for some time with Bishop Kieran patiently saying to the caller “Well, that issue was sorted 400 years ago!” The caller’s agitated voice could be heard across the room. The conversation ended fairly abruptly “I must really go now as I need to leave immediately to confirm 150 young people in Guildford”. The receiver was politely, but firmly replaced.

Bishop Kieran returned to the dining table and nothing more was said on the subject!

Where have you gone to get your own counselling? Is it back with the family?

My family is away from here and so I mostly rely on close friends, who do not talk Church! I relax with them and try to get up to London when I can, but I need what is called non-contact time away from my role here in A&B.

Great support is given by my fellow bishops in England and Wales and this is where I can take any issues to do with my life as Bishop.

Looking over his shoulder to the garden, unsurprisingly, the man with an Irish pedigree said:

Well, I’ve started to grow potatoes again. That helps!
Do you have any regrets over matters which you feel frustrated and unable to get a result?

I do have regrets. It is the way in which contemporary society has got itself into a mess. It has been seduced into selfishness and is short sighted. However, I still maintain a great faith in our future – just look at the 190 confirmations in Weybridge. I live in great optimism.

Have there been any disappointments in the last 10 years?

On reflection, I cannot think of any important disappointments. Maybe I do get just a bit frustrated at the slowness of parish reforms. Whether we like it or not, we do not have choice in this matter and we need to move on.

Before A & B, you were settled in the depths of London. Given your very packed diary, do you have a chance to take your shoes and socks off and go paddling along the coastline of your Diocese?

My visitors are the ones who get me out! Although I still marvel at the beauty of the countryside in this part of England! Just today driving back here the banks were full of white summer flowers – what a wonderful sight.

On days off I try to do something different, which helps me relax into another world. Digging potatoes!

What about moments of lightness – have there been any?

In this, I assume you are referring to lightness of heart. Yes, there have been plenty of occasions to mention, some being the Chrism Mass, the Lourdes pilgrimages, ordinations and confirmations. These all give me great happiness and pleasure.

What is your greatest achievement since being ordained our Bishop?

Staying the course and keeping a sense of humour!

Are you happy?

Yes, I am. This is an honest answer, not just what you expect to hear. I wake up each morning and look forward to the day ahead; I look forward to the challenges. I have never been otherwise.

What do you want to achieve in the next 10 years?

My main aim over the next 10 years is to keep doing what I think is best for the clergy, the religious and people of the Diocese. After the new translation has been introduced in Advent, I would like to see all the plans put in place which are now underway.

Then, there is the 50th anniversary of the Diocese coming up in 2015. God willing, I will be here to celebrate this great milestone.

Any desires about becoming an archbishop, or even a cardinal?

If my Diocesan family can stand me I’m staying put, firmly here in A&B!

In the blink of an eyelid our conversation was at an end. Bishop Kieran jumped into his slightly beaten up Astra and was away to Guildford. He is a man we are fortunate to have as our Shepherd. May we, in turn, support him in his journey for the next 10 years…..and then there are the celebrations in 2015 for the Diocese’s 50th anniversary. I wonder - will it be his place or ours for the party?

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