I first became aware of Kieran Conry when he was the head of The Catholic Media Office and my parish was splashed all over the media, world wide. Other than the fact that all statements went through his office, he was an ‘also resident’ priest with my then parish priest’s good friend.
The next I knew of him he was elevated to the episcopacy. I first met him on July 2001 when I received my ministry of lector from him at St John’s Seminary at Wonersh. He was a new bishop and was not shy to share with us his desire to get things right on the day. This by turns, of course, put us all at our ease.
The following year I attended an ordination, he was the celebrant. I have never forgotten the words he said to the new deacon in his homily. “People will look for you for support, you might feel the need to turn to others in order to support those who need you, but don’t forget God, he wants you to do this work (stress on the ‘you’) otherwise we would not be here now”.
I encountered Bishop Conry a few time after that but our first conversation came in Lourdes during Low Week this year. I told him about the ordination and he appeared happy that I remembered this, he might have thought me a saddo, but no one would have known. A couple of days later we passed each other in the street “Good morning My Lord” said I “Good morning Tom” he replied, not a bad attempt I thought, at least he got the initial right!
Later I relayed the story to someone from A&B, he told me about something he had witnessed in recent years, also in Lourdes, which has, like the ordination homily, stayed with me. My correspondent tells me he was standing by the Pont des Arcades when along came a bishop, dressed in a cassock with his episcopurple cincture on, he was surrounded by three others who were all carrying things.
Shortly behind came Bishop Conry, with a family with young children, carrying one on his back and chatting to another. Which of these two was acting in persona Christi? This image popped into my mind when Pope Francis spoke of ‘shepherds smelling of the sheep’.
As soon as I heard the sad news of Bishop Conry’s resignation I just knew there would be gloating and unkind comments. Those who would be prone to make such comments will have taken no regard for any hurt being felt by anyone, and to a small extent I am relieved to see that others have noticed this, relieved, but far from please.
I was at Mass in an A&B parish today, the statement from Bishop Conry was read out before Mass, the priest then said “He who was our father is now our brother”, we must all remember this, we must all remember that when we fall, we have the privilege of calling our brethren just that.