An Interview with Bishop Fintan Monahan

by Gordon Nary



Gordon: Where did you attend seminary and what was you favorite course and why?


Bishop Fintan: I attended seminary in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth from 1984-1992, studying science and theology. My favourite course was studying for my dissertation for a licence in biblical theology. The scriptum was based on the writings of John Henry Newman who may soon be canonized. The topic I was considering was how dependent are Catholics on Scripture for their Creed in his thought. It was fascinating and interesting to trace the development of thought of Newman from his Anglican days to his Catholic conversion. It was a delight to have the opportunity to delve into the thought of one of the great literary, spiritual and theological giants of our wonderful Christian tradition.


Gordon: What were the topics that you taught when you were assigned to St. Jarlath's College ?


Bishop Fintan: Apart from studying basic courses in Religion and Catechetics, I also taught Science, Mathematics and the Irish or Gaelic language. In Religion class, I always enjoyed teaching biblical themes and topics and really enjoyed doing modules on prayer and meditation, something the students at that age take to very well.


Gordon: When you coached basketball at St. Jarlath's College, can you remember approximately how many games you won ?


Bishop Fintan: I don’t know how many games exactly we won. The success of teams varied from year to year with the amount of talent in that particular class. I remember 2005 being a particularly good year with one team having 15 straight wins, victorious at regional, provincial and national level and finally being runner up twice in two separate All Ireland Competitions. We also lost plenty of matches as well with other groups, but it was not all about winning! We had some great times and enjoyed every moment of it! Football was the main sport in the school and hurling was also popular, which I also enjoyed coaching.


Gordon: You are the youngest priest ever to be appointed as a bishop in Ireland. Is there a possibility that your social media expertise was a factor in Pope Francis’ decision


Bishop Fintan: I was certainly not the youngest priest ever to be appointed a bishop. I just happened to be the youngest bishop in Ireland at the time of appointment, being still in my 40’s. I was the youngest bishop for over two years until my class mate, Thomas Deenihan was appointed this year. He is 6 months younger than me!

I am not privy to the reasons I was appointed bishop and to this day it is still a mystery to me! However, I was active in the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life as well as the area of communications, proclaiming the good news of the Gospel. They are two areas that I am passionate about and do all I can to support in whatever way I can.


Gordon: What social media resources should parishes consider using and why?


Bishop Fintan: My experience of proclaiming the good news of the Gospel via social media has been very positive. I am a great admirer of Pope Francis and Bishop Robert Barron in the way they utilize the various platforms of social media to share the Gospel message. More and more – short lively, joyful video clips are becoming very attractive to get a core message across, whether that be the promotion of a parish or diocesan event or point of catechesis. Depending on the age profile being targeted – different platforms of social media have a particular attraction whether that be facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat or whatever.


Gordon: What are the challenges of religious vocations in Ireland?


Bishop Fintan: There are so many challenging factors! Secularism. Materialism. Individualism. To name just a few. The crises that many people have in making anything more than just a temporary commitment presents a huge challenge when promoting vocations as well. So many of this generation see the choices they make as temporary, whether that be a commitment to a job, a way of life, marriage and the same applies to the vocational sphere as well.


Gordon: What were some of the factors that affected Ireland repealing the Eighth Amendment prohibiting abortion?


Bishop Fintan: In many ways Ireland has rapidly become post-Christian. The numbers of people practicing the faith has declined rapidly over the past 30 years. Vocations have almost totally collapsed. Many people are still very committed to the practice of the faith and many have have stopped still have some residual faith and have opted to practice and pray at ritual moments or key rites of passage in their lives.


In the lead up to the abortion vote, even though the Church gave clear and direct guidance and strongly recommended a pro-life position – many got drawn in and persuaded by a wave of compassion for hard and exceptional cases and others saw this particular vote as a vote for the freedom of women, not taking into account that the pro-life stance was strongly advocating a position that would love both, mother and child.


Gordon: What are the three primary challenges to Catholicism in Ireland that you hope to address 9n 2019?


Bishop Fintan:In our own diocese we have just started a major work of restructuring our parishes into pastoral areas in order to be able to continue to provide pastoral services for the many who live in the diocese. We have moved to a form of team ministry, with priests and people working closely together. I would hope to continue to consolidate that important process. I would hope that this encouragement of priests and faithful to exercise their vocations together would lead to more vibrancy of faith celebration and practice and encourage a culture of vocations promotion to the priesthood and religious life which would complement the work many lay people are now doing so willingly.


One of the main reasons we moved to the above system was to free ourselves up to be able to move from maintenance to mission mode in response to the guidance of Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel. I would hope this important work of evangelization would always be to the fore in every parish.


We have also embarked on the training of Catechists and Pastoral Workers as the passing on of the basics of the faith will be critical in future years. In years past this was done in the primary and secondary schools but it is becoming increasingly more challenging in the new Ireland to maintain the Catholic ethos that ensured that the faith would flourish. Within this the encouragement and provision for youth ministry is also a top priority.


Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview.

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