Former Director of Kilmore Diocesan Pastoral Centre appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh
Father Michael Router appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
His Holiness Pope Francis has appointed Father Michael Router, Parish Priest of Bailieboro (Killann) in the Diocese of Kilmore, as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh, assigning to him the Titular See of Lugmad. The news of the appointment was made public at 12.00 noon in the Vatican (11.00am Irish time) on Tuesday 7 May 2019
Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore. The role of an auxiliary bishop is to assist the diocesan bishop in meeting the pastoral and administrative needs of the diocese. The Titular See of Lugmad is an ancient episcopal see in County Louth. Previous bishops who held that title included Bishop Thomas Winning, Auxiliary Bishop and later Cardinal Archbishop of Glasgow.
The Archdiocese of Armagh includes almost all of counties Armagh and Louth, approximately half of Co Tyrone and parts of counties Derry and Meath. It consists of 61 parishes and has a Catholic population of 267,803. The Diocese of Dromore includes portions of counties Antrim, Armagh and Down. It consists of 22 parishes and has a Catholic population of 63,400.
Life and ministry: Auxiliary Bishop-elect Router is a native of Virginia in Co Cavan and was born on 15 April 1965 to Anthony and Nora Router. He has two sisters, Breda Murphy and Martina Keville. He was educated in Virginia National School and in Kells CBS before entering the national seminary of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to study for the priesthood in 1982. In Maynooth he graduated with a Bachelor in Divinity Degree and a Higher Diploma in Education. He was ordained to the diaconate in Maynooth College by the late Bishop Francis McKiernan on 26 September 1987. He was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Kilmore by Bishop McKiernan in Saint Matthew’s Church, Maghera, in his native parish, on 25 June 1989.
Auxiliary Bishop-elect Router began his ministry as a curate in the parish of Killinkere and in 1991 joined the teaching staff of Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan. He was appointed Chaplain of Bailieborough Community School in 1996 and Priest in Residence in the Parish of Kilmainhamwood and Moybologue. In 2002/2003 he studied at Mater Dei Institute of Education in Dublin and assisted during that time in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Drimnagh. He graduated with a Masters in Religion and Education in 2003. On his return to the Diocese of Kilmore he was appointed the Diocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation and Pastoral Renewal while also serving as a Priest in Residence in the parish of Castletara/Ballyhaise. His role included providing training, encouragement and support for Parish Pastoral Councils, Liturgy Groups, Eucharistic Ministers and Ministers of the Word. He also helped to provide Adult Religious Education courses in the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, and in Manorhamilton, which were accredited by the Mater Dei Institute of Education and the Maryvale Institute.
In 2010, in addition to these roles, Auxiliary Bishop-elect Router was appointed director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre. In 2013 he was transferred as Curate to the Cathedral Parish in Cavan with responsibility for the Butlersbridge area. In 2014 he was appointed to his present position as Parish Priest of Killann Parish, which includes the towns of Bailieborough and Shercock, and as Dean of the Bailieborough Deanery. He was also a member of the College of Consultors of the Diocese of Kilmore and was chairman of the Diocesan Priests’ Council since 2017.
Auxiliary Bishop-elect Router’s main area of interest outside of his work has always been in sport. He played football for the Ramor United and Killinkere Gaelic Football clubs in Cavan, was a selector with the Ballyhaise’s Minor and Senior football teams from 2004 to 2012, and a football and basketball coach in Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan, and Bailieborough Community School. He maintains a keen interest in all sports, particularly in the fortunes of the Cavan Gaelic Football team and Bristol City FC.
During his time as Diocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation Auxiliary Bishop-elect Router wrote a regular column on religious matters in the Anglo-Celt and the Cavan Voice local newspapers.
Archbishop Eamon Martin welcomes the appointment of Father Michael Router as Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
I am very pleased that Pope Francis has appointed Father Michael Router from the Diocese of Kilmore to be the next Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh.
Around this time last year, five years after the retirement of the late Bishop Gerard Clifford as Auxiliary Bishop, I asked Pope Francis to consider appointing a new Auxiliary Bishop to assist me. This morning I thank God for the appointment of Father Michael Router and I am very grateful to the Holy Father Pope Francis and to His Excellency Archbishop Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, for facilitating my request. Father Router’s appointment is particularly welcome given the Holy Father’s recent request that I would take on additional responsibility as Apostolic Administrator to the Diocese of Dromore.
I am thankful to Father Michael for generously accepting this new call from God to leadership responsibility in the Church. I am grateful to his parents and family and to Monsignor Liam Kelly and the Diocese of Kilmore for giving us such a talented and devoted pastor. Father Michael has already gained considerable experience in leading pastoral development and adult faith formation and I look forward to his assisting me by contributing to these pastoral issues as well as others within both the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Diocese of Dromore. These are challenging times for all of us in the Church in Ireland but I have no doubt that, if we are open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, there will be new life and hope in our parishes – may the Holy Spirit therefore guide and inspire Father Michael in his mission among us.
Over the past sixty years, the Auxiliary Bishops of Armagh have made a significant contribution to the life of the diocese – from Bishop William Conway who came to us as Auxiliary Bishop in 1958 from County Antrim and who went on to become Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh – to Bishop Clifford from Louth who gave more than twenty years devoted service to the people of the diocese. Today as we welcome another Cavan man (following Cardinal Seán Brady) to the Archdiocese, I have no doubt he will bring new gifts, ideas and motivation to our mission of spreading the joy of the Gospel in this time and place.
I am confident that Father Michael will receive a warm welcome from the people, priests and religious in both the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Diocese of Dromore. I remember after my own ordination as archbishop six years ago and feeling hugely supported by assurances of prayer and support all around me from the people of the Archdiocese and from my family and friends.
Please pray for Father Michael as he prepares for his episcopal ordination in the summer months. May God bless his mission and ministry and may he have the gifts of wisdom and courage in abundance.
Monsignor Liam Kelly, Kilmore Diocesan Administrator, welcomes appointment of Father Michael Router as Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
I warmly welcome the appointment of Father Michael Router as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh and I was wish congratulate him on his new appointment.
Father Router was born in the townland of Rahardum near Virginia in Co Cavan and has ministered here in the Diocese of Kilmore since his ordination to the priesthood in June 1989. He taught and undertook chaplaincy work in Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan, and at Bailieborough Community School before doing further studies in Mater Dei Institute, Dublin, in 2002.
Father Router was director of Adult Faith Formation in the diocese before being appointed the director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Cavan in 2010. He served for brief periods as curate in both Killinkere and Cavan parishes and for the past five years he has been parish priest of Killann, being based in the town of Bailieborough.
Father Router is a man of strong faith, has good leadership qualities and is a hard-working and gifted priest. He was very popular wherever he ministered. He will be missed greatly in the parish of Killann and in the Diocese of Kilmore. However, he will be a great asset to the Archdiocese of Armagh and we wish him every blessing in his new role.
As Father Router prepares to take up his new post I assure him of my support and prayers and I ask the people of the Diocese of Kilmore and of the Archdiocese of Armagh to pray for him that God will bless and guide him in his new ministry.
Statement of Father Michael Router on his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh
On Monday morning of Holy Week, I was sitting at my desk writing a funeral sermon for an elderly man of great faith. I was contemplating using, as the theme of the sermon ‘Into your hands, O Lord I commend my Spirit’, the final words of Jesus on the Cross proclaimed in the gospel at the Passion Sunday Mass the previous day. As I began to write I received a phone call from Archbishop Okolo, the Papal Nuncio, informing me that he would like to have a chat with me at my convenience. As the funeral was taking place in Dublin the following Wednesday, I arranged to meet him that day. At the meeting the Archbishop gently told me that Pope Francis wished to appoint me as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh. My reaction was one of shock, surprise and no little dismay. The theme running through Holy Week for me had suddenly become more personal, and indeed alarming: ‘Into your hands O Lord, I commend my Spirit’. Until that moment I had been happily serving as parish priest in Bailieborough and reasonably expecting, that God willing, I would be there for several more years; perhaps even until retirement. I never saw myself as someone worthy of this office and, as I stand before you today, I am very conscious of my limitations and weaknesses. I am very grateful to Pope Francis for the trust he has placed in me and I pray that the Holy Spirit will provide what is otherwise lacking.
Despite the surprise and shock that his message brought to me I wish to thank Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo for his kindness and for his gentle reassurance in my meeting with him and indeed in the weeks since then.
It is truly an honour for me to join the clergy and people of the Archdiocese of Armagh, founded by our patron, Saint Patrick and also to assist the Archbishop in his roles as Archbishop of Armagh and as Apostolic Administrator of Dromore Diocese. Archbishop Martin has been most welcoming and helpful to me since he heard of my impending appointment. He has certainly done everything possible to make this transition and upheaval as painless as possible for me. Archbishop Eamon I thank you for your kindness and I look forward to supporting you in whatever way I can in the years ahead.
I wish to thank also Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop Emeritus of my native diocese of Kilmore, who has been a tremendous example and inspiration to me over the past 22 years. His retirement in January of this year has deprived us of his leadership but I pray that his wisdom, guidance, and encouragement will be available to me and to many others in the years ahead. We are fortunate to have in Kilmore, during the interregnum, a very able administrator in Monsignor Liam Kelly and I wish to thank him as well for his encouragement and support.
The most supportive and loving people in my life are, of course, my parents Tony and Nora and my sisters Breda and Martina my brothers in law, Derek and Ollie, my nieces and nephews and all my family circle. I thank them today for all they have contributed to my life thus far and for the support they have given me throughout my thirty years of priestly ministry.
I am in many ways a complete stranger to this area but I suppose I do have some spiritual connections. From my home place in Virginia, Co Cavan, there is a beautiful view across Lough Ramor to the Loughcrew hills, near Oldcastle, the birthplace of Saint Oliver Plunkett who served this Archdiocese in very difficult times and was obedient unto death. We are going through testing times today as a Church but those tribulations pale in comparison to what Saint Oliver and his contemporaries endured. I pray that I will have some of his courage and strength in my calling.
Another spiritual connection which comes to mind this morning relates to Saint Benan, known in Latin as Saint Benignus. Three years ago, when we reorganised the Pastoral Areas in the Diocese of Kilmore, we were searching for a name for the grouping of parishes centred around Bailieborough. One of our Pastoral Area Council members suggested the name of Saint Benan, who as a boy was one of the first converts of Saint Patrick. Legend has it that Benan, on one of his missionary excursions with Saint Patrick into Breffni, established a Church in Drumbannon, on the outskirts of the present-day town of Bailieborough. He later became the first assistant bishop to Saint Patrick here in Armagh and was also his cantor or psalm singer. I hope I am able to assist Archbishop Eamon in many ways but I’m afraid my singing voice is such that I won’t be able to assist him as a cantor. Thankfully the Archbishop has abundant talent of his own in that area. Like Saint Benan I move from Bailieborough to the Archdiocese of Armagh and, as I do so, I pray for his intercession and help.
As I grew up in County Cavan from the 1960’s to the 1980’s the work, influence and example of lay people, clergy and religious in the Church community, both locally and nationally, were a hugely positive influence in my upbringing. My parents were always closely involved in parish life and their experience was positive and rewarding – a source of blessing and fulfilment for them and for our family to this day. The commitment, the spirit and the faith of the local clergy in my native parish of Lurgan, Co Cavan, and the dedication and kindness of the religious who taught me, laid the foundations of my personal faith and nurtured my vocation to the priesthood. As a priest I have been very fortunate to have the inspiration, the support and true Christian example of the people, priests and religious in the diocese of Kilmore over the past thirty years, particularly in Saint Patrick’s College, Bailieborough Community School and in the Diocesan Pastoral Centre and also in the parishes of Killinkere, Kilmainhamwood and Moybolgue, Castletara, Cavan and in my present position in Bailieborough in the parish of Killann.
I am sharply aware that many people do not share the same positive experience of Church that I do. For various historical and cultural reasons, the Church in this country became, for many years, too comfortable in its position of temporal as well as spiritual authority. The present time, however, is a period of unprecedented change for the Church in this country and the pace of change will only continue to increase in the years ahead. But as people of faith we must anticipate and embrace that change. We must never hanker for the certainties of the past but work towards creating a new expression of what it means to be Church in this time and this place. Even though I take on this role with fear and trepidation in my heart I do so also with a sense of excitement that we are at a crossroads where we can shape a new existence for our faith communities. As a Church we move more and more from the centre to the margins and even though that is painful for many it will be, I believe, a positive thing in the long term.
From the margins the Church can give full reign to its prophetic voice and challenge, head on, the injustice, the economic inequality, the violence, the despair and the sense of alienation that exists in society today. Now is the time for us, while we still have reasonable numbers and a little energy, to shape the future that we want to see and to continue to bring ourselves and our communities into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ who will bring us freedom and take on all our burdens and our anxieties if we trust in Him.
Even though I am very conscious of my own weakness and limitations, and I very reluctantly take on this role today, I abandon myself to God’s will and I call on the power of his Holy Spirit to guide and inspire me. I know that His help, support and encouragement will come to me through the people and priests of this great archdiocese; people and priests that I will be greatly honoured to work with, to learn from and to serve in the future.
Saint Patrick, pray for us
Saint Bridget, pray for us
Saint Malachy, pray for us
Saint Oliver Plunkett, pray for us
Saint Benan, pray for us.