Bishop Denis Nulty ordained with joy and gladness

Report by Sarah MacDonald
Photos by John McElroy

Click here to watch highlights from the ordination ceremony with the background of the hymn ‘On Holy Ground’, composed for the occasion.

The new Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin has said vocations and renewal of the Church will be his priorities.

Speaking after his ordination at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow on Sunday afternoon, Bishop Denis Nulty said making contact with his diocese’s 56 parishes and 250,000-strong flock would also be a priority and a challenge.

In his ordination address, the Irish Church’s youngest bishop, noted that the ceremony coincided with the feat of St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who is patron saint of priests.

Referring to his motto, ‘Serve the Lord with Gladness’, fifty-year-old Bishop Nulty said the priesthood was a call, not a career; a way of life, not a job; an identity, not just a role.

“The best examples of priesthood for me are joyful priests who love their faith and who love the Church,” he told the congregation of 750 family, friends, fellow priests and religious as well as parish representatives.

“Every priest is a vocations director,” he underlined and added, “Priests and people need a renewed vigour about priesthood and a fresh courage to invite others to respond to that call.”

But he also acknowledged that it is a challenge to serve the Lord with gladness in the current economic turmoil which had left so many struggling and when there were far fewer priests having to shoulder greater challenges.

Bishop Nulty was ordained by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who was assisted by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown and Bishop Michael Smith of Meath.

Twenty members of the Irish hierarchy also attended the ordination, including Cardinal Sean Brady and Cardinal Desmond Connell.

In his words of welcome, the Archbishop of Dublin said that for both the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, which has been waiting for three and a half years for a replacement for Bishop Jim Moriarty, and for the Irish Church there was rejoicing in this appointment.

Speaking about the role of the bishop, the Archbishop said Ireland today needed a renewed and dynamic preaching of the Gospel. “We can’t let this Year of Faith pass by and still remain a weary church. We cannot remain a Church of yesterday,” he warned.

Elsewhere in his ordination address, Bishop Nulty acknowledged the “horrendous loss” of Eoghan and Ruairi Chada and said the tragedy showed that priests and people need one another.

He offered his prayers to all who had been in any way affected by the Ballinkillen tragedy, a small rural village in his new diocese.

Bishop Nulty was one of three priests who concelebrated the funeral Mass for the two little Chada brothers last Friday, and he also spent time with the family when the news first broke that their bodies have been found in Co Mayo.

The Meath-born bishop told the congregation, which included Patsy Murphy, the grandmother of the Chada brothers, that what had happened in Ballinkillen had made people “acutely aware” that “we just need one another”.

Speaking after the ceremony to reporters, Bishop Nulty said he was very moved by the ceremony and said the combination of new and old elements in the liturgy showed that the Irish Church needed a balance between both of these elements.

The tallest bishop in Ireland was described by Mgr Brendan Byrne as having plenty of joie de vivre and enthusiasm as well as having a natural and direct way of engaging with people.

Speaking to, Deirdre Nulty one of the Bishop’s 13 nieces and nephews said he was “a fantastic uncle” and a “devoted family man”.

He married her two years ago and a month ago baptised her twins. “He has a great way with young people”, she said and added that he would reach out to young people in Kildare and Leighlin.

The Bishop’s sister Ann said it was a very emotional day. “We’re very proud of him,” she said.

On 7 May 2013, Pope Francis appointed Fr Denis Nulty, who was then parish priest of Saint Mary’s in Drogheda, in the Diocese of Meath, as the new Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.

The diocese includes Co Carlow and parts of Counties Kildare, Laois, Offaly, Kilkenny, Wicklow and Wexford.

The present shape of Kildare and Leighlin diocese dates from 1678, when the previously separate dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin were for the first time placed under the pastoral care of the same Bishop, Dr Mark Forristal OSA.

Bishop Denis Nulty was born in Slane, Co Meath on 7 June 1963 to Den Nulty and Nan Balfe. He is the youngest of five children, with two brothers and two sisters.

He attended primary school at St Patrick’s National School, Slane and Secondary School at St Patrick’s Classical School, Navan, completing the Leaving Certificate exam in 1981.

He entered the seminary at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth in September 1981, completing a BA in 1984 and a BD in 1987.

Fr Denis was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Meath in St Patrick’s Church, Slane on 12 June 1988 by Bishop Michael Smith in the presence of Bishop John McCormack.

In September 1988, Bishop Smith appointed Fr Denis as Curate in the Cathedral Parish at Mullingar where he served for ten years until 1998.

In August 1998, Bishop Smith appointed Fr Denis as parish priest of St Mary’s, Drogheda where he has remained until the present day.

In 2006, Father Denis followed a course of study in All Hallows College, Dublin, leading to an MA in Management for the Pastoral and Voluntary Services being awarded by DCU.

In September 2006, Bishop Smith appointed Fr Denis as Vicar Forane for the Duleek Deanery which comprises seven parishes.  Father Denis has been Chairperson of the Council of Priests in the Diocese of Meath for the past eight years.

Bishop Nulty has chosen the Episcopal motto ‘Serve the Lord with Gladness’ which is taken from Psalm 100.

His crest features a hill with a fire on top recalling the lighting of the Paschal fire by St Patrick on the hill at Easter. Also included is the Cross of St Brigid of Kildare. As an ancient Christian symbol the Fleur-de-Lys represents purity and the Virgin Mary.