This Sunday, 5th September, Mgr. Ger Nash will be ordained as the 81st Bishop of Ferns at a ceremony at St Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy. He will succeed Bishop Denis Brennan who retires after fifteen years of service. As our new Parish Priest, we, the people of Wexford Parish extend a very warm welcome to Bishop Ger to Wexford and here to Ferns. May he have many happy years among us and may he be blessed with the gifts of leadership and courage he needs to encourage us all in our Christian vocations. Over the past nine days, we have been praying a novena prayer for him and our diocese. The prayer for him we hold before the Lord and throughout his time with us as our new bishop: ‘God eternal shepherd, you tend your Church in many ways and rule us with love. You have chosen your servant Ger to be shepherd of your flock in the Diocese of Ferns. Give him a spirit of courage and right judgment; a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care, may he build your Church as a sign of salvation for the world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.’
The ordination of the new Bishop of Ferns Mgr. Ger Nash will be broadcast live on South East Radio on Sunday (5th September) from 2.30pm. The ceremony which will commence at 3pm will also be broadcast on the Cathedral webcam. Parishioners are invited to participate through the broadcast on air or online.
The foundation of the Diocese of Ferns (Fearna) is said to date from the year 598 AD when Brandubh, king of Uí Cinsealaigh, gave a grant of land to Maodhóg (Saint Aidan, patron saint of the diocese) who became first bishop in the area at that time. One of his successors, Saint Moling (697 AD) dedicated a holy well at Ferns to his memory, known as Maodhóg’s Well.
During the ninth and tenth centuries, Ferns was attacked and plundered on at least eight occasions by the Vikings. At the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1111, the boundaries of the diocese were determined.
One of the results of the Norman invasion in the twelfth century was the foundation of Cistercian abbeys at Dunbrody (in the present parish of Horeswood) about 1175, and at Tintern (in the present parish of Ballycullane) in 1200.
In 1184, Ailbin Ó Maolmhuaidh, abbot of the Cistercian foundation at Baltinglass, succeeded to the See of Maodhóg. He attended the Fourth Lateran Council in 1216. He wrote to Rome requesting, on behalf of the Church in Ireland, the canonisation of Lorcán Ó Tuathail (Saint Laurence O’Toole). His successor was an English courtier-cleric, John Saint John, nominated by King Henry III.
The last pre-Reformation bishop of the diocese was Alexander Devereux, abbot of Dunbrody at the time of its suppression by Henry VIII. He endeavoured to be loyal both to Rome and to the king. He died in 1566 and no Catholic bishop was appointed to Ferns for fifteen years when Peter Power was appointed by the Holy See in 1582.
The previous year, six Wexford men were martyred for the Faith: Matthew Lambert, a baker; Robert Meyler, Edward Cheevers, Patrick Cavanagh, and two others whose names are not recorded. They were beatified on 27 October 1992, their feast-day being 5 July. Bishop Nicholas French, consecrated in 1645, had to flee to the continent in 1651; he died as assistant bishop of Ghent in 1678. In 1691, the Dean of the Diocese of Ferns, Daniel O Breen, and another priest, James Ó Murchú, were martyred at Wexford. The cause for their beatification is proceeding.
In the nineteenth century most of the existing churches in the diocese were built following Catholic Emancipation in 1829, some of them designed by the celebrated Augustus Welby Pugin, including the Cathedral Church of Saint Aidan. Later in that century Bishop Furlong (+1875) founded several convents and institutions in the diocese. He attended all the sessions of the First Vatican Council. His successor, Dr Michael Warren, promoted strongly the cause of Temperance and established the Catholic Total Abstinence Association in 1876, appointing Father James A Cullen as organising secretary. Father Cullen, a member of the House of Missions, later joined the Society of Jesus and founded the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart.