Pope Benedict appoints SMA Superior General as Bishop of Killaloe, Ireland
Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Fr Kieran O’Reilly, Superior General of the Society of African Missions (SMA) as Bishop of Killaloe. Fr O’Reilly succeeds Bishop Willie Walsh whose resignation was accepted on his reaching the age limit as stipulated by Canon Law.
Kieran O’Reilly was born in Cork City on 8 August 1952, the first of five children born to Sean and Teresa O’Reilly. He attended the Presentation Brothers at Scoil and Coláiste Chríost Rí for his primary and secondary education. In 1970 he began his studies for the priesthood with the Cork-based missionary group, the Society of African Missions. After completing University studies in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth he was ordained to the priesthood on 17 June 1978 in the African Missions Church, Wilton, Cork.
Fr O’Reilly was appointed to pastoral work in Liberia, Archdiocese of Monrovia, but was recalled, in 1980, to undertake studies in Sacred Scripture at the Biblicum Institute in Rome from where he qualified in 1984 with an LSS degree. He was then appointed to the Major Seminary of SS Peter and Paul, Ibadan, Nigeria where he lectured for five years. In 1989, the members of the SMA Irish Province elected him to the Provincial Council, the body which oversees the administration of the Society in Ireland.
Six years later, at the 1995 SMA General Assembly in Rome, Fr O’Reilly was elected as the SMA Vicar General, part of a team that would lead the Society throughout the world. As a member of the General Council he was responsible for several matters: Formation of seminarians and priests; Justice & Peace issues; the development of the African branch of the SMA.
From 1989 till now, Fr O’Reilly has been noted for his administrative and leadership skills. At an international level he has drawn attention to the needs of the poor and marginalised. In particular he has been involved in the work of the Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network, which lobbies for the rights of Africans, both in Africa itself and those who live in other parts of the world. He has attended two Synods of Bishops – on the Word of God (in 2008) and the Second Special Synod for Africa (2009), as a member representing the Union of Superiors General, in Rome.
The early SMA missionaries came from Europe and North America. Since 1989 the SMA has welcomed members from other parts of the world: from Africa, Argentina, India, Philippines and Poland. As Superior General, Fr O’Reilly has travelled extensively in Africa, from Egypt to South Africa; Liberia to Kenya. He has also visited the SMA personnel in other parts of the world. The purpose of such visits is to meet with SMA priests and brothers, to encourage them in their work, to help them evaluate what they are doing and to plan for the future. He has just returned from a pastoral visit to Nigeria. During that visit he spent some time in the SMA Seminary at Ibadan, meeting the 43 seminarians who are studying there, preparing to continue the work of spreading the Gospel ‘to the ends of the earth’. This year the Society will ordain 18 priests: 15 Africans and 3 Indians.
With his academic and administrative experience Fr O’Reilly was elected as the 11th SMA Superior General, on 5 May 2001, the fourth Irishman to serve in this post. He was re-elected in 2007. As Superior General he leads the Society’s 1000 priests, brothers and seminarians in their service of the peoples of Africa. In recent years this has meant a development of outreach programmes to Africans who have left their countries seeking a new life in other parts of the world. In Ireland, Italy, France, Holland and the USA, SMA priests are assisting our African sisters and brothers with the challenges they face in these countries.
With three years remaining of his term of office, Fr O’Reilly has now been called to a different ministry of service in the Church, as bishop of Killaloe.
The Irish Provincial Leader, Fr Fachtna O’Driscoll issued this statement on learning of Fr O’Reilly’s appointment as Bishop:
“It was with surprise but with a great sense of honour that we have learned of the appointment of Fr Kieran O’Reilly SMA as Bishop of Killaloe. I congratulate him on his appointment, his parents, Sean and Teresa, and his family.
Fr Kieran has been an outstanding member of the SMA for many years. This was expressed in the different appointments he held and in the responsibilities entrusted to him. In his leadership of the Society as Superior General for the last nine years he has overseen the development of so many innovative ways of promoting the work of mission. His loss to the SMA will be keenly felt at this time in our history; our loss is Killaloe’s gain.
We wish Fr Kieran every blessing as he undertakes a totally new dimension to his missionary calling. He takes up the task of Bishop at a time of opportunity for the Irish Church. We believe he is blessed with the gifts needed to face the challenges this new role will present.
All the members of the Irish Province assure Fr Kieran of our prayers. I have no doubt that the wider family of SMA will equally hold him in prayer in this time of transition. Fr Kieran remains a member of the SMA; he can be assured of every support from the SMA family.”
Statement of Fr Kieran O’Reilly SMA, responding to his nomination by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI
To say that my reaction on learning of my appointment to succeed Bishop Willie Walsh as Bishop of Killaloe was one of surprise would not be an understatement. But in a spirit of service I accept this appointment and express my gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for asking me to take on this ministry of service and leadership in the Church of Killaloe.
I am honoured and humbled by the appointment, which brings with it many mixed feelings. It is an honour for my family – my parents, sisters and brother and the Society of African Missions.
It is going to take time to understand all that is involved in being a bishop, it will be a great privilege to serve in Killaloe, and I look forward to all that lies ahead. I would like to acknowledge the work of the priests of the Diocese who have been faithfully and diligently carrying out their ministry in a difficult time for the Irish Church. My first task, when I get to Ireland, will be to meet the priests, people, and religious of the diocese to listen to them and to learn about the Diocese in all its different areas of ministry.
At the same time, I am saddened at leaving the leadership role I hold in the Society of African Missions at a time of rapid change and development within the Society.
The members of the Society of African Missions have been my second family for forty years, they have nurtured my missionary priesthood, given me constant support and encouragement, and endless opportunities to learn and to serve as a missionary on many different levels of the Society in Ireland, Africa and Rome.
Called by the Holy Spirit to this new ministry as Bishop of the Diocese of Killaloe I pray that with the people of the Diocese we will together chart a way forward for the Church and be able “to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth” of the mystery of God’s love for each one of us. (Ephesians 3:18).
I ask for your prayers as I face the task ahead. I commit myself to doing as much as I can, with you, to make Christ more present in our daily lives. May the Spirit of Pentecost fill each of us with Peace.
Fr. Kieran O’Reilly, SMA 18 May 2010
The announcement of Fr O’Reilly’s appointment came just days after his return from a pastoral visit to Nigeria where he met many of the Irish and other SMA missionaries working in 14 dioceses and 1 Vicariate. Our picture shows Fr O’Reilly with His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Okogie of Lagos.