Pope anounces new Auxilliary Bishop of Armagh

Bishop-elect Michael Router
Bishop-elect Michael Router

The Pope has announced a new Auxilliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Armagh this morning.

Pope Francis 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 was announced following Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh this morning which was concelebrated by Archbishop Eamon Martin and Father Router.

When he was asked by the Papal Nuncio on behalf of Pope Francis to take on the role, Fr Router said: “My reaction was one of shock, surprise and no little dismay.

“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

“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.”

His appointment has been welcomed by Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin who recently was given the added role of Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore

Dr Martin said: “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.

“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.”

Fr Router said: “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.

His appointment has been welcomed by Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin who recently was given the added role of Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore

Bishop-elect Router said: “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.”

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.