The episcopal ordination of Mgr Brian McGee as the eleventh Bishop of Argyll and the Isles took place last week, with the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh highlighting similarities between the new bishop and the “undisputed religious and moral leader of the people”, St Columba.
Bishop McGee was ordained at St Columba’s Cathedral in Oban on Thursday, 18th February and was consecrated by the Archbishop of St Andrew and Edinburgh, Leo Cushley.
The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, offered his congratulations to Bishop McGee and said he looked forward to welcoming him to the Bishops’ Conference. “When I was Bishop of Paisley, Brian was one of my priests. He was a dedicated pastor and a thoughtful priest,” he said. “I have no doubt that he will make his own distinctive and valuable contribution to the deliberations of our conference.”
During his homily, Archbishop Cushley outlined the “very distinguished Christian history” of Argyll and the Isles, pointing out that it is among the earliest places to hear the word of God in Scotland.
Archbishop Cushley spoke of the journey of St Columba to Dunadd over 1,400 years ago, when he asked King Conal for a place to build a monastery. “The island he was given, Iona, became the very heart of a missionary movement that saw numbers of tough, single-minded mystics trained in its hard monastic discipline; and those monks were known and respected throughout Europe for centuries.”
St Columba is said to have begun Iona with 12 companions and it was the impact of his love of Christ, his faith and his learning that consolidated the faith in Scotland.
Archbishop Cushley recalled an observation of renowned historian Lord Kenneth Clarke, that it was the Scots-Irish monks and scholars who saved western civilisation by “the skin of our teeth.”
“We should not forget that Scotland itself owes Columba a deep debt of gratitude for the faith’s benign and gentle influence upon our society, something whose positive impact can be felt to this day.”
The archbishop turned his focus to the new Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, explaining that Christ had chosen him to be the spiritual father and guide the people of the diocese. “In a small way, you even imitate St Columba himself,” he said and, noting the presence of his mother and sister, Brona, added: “I’m sure your dad James, gone to God a number of years ago, would have been very proud of you.”
He pointed out that Bishop McGee’s mother, and many of his relatives, hail from the north of Ireland, just like St Columba. “Although you come here via Paisley, in a way you are following the trajectory of Columba and many other Scoti of Dalriada from the times when the people on both sides of the water here were essentially the same folk, with the same language, customs, kings and faith.
“We pray fervently that, today and throughout your ministry, you will be loving to all people, as Columba was himself,” concluded the archbishop.
“And may the ‘island soldier’ always accompany you with his strong yet loving spirit, as you add your own steps to the long and distinguished history of the Church of Christ in Argyll and the Isles.”