‘I’ll be a servant of people’

Monsignor Eamon Martin pictured in St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, following his appointment as Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese. (2001MM05)
Monsignor Eamon Martin pictured in St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, following his appointment as Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese. (2001MM05)

Derry’s Monsignor Eamon Martin has revealed how he was “extremely nervous” after being summonsed to meet the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, in Dublin less than two weeks ago where he was told of his appointment to the role of Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh.

Currently the Diocesan Administrator for Derry, Mons. Martin will stay on in that role until his ordination which he expects will take place in the next two to three months.

The former St Columb’s College head said he had no idea what news was waiting for him at the end of the four hour drive to Dublin from his home in Derry when the news was first broken to him.

He also revealed how initially he was asked not to tell anyone - even members of his family - about his elevation to one of the most senior positions in the Catholic church in Ireland.

“As you can imagine, in my head, all sorts of things were going around,” he said.

“The Papal Nuncio did say that this was to be quiet. When I got there, very quickly, straight out he said ‘The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has decided to nominate you as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh,’ just straight out, he said it. The strange thing is that when you’re driving down the road wondering what they’re going to say and then you hear it you think you’ll be prepared for whatever is said but I suppose that isn’t always the case.”

Mons. Martin said he had stopped at a Cistercian Abbey near Slane in County Wicklow in the middle of his journey to “reflect and prepare” for what was ahead. The 51 year old said on hearing the news he admitted to the Papal Nuncio that he was nervous about the role.

“I said that I was very nervous and that it was with some trepidation that I heard the news but that I would accept whatever the Holy Father asked of me as being God’s will for me and that I’d try to do my very best in it. That’s really been my approach to all of the roles I’ve ever been asked to take up.”

Speaking frankly about the challenges which lie ahead, he said Ireland was at a crossroads in terms of protecting the right to life of the unborn child. He also said he was nervous about the challenge of encouraging back the many people who have felt distanced from the church.

“Young people today are not just distanced from the church but from all institutions,” he said.

“And at the same time we know that because there are so many influences out there from media and things pulling us this way and that, our faith is something that can be there as an anchor helping us. Our faith needs to engage with new generations and in new ways with people and I am nervous about that.”

He added: “My role is to be a servant of people. No one person can do everything, what you have to do is be a facilitator of people. In the church there are a lot of very good people of all ages who have a huge amount to give and perhaps we need to invite them a little bit more and let them realise that it’s their church and that they have a huge contribution to make.”

Mons. Martin said he would need the help of churchgoers and people around him to carry out his new role to the best of his ability and said his new job could not be an isolated one.

“I’m a weak person and I have my own faults and failings and weaknesses. I know that I cannot do this on my own. You can’t do anything on your own. You need God’s help and the help and support of your family and your friends,” he said.

The Diocesan Administrator, who is also a keen musician, said he’d had less time in his life recently for his hobbies of music, reading and gardening but would try and keep a healthy work life balance with his new position.

“Like any other pressurised role you have to try and find some balance between your work and what you’re doing and your life,” he said.

“People have so many needs and you want to serve them. I like music, reading and walking and I do a bit of gardening but over the last year or so I haven’t had much leisure time and I suppose it’s something I’m going to have to build into my life. In your leisure time you’re meeting people and finding out what their thoughts are on the church and the faith and the struggles of today, and that’s very important.”

Mons. Martin said he will remain in Derry in the short term until his ordination but said he imagines preparation for his move to Armagh will begin soon.

For further coverage of Monsignor Martin’s new appointment, see Tuesday’s Journal and visit www.derryjournal.com