A MISSIONARY priest from West Limerick is to receive one of the Catholic Church’s highest honours next month, when he will be ordained the bishop of a new diocese in Honduras.
Fr Michael Lenihan, a native of Mountcollins, has been selected to head the diocese of La Ceiba after almost three decades of work in Central America.
A member of the Franciscan Order, the 50-year-old priest travelled to the Vatican this week to meet with a Congregation of Bishops and to collect his new vestments.
Tournafulla-Mountcollins parish priest Fr William O’Gorman, who announced the news to parishioners at Mass last week, said that locals are “delighted”.
“He’s very well thought of here. I’m not sure, but he’s probably the first ever bishop to come from the parish. The people of the parish here are all delighted. He’s a very intelligent man, and he’s spent most of his life working with the poor over in Central America. We’re very pleased.”
Fr Lenihan was ordained in 1980, and after spending time in friaries in Wexford and Westmeath he travelled to Central America in 1984.
His first post was in the diocese of Gotera, El Salvador, where he was stationed until 2000, when he transferred to the Honduran diocese of Comayagua, where he served as parish priest and vicar general.
He was chosen to head the newly created coastal diocese of La Ceiba, and will oversee the administering of the faith to 398,800 Catholics over 4,640 square kilometres. He is to be ordained on February 11.
Fr Lenihan has a brother, Anthony, living in Abbeyfeale and has two other siblings living in the US and UK.
Friar Joseph MacMahon of the Franciscan Order, who is himself a native of Feenagh, said that Fr Lenihan’s ordination has been a unanimously popular choice
“He’s very well liked by the people. He was a great ease with people, and has a lovely way with them. He’s a very humble man with a huge amount of experience. We all have great confidence in him”.
Fr Lenihan was nominated for the post of bishop by the Papal Nuncio in Honduras.
Friar MacMahon said that Fr Lenihan stopped over in Dublin briefly this week en route to Rome, and will be returning to Honduras “as soon as possible” to prepare for his ordination in the city of La Ceiba.
He added that La Ceiba will be a fitting seat for the new diocese, as the patron saint of the Irish Franciscan college in Rome, St Isidore the Farmer, is also the patron saint of Fr Lenihan’s new home city.
The new diocese was formed after sections from two existing dioceses were merged together.
At present, there are 22 priests ministering there.