New Bishop of Plymouth Ordained

The Plymouth Herald reports that Plymouth Cathedral was packed yesterday to witness the ordination of Mark O'Toole as ninth Bishop of Plymouth. Bishop Mark is now the leader of the 163-year-old Catholic Diocese of Plymouth.

Bishops from across the 22 Catholic diocese of England and Wales were in attendance to take part in the historic episcopal ordination, only the third to take place in Plymouth in 59 years. Bishop Mark is also enjoys the distinction of being the first episcopal appointment in England and Wales by Pope Francis.

Mark O'Toole's elevation to a successor of the Apostles was announced at about 11am on the 9th November (see my post at the time). Bishop Mark is 50 and was born in London. He was formerly rector of Allen Hall seminary in West London and also private secretary to Cardinal Emeritus Cormac Murphy O'Connor.

Brief Bio:
  • 22 June 1963 Born in London, the youngest son of Marcus and Maura O’Toole who originally came from the Irish-speaking community of Connemara, Galway, Ireland. Attended St Ignatius Primary School, Stamford Hill and St Thomas More Secondary school in Wood Green. Left school with four ‘A’ levels in 1981.
  • 1984 Graduated with a B.Sc. in Geography from the University of Leicester
  • 1984-89 Studied for the Priesthood at Allen Hall Seminary, graduating with a Bachelor of Divinity in Theology. 
  • 1989-90 Pastoral work as a deacon in St Joan of Arc Parish, Highbury
  • 9 June1990 Ordained priest of the Diocese of Westminster by Cardinal Basil Hume
  • 1990-92 M. Phil in Theology at the University of Oxford. Wrote a thesis on the relationship between Divine and Human freedom, supervised by the Lady Margaret Professor, Dr Rowan Williams.
  • 1992-97 Assistant priest in St Mary Magdalene parish, Willesden Green; part-time lecturer in Catechesis.
  • 1997-2002 Member of Staff at Allen Hall Seminary – Lecturer in Theology and Formation Adviser to seminarians. Sacred License in Theology from Pontifical University, Leuven granted in 2000.
  • 1999-2002 Dean of Studies, Allen Hall Seminary
  • 2002-2008 Private Secretary to Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster
  • Sept. 2008 Appointed Rector, Allen Hall Seminary
  • A member of the Archbishop’s Council (Diocese of Westminster); Council of Priests (Diocese of Westminster); Governing Body of Heythrop College, University of London; Ethics Committee of St John and St Elisabeth Hospital, and Trustee of the Wintershall Trust.
The Herald reports that the cathedral erupted with applause after he was handed his pastoral staff, a symbol of the shepherd, which fulfilled his elevation. Bishop O'Toole asked the congregation for patience and also to pray for him in his new role.

"Thank you for the kind welcome I have received," he said.

"I know there is much to become familiar with, people to meet and plenty to learn. Please be patient. There is much I do not know.

"But there is one thing I do know. God has destined me to be Bishop of Plymouth. He has prepared me for you and he has prepared you for me. So let us go to walk together."

He also took a moment to recognise the contribution of the outgoing Bishop of Plymouth, the Right Reverend Christopher Budd, who led the diocese for 28 years.

"Please pray that I may be a worthy successor to Bishop Christopher. We thank him for his whole hearted dedication to this diocese over the years and we pray for God's blessing on this, the next stage of his ministry."

Bishop Budd in turn told his successor he was being given the reins of a diocese full of warmth and kindness.

"I am handing over to you this diocese in this beautiful part of the country and in this beautiful city. I do so with great joy, not because I want rid of them, but because it is a marvellous and kind church to be bishop to."

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, in his homily after the Gospel, joked about the longevity past leaders of the diocese had enjoyed.

He said: "Bishop Mark is aware that bishops here live a long time. Two former bishops were with you, I understand, for well over sixty years, so he is ready for a long haul."

He added: "It is with great confidence that I commend Bishop Mark to you.

"He comes to a great diocese with a great tradition. You may be confident that you are receiving a bishop who will watch over the flock and imbue hope, that you will have the sun and light in your hearts to lovingly support the plan God has for his people.

"Today we pray for Bishop Mark and for his ministry in the years ahead, that it will be fruitful in ways that are beyond all our expectations."

A number of city dignitaries attended the two-and-a-half hour Mass including Lord Mayor Vivien Pengelly, Judge William Taylor and Chief Supt Andy Boulting.

Cherie Blair QC, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, attended along with Baroness Sheila Hollins and husband Martin, while Lord Lieutenant of Devon Eric Dancer represented the Queen.

Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, His Excellency Antonio Menini gave a short address on behalf of Pope Francis.

Addressing Bishop O'Toole, he said: "I ask that you do everything you can to strengthen in communion those in this part of the world which is so far away geographically.

"I pray for the people of Plymouth, that they will grow in the love you bring."

Bishop O'Toole chose the Bible passages read out during the liturgy while a choir made up of volunteer singers from across the diocese led the choral contribution.

The bishop's mother Maura, originally from Connemara in the West of Ireland, came to watch her son be ordained, his two older brothers were also present.

There are some great pictures of the ordination here.

It was noted that the usual free-standing candles were absent, replaced by a Benedictine altar arrangement, seven candles and a crucifix. A great sign! 

Please pray for Bishop Mark and his episcopacy.

Lord Jesus,

Good Shepherd and Pastor of the Church,

You have guided the Plymouth Diocese in for 163 years.

In your love and care for this flock,

We thank you for guiding your vicar on earth, Pope Francis,
in the selection of our new bishop.

We pray that you bless our holy shepherd and servant, Bishop-Elect O'Toole. May he be a courageous and faithful teacher of the faith and a humble, wise, prudent, collaborative leader.

May he be caring and compassionate, showing your mercy to others, whilst always upholding the truth of the Catholic faith.

We ask you to endow him with the gifts your Church needs at this difficult time.

Lord Jesus,

we trust in your providence and love.
Help us welcome our new shepherd, Bishop-elect O'Toole, with prayer and open hearts.

This we ask in your name,


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