Northern Ireland

Clonard to welcome new Co Down-born rector in May

Fr Peter Burns has been Rector of Clonard for a total of 10 years. Picture by Hugh Russell
Fr Peter Burns has been Rector of Clonard for a total of 10 years. Picture by Hugh Russell Fr Peter Burns has been Rector of Clonard for a total of 10 years. Picture by Hugh Russell

CLONARD Monastery in west Belfast is to welcome a new rector, who is a native of Co Down.

Fr Brendan Kelly, who is originally from Saul near Downpatrick, is to take up the new role in May.

The cleric has spent the last 10 years working in Rome as Secretary General of the Redemptorist Congregation.

Before that he was Vice-Secretary General of the Congregation in Rome, a post which he took up in 2011.

Before he moved to Rome, Fr Kelly was assigned to the then Vice-province of Cebu, in the Philippines, where he worked in various ministries including missions, retreats, administration and teaching.

Fr Peter Burns, who is the current Rector of Clonard, will remain in the role until Fr Kelly takes up his new post in late May.

Fr Brendan Kelly, who is from Saul in Co Down, will become the new Rector of Clonard in late May
Fr Brendan Kelly, who is from Saul in Co Down, will become the new Rector of Clonard in late May Fr Brendan Kelly, who is from Saul in Co Down, will become the new Rector of Clonard in late May

Fr Burns is believed to be the first Redemptorist to have held the rector post for a record 10 years, from 2002 to 2008 and from 2019 to 2023.

Speaking to The Irish News, Fr Burns said he doesn't yet know what the future holds for him, as further Redemptorist changes are to be announced, but his "wish and hope" is to remain at Clonard.

The 78-year-old said he has found the role "very, very challenging" but also "life-giving in lots of ways".

"It hasn't be easy," he said.

"I find the responsibility quite burdensome, it weighs on me and in that sense, I would be very, very relieved to pass the baton on to Brendan Kelly.

"It's a great privilege to be Rector of Clonard and I think it's true to say, without wanting to boast in any way, I don't think anyone has ever been Rector of Clonard for 10 years, the most would be eight years.

"If you're rector, your primary responsibility is for the Redemptorist community and that again, it's a great responsibility, especially as the community grow older and more frail".

Fr Burns said the "main focus" of being Rector of Clonard is its ministries.

"Clonard has a very extraordinary history of serving the people of west Belfast and beyond," he said.

"The rector is only the leader of a community.

"It allows you to work with a cohort of lay ministries and lay volunteers. We have a lot of co workers in Clonard and it's wonderful".

He added: "It was a great privilege and it was very life-giving in many ways but very challenging so I don't know I am going to miss it.

"I will continue to do the work that I've always done here."