ONCE knew a charming elderly Irish bishop in a diocese in County Donegal who had an inordinate interest in agriculture and things bucolic, so much so that he was better known for his prize bulls than for being shepherd of his flock.
Now I have news from Ireland of a true shepherd of his flock, the Bishop of Clonfert, Dr Joseph Cassidy, (pictured here) who has announced that the land at his home, Coorheen, Loughrea, County Galway, is to become a Third World farm, with a herd of 40 store cattle on its 40 acres.
In a pastoral letter to his people he outlined plans for the project, expected to begin in April. "1 would like the land to be used by the whole diocese — for the benefit of the poor", he said, Initially the herd would be bought jointly by the bishop and the 24 parishes of the diocese. Parish contributions would provide 24 cattle, the bishop eight, with the remaining eight coming through special contributions by the young and other .individual donations.
Each autumn the herd would be sold and the farm restocked the following spring from the proceeds. All profits will go to Third World projects, including the missions.
But, every four of five years all revenue from sale of the stock would go to the Third World. providing "a really large sum", said Bishop Cassidy.
This time the herd would be bought with fresh contributions from the bishop, the parishes and the young. "In that way our project would be, not just a single gesture, but a continuing commitment", the Bishop added.
All herding, buying, fencing and general maintenance is to be done voluntarily and the bishop said he has had "exceptional cooperation" from those who will be directly involved in running the farm, mainly local farmers.
A committee is to be set up, on which every parish will be represented. It will decide with the bishop where in the Third World the money should go.
Each year a diocesan Mass is planned to pray for the project's success and to deepen the sense of commitment by everyone in the diocese.
Coorheen has been the home of the bishops of Clonfert since the early part of the century. It also houses the diocesan office. The diocese covers portions of Counties Galway, Roscommon and Offaly.