Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Elphin
Tributes have been paid to Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Elphin, Bishop Christopher Jones who died on Friday.
A hugely popular cleric, he was affectionately known as 'Bishop Christy'.
In a tribute Archbishop Eamon Martin said the late Bishop Jones was never afraid to speak his mind on a range of issues.
Archbishop Martin said "Bishop Christy was committed throughout his lifetime to person-centred social services. "Throughout his ministry, Bishop Christy also showed a great affinity and pastoral dedication to the Travelling community".
Bishop Christy’s work with the travelling community as a priest and afterwards as a Bishop was of a ground-breaking nature given the times in which it took place. Not only did he campaign for improved traveller accommodation but he was an avid proponent of increased educational opportunities for the travelling community. With this background, he sat on many national committees dealing with matters relating to the Travelling People and for many years acted as chairperson of the National Council for the Travelling people and Advisor to the Minister for the Environment.
Having completed a Diploma in Social Administration in UCD, Bishop Jones was appointed first Director of Sligo Social Services, which was established as a co-ordinated faith response to those on the margins of society in the Sligo region. In that capacity he formed life-long friendships with homeless people and with many members of the travelling community.
As a founder member of the Council for the West, he was a tireless advocate for the kind of rural development which would help sustain vibrant communities west of the Shannon.
A native of Rathcroghan, County Roscommon, Christopher Jones was born on March 3rd 1936, the second youngest of a family of eleven.
Four of his sisters entered religious life and one of his brothers was also a priest of the Diocese of Elphin. His primary education was at Rathcroghan National School and it was a source of personal sadness to him when this school closed shortly after his own retirement.
Following his second-level education at the College of the Immaculate Conception, Sligo (Summerhill College), the young Christopher Jones went to Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he completed his formation and was ordained to the priesthood on 21st June, 1962.
Apart from the first three years of his priesthood, which were spent teaching at St. Muredach’s College, Ballina, Bishop Jones spent his entire priestly ministry in Sligo. Having served for three years on the staff of St. Muredach’s College, the young Father Jones returned to teach at Summerhill College, Sligo in 1965.
In 1971 he spent over a year as Archivist at Saint Mary’s, Sligo, while also serving as Chaplain of Saint Columba’s Hospital, Sligo. He returned to Summerhill College as Spiritual Director from 1973-1979.
Bishop Jones retired as Bishop on 13th July 2014, but continued to live in Sligo. Since his retirement he suffered the loss of four of his sisters, Patricia, Pauline, Ann (Nan) and Mary.
In the face of these losses and the serious decline in his own health during the same period, he showed great courage and resilience maintaining his interest in everything that was going on in the Diocese and in the wider Church. Though not obliged to do so, he participated in the Ad Limina visit of the Irish Bishops to Pope Francis in January 2017.
Bishop Christopher died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Friday, May 18. He is survived by his sister Eileen (Sisters of Jesus and Mary, Enniscrone), by his sister-in-law Pauline and by a host of nieces and nephews.
In a statement paying tribute to the late Bishop Jones, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Elphin, Archbishop Martin said 56 years of priesthood, and 24 years as a bishop sums up "a life of commitment, fidelity, service and love for the people, religious and priests of his home Diocese of Elphin. I shall never forget the warmth of his welcome to me upon my own ordination as a bishop five years ago; the encouragement and support he gave me is typical of this generous and devout servant of God.
"A man for others"
He added: “Bishop Christy was a man for others, and was very committed throughout his lifetime to person-centred social services. Throughout his ministry, Bishop Christy also showed a great affinity and pastoral dedication to the Travelling community, and the mutual warmth between both was very evident during the 50th International Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin in 2012.
“The opening of the ‘Bishop Christopher Jones Learning Centre’ in 2016 for students with autism at the College of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo brought particular joy to Bishop Jones, who held a deep connection to the school as a former student, staff member and patron.
“Bishop Christy was a much loved pastor, kind and caring. He had strong principles and was courageous in speaking his mind on many issues of the day. On my last visit to him on Easter Monday, he was calm and at peace, conscious that he would soon be returning to God who called him to service all those years ago.
Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran said the death of Bishop Christy "is like the loss of a grandparent" adding: "He will be remembered by many for the way in which he put flesh on the Gospel through his care for and friendship with those who were poor and most at risk in our society."