Bishop Willie Walsh was never far from the media headlines during his years as Bishop of Killaloe, because of his willingness to speak honestly and from the heart about the many challenges facing the Catholic Church. His apparent ease with the media was no PR-polished presentation but was the result of his own sense of inner freedom, which allowed him to speak without fear. Though his candour was not always well received, very few would argue that, at times, Willie Walsh acted as a much-needed voice in the wilderness.
For all his willingness to speak out, Willie Walsh is no crusader. His primary motivation is a discipleship of love, the gospel message of Jesus Christ. A sense of his own priesthood as discipleship matured as Willie Walsh matured, informing his words and deeds; and was never stronger than when he took up the bishop’s crozier.
By his own admission, Willie Walsh would be more comfortable wielding a hurley than a pen, but a near-death experience in 2014 prompted him to reflect ever more deeply on his own life, his faith and his ministry of over fifty years. In this book, which combines memoir with deep personal reflection, his gentle, conversational style guides us through the story of an ordinary man from an ordinary family
This is no rose-tinted view of Ireland, the Catholic Church or the world. Willie Walsh is not afraid to ask the difficult questions – questions that will need to be faced by the institutional Church if it is to try and regain the credibility lost in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Neither does he shy away from the difficult questions of faith and what it means to be a Catholic in an increasingly secular Ireland. The extent to which faith is questioned through Bishop Walsh’s personal journey might surprise some. Yet, in these honest reflections, many will find a resonance of their own thinking about faith and belief.
Willie Walsh was Bishop of Killaloe from 1995 to 2010 and is now Bishop Emeritus.