By John Cooney, Religion Correspondent
Friday December 12 2008
A 67-year-old former missionary who left the priesthood nearly 40 years ago yesterday returned to active ministry with the blessing of Rome.
In the intervening four decades, Father Michael Moloney married and reared four children.
Following the death of his wife Marjorie, Fr Moloney decided he wished to return to pastoral duties and, in what is thought to be a first for the Catholic Church in Ireland, he has been reinstated in the ministry with the approval of the Vatican.
Fr Moloney, who also has two grandchildren, was re-admitted yesterday to the priesthood in a unique but low-key ceremony at Naas Parish Church as a priest of the diocese of Kildare and Loughlin by Bishop Jim Moriarty.
Bishop Moriarty has appointed Fr Moloney to serve as curate in the parishes of Daingean/ Killeigh in Co Offaly.
Yesterday's ceremony was a landmark in a long and remarkable life story and spiritual journey for Fr Moloney, who took the obligatory vow of celibacy when he was ordained in December 1966 for the Society of African Missions (SMA).
The idealistic young priest served with the SMA in Egypt and later taught in Ballinafad College in Co Mayo.
But as he struggled to live up to his vows and perform the rituals and pastoral duties of a priest, Fr Moloney fell in love with a woman.
Only three years after becoming a priest, he decided to quit and marry the love of his life, Marjorie.
So in 1969 he applied to Pope Paul VI for a return to the lay state and his application was granted by the Vatican in May 1971.
The following year, Fr Moloney and Mrs Moloney married in Zambia, and had one daughter and three sons.
The couple later returned to Ireland and both worked as teachers. Fr Moloney taught in the Vocational School in Newbridge, and is now retired. His wife died in July 2005.
Fr Moloney, who was living in Naas and mourning his wife, decided that he wished to return to his original calling as a priest.
So in May 2006 he applied to Pope Benedict XVI for his laicisation to be rescinded and to be readmitted to the exercise of the priestly ministry.
His intention was to rejoin the SMA as a missionary.
After the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith specified that Fr Moloney would have to update his studies in theology, liturgy and pastoral updating, he did so at the Milltown Institute in Dublin.
In the meantime, following discussion with the SMA, it was agreed that rather than returning to the missions with the SMA, Fr Moloney should apply to serve as a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.
Last September, Bishop Moriarty accepted Fr Moloney's application on condition that he would receive formal approval of this from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
This was approved in October by Cardinal William Levada, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
At yesterday's ceremony attended by two of Fr Moloney's sons and his two grandchildren, Cian (5) and three-year-old Abbie, Bishop Moriarty welcomed him into a new family, the family of priests and people of the diocese, and asked the congregation to pray for Fr Moloney and for all priests.
- John Cooney Religion Correspondent