Pope Francis has appointed the rector of a London seminary and former private secretary to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor as the as the new Bishop of Plymouth.
Mgr Mark O’Toole, rector of Allen Hall Seminary in Chelsea, will be ordained 9th bishop of the Diocese of Plymouth on Tuesday 28 January 2014 at the Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Boniface in Plymouth. He will succeed Bishop Christopher Budd, who has been Bishop of Plymouth since 1986.
Aged just 50 years, Mgr O’Toole (pictured) will replace the Rt Rev. Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, as the youngest bishop of England and Wales.
In a statement, Mgr O’Toole said: “I am deeply humbled that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed me the new Bishop of Plymouth. Recognising that I am a sinner who experiences the love and mercy of the Lord Jesus, I embrace with my whole self this deeper call to service in His Church. I know that the example and witness of Pope Francis will continue to inspire and shape my ministry as shepherd to all in the diocese, especially to serve the poor, the weak, and those who feel alienated from God, as I work alongside fellow Christians.
“This part of the country is known for its outstanding natural beauty, and this is mirrored in the gracious welcome shown to the newcomer by its people. I look forward very much to putting down firm roots in the diocese and making my home in Plymouth.
“I know I can count on the prayer, co-operation and support of the people, the religious and especially the priests of the diocese who are renowned for their quiet heroism, fidelity and dedication. You will all show me what it means to be your bishop. I am grateful, too, that Bishop Christopher will be nearby so that I can draw on his wisdom and experience.
HMgr O’Toole continued: “My own priestly heart has been formed in the Diocese of Westminster and I have been richly blessed by the faith and witness of many – bishops, priests, seminarians, religious, and lay men and women.
“I look especially to the outstanding leadership of my three archbishops – Cardinal Basil Hume OSB, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Each of them has taught me so much. I am deeply grateful for the friendship and love of so many in the diocese and I ask their continued prayer. I will miss especially everyone at Allen Hall. I have seen how essential the vocation of the priest is for our Church and our society. I hope I can continue to make its promotion a priority in this new mission.
“I entrust the whole Diocese of Plymouth, and myself, into the loving care of Mary, our Mother, as we set out on this journey together, seeking also the intercession of St Boniface and our diocesan saints, especially St Cuthbert Mayne.”
Bishop Budd said he was grateful to Pope Francis for sending Mgr O’Toole to Plymouth.
“He is coming to a lovely community of priests, deacons and religious and people of God who make up the diocese,” said Bishop Budd. “I know he will receive a warm and loving welcome. May the Lord bless his ministry among us.”
The Diocese of Plymouth consists of the counties of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset (west of the original county border) and the Isles of Scilly. The patron is St Boniface, an Anglo-Saxon from Wessex who evangelised Germany. Since its establishment in 1850 there have been eight Bishops in the Diocese.
Mgr O’Toole was born in London on 22 June 1963, the youngest son of Marcus and Maura O’Toole who originally came from the Irish-speaking community of Connemara, Galway, Ireland.
He attended St Ignatius Primary School, Stamford Hill, and St Thomas More Secondary School in Wood Green. He left school with four A-levels in 1981 and in 1984 Graduated with a B.Sc. in Geography from the University of Leicester
He entered Allen Hall the same year and on 9 June 1990 he was ordained priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster by Cardinal Hume.
Mgr O’Toole served as a curate at a west London parish before becoming Dean of Studies at Allen Hall. In 2002 he was appointed as private secretary to Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, a position he held until 2008 when he was appointed rector of Allen Hall.
In Westminster he has served as a member of the Archbishop’s Council; the Council of Priests; the Governing Body of Heythrop College, University of London; the Ethics Committee of St John and St Elisabeth Hospital, and as a Trustee of the Wintershall Trust.