A Clare priest is to be honoured by President Michael D. Higgins later this month.

Ennis’ Fr. Bernárd Lynch will be one of the ten individuals receiving the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad by fellow Clareman, Michael D. Higgins on November 21st. He is recognised in the charitable works category alongside Fr Patrick Clarke.

Ordained in 1971, Lynch previously joined the Society of Africa Missions in 1965. For over 10 years he was a member of the mayor of New York’s voluntary task force on HIV/AIDS, and was the only Catholic priest to testify before the City Council for the successful passage of civil rights legislation for the LGBT community, that taking place in 1986 the year in which he came out as a gay man.

For fifteen successive years he was Theological Consultant to the Board of Directors of Dignity New York, an organization for Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered and Bisexual Catholics and their friends. He founded the AIDS/HIV Ministry of Dignity New York in 1982, which continues its work to the present day.

He is the first Catholic priest in the world to have a civil partnership, he and Billy Desmond became civil partners in 2006. The couple became husband and husband in January 2017, this followed the passing of same sex marriage in Ireland, they married in front of 120 people at The Armada Hotel in Spanish Point. On the day of his marriage, New York City Council honoured his Life Work by presenting him with a Proclamation.

Bernárd has lived in London since 1992. In 2013, he was the first appointee by The Mayor of London’s St. Patrick’s Advisory Board to represent the Irish in London’s LGBT community. His task was to assist in changing the perception of the LGBT community and to ensure LGBT representation was sensitively included in the St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival. As a result of Bernárd’s contribution, the LGBT community today is fully integrated into London’s St. Patrick’s Festival. He continues to work as priest and psychotherapist especially in areas of social justice and oppression.

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