Retirement of Bishop Hilary of Yei

Wednesday January 20th 2021

Bishop Hilary, photographed during a Connor team visit to Yei in 2013.

Connor’s link Diocese of Yei, South Sudan, is currently in the process of electing a new bishop following the retirement of Bishop Hilary Luate Adeba.

News of Bishop Hilary’s retirement was announced by Church Mission Society Ireland (CMSI), who said: “During our long partnership with Yei Diocese, we have greatly appreciated the servant leadership, wisdom and friendship of Bishop Hilary.”

Connor and Yei have been in partnership since 2007. In a New Year message to CMSI, Bishop Hilary said he was ‘not quite sure what the Lord is leading me to do in the near future.”

But he said he and his wife Mama Joyce planned to remain in the Yei community. “We’ve been so much woven together we find it hard to break those cords of togetherness,” the bishop wrote.

Bishop Hilary has led Yei Diocese since 2004.  In his email to CMSI, he expressed his thanks to Connor Diocese and the parishes which have supported Yei. Over the years, several teams travelled out to South Sudan and funds were raised to build a new primary school in Bishop Hilary’s home village of Mongo and for ongoing teacher training and also to support displaced people seeking shelter in the Yei Church compound during civil unrest. Several parishes hosted Bishop Hilary when he visited Connor.

“I want to communicate that CMS Ireland link parishes have shown tremendous efforts to uplift and change the lives of thousands of people in my diocese and during my ministry,” Bishop Hilary said.

“I was very pleased and do greatly appreciate the retired and present Bishop of Connor and CMS Ireland for their encouragement and the very generous gifts from the parishes of Connor Diocese.”

Dean Stephen Forde and Bishop Hilary in Yei in February 2007, when the then Archdeacon of Dalriada visited South Sudan for the first time to sign the Connor / Yei Partnership Agreement.

The Rt Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast, first met Bishop Hilary when he travelled to Yei in 2007 as Archdeacon of Dalriada. He was in Southern Sudan (this was pre-independence in 2011) to sign the new partnership agreement between the two dioceses.

“During that 10-day visit to Yei, the first of four that I was to make, I soon realised that Bishop Hilary is a man who leads from the front, by conviction and by example,” Dean Forde said.

“As Bishop Hilary finally achieves a long-deserved retirement with his wife Mama Joyce, I pray that he will be able to enjoy rest from his labours as an energetic bishop in his diocese, and peace in the land of South Sudan which he loves dearly.”

Frank Dobbs, Agherton Parish, met Bishop Hilary on a number of occasions, both in South Sudan and in County Antrim.

Paying tribute to the retiring Bishop, Frank said:

“Bishop Hilary has played an important role in developing the Church, education and health provision in Yei, supporting internally displaced refugees, and facilitating peace-making. I wish him well in his retirement and pray for the continuing peace process.”

Former Dean of Connor, Dean John Bond, and his wife Joyce entertained Bishop Hilary at Broughshane Rectory for a weekend in 2008.  “The first African bishop to visit the local schools, he made a huge impact on the lives of the pupils and staff,” Dean Bond recalls.

“I pray that both he and Mama Joyce will enjoy a long, healthy and peaceful retirement, though I suspect ‘retirement’ will be ministry without responsibility.”

Dean Forde, Frank and Dean Bond will share further memories of Bishop Hilary in a feature in the Spring issue of Connor Connections, which will be published in March – hopefully in both print and online formats.

CMSI say it is likely an extraordinary Synod to elect a new Bishop of Yei will take place on February 12-13.

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