Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - Looking Back


Now that 2008 is coming to a close, it is an opportune time to take a look back at the events of the year. Rather than single out every event for mention, I would like to mention some highlights. No 'lowlights' will be mentioned in this post!

Since January 2008 there have been over 60 new enquiries about the vocation of the Irish Dominicans.

Since January 2008, 27 men have shared something of our life by experiencing 'live-in' weekends in our various priories in Ireland.

Since the beginning of the Year of Vocation (April 13th 2008 to May 3rd 2009) the Irish Dominican friars have hosted two major events. The first, a prayer event on Vocations Sunday to launch the special year and the second, a Dominican family event, reflecting on the Dominican vocation, on November 15th, the feast of Saint Albert the Great. (more events are planned before the end of the Year of Vocation).

September 2008 saw new novices begin their novitiate year in Limerick, while six of our student brothers made profession (both temporary and perpetual) during the days of our Provincial Chapter.

More and more groups and individuals in the various locations in which the Irish Dominican friars have a foundation are praying on a regular basis for Dominican vocations.

I could add many more highlights to the list above but then it would be too long. It was a good year for Irish Dominican Vocations and we have much to be thankful for. It only remains for me to say a very big 'thank you' to all those who in any way assisted in the promotion of the vocation to the Irish Dominican friars over this past year. I am very grateful indeed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas


Greetings and blessings to all who take the time to look at this blog.

The wonder and marvel of Christmas begins with the benevolence and generosity of God who loves and gives, who nourishes and sustains. It is the same God who carries us through disappointments that can seem to impact upon us with regularity. God in His goodness leads us always onwards to find meaning an direction in our lives. The Incarnation, whereby God's only Son entered into humanity and became flesh, is the story of God's blessing for us. It is his gift designed to show us a way of living that fulfils our humanity, which allows us to become more fully human, as in the image of the One who created us. God's gift to the world that first Christmas gave us the Messiah, the Chosen One, who's every moment of life has been an example of grace and generosity.
May you and your families receive that grace and generosity this Christmas too.

The Need for Continuing Prayer for Vocations


Some reactions to the suggestion by the National Director for Vocations in Ireland, Fr Paddy Rushe, that there is an upward trend in new membership and vocations and there is reason for some optimism, have been very harsh and critical. And unfairly so, in my opinion. For example, a recent contribution from a regular columnist in a weekly Catholic paper in Ireland, himself a priest, had the following to say in a piece entitled Vocations crisis will spread: 'It's that time of year again! Today we award for 'own goal of the year' award 2008. This year's recipient is Fr Patrick Rushe, the 'supremo' of the vocations apostolate, who single-handedly solved the 'so called' vocations crisis in less than a year. Congratulations!' The author concludes his piece with the following: 'I am not sure if praying for vocations is the answer. Perhaps we ought to be looking for a new incluseive way of being priest.' Apart from the distasteful award reference above, it is the suggestion that there is an uncertainty in praying for vocations at all which is more alarming! So what do we do then? Ignore the call of the Lord who specifically asked that prayers be offered so that labourers be sent to his harvest? Do we also ignore the fact that praying for vocations is the business of all Christians? Or indeed, and most importantly, do we ignore the fact that God does answer these same prayers that thousands make every day for an increase in vocations?

I am reminded of the words of Pope Benedict in his message for the 43rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations (2006): Remembering the counsel of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9,37), we readily recognise the need to pray for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. It is not surprising that, where people pray fervently, vocations flourish. The holiness of the Church depends essentially on union with Christ and on being open to the mystery of grace that operates in the hearts of believers. Therefore, I invite all the faithful to nurture an intimate relationship with Christ, Teacher and Pastor of his people, by imitating Mary who kept the divine mysteries in her heart and pondered them constantly (cfr Lk 2,19). Together with her, who occupies a central position in the mystery of the Church, we pray:
O Father, raise up among Christiansabundant and holy vocations to the priesthood,who keep the faith aliveand guard the blessed memory of your Son Jesusthrough the preaching of his wordand the administration of the Sacraments,with which you continually renew your faithful.
Grant us holy ministers of your altar,who are careful and fervent guardians of the Eucharist,the sacrament of the supreme gift of Christfor the redemption of the world.
Call ministers of your mercy,who, through the sacrament of Reconciliation, spread the joy of your forgiveness.
Grant, O Father, that the Church may welcome with joythe numerous inspirations of the Spirit of your Sonand, docile to His teachings,may she care for vocations to the ministerial priesthoodand to the consecrated life.
Sustain the Bishops, priests and deacons,consecrated men and women, and all the baptized in Christ,so that they may faithfully fulfil their mission at the service of the Gospel.
This we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A new year is dawning. It is my earnest hope that we will keep our focus on the primary work of vocations promotion and ministry: prayer.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Most Welcome Christmas Card!


Christmas cards are always welcome at this time of the year.....but one such card recently received stands out. It is from the Knights of Saint Columbanus. The dedication reads:

The Year of Vocation spans from 13th April 2008 to 3rd May 2009. The focus is on Witness, Love, Service and the calling of all God's people whether they be married, single, ordained, religious, young or old. It has a series of themes for different months. December was chosen as the opportunity to show our appreciation of those already in ministry and to say thank you for their vocation.'
This is a most thoughtful gesture on behalf of the Knights of Saint Columbanus and is deeply appreciated by this blogger. You can visit the website of the Knights at http://www.knightsofstcolumbanus.ie/

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Vocations Ireland - Conference on Religious Life and Call


As part of their contribution to the events marking the Year of Vocation, the association of vocations directors for male and female religious in Ireland, Vocations Ireland, are hosting a major conference in February 2009. Taking place on the weekend of 13 to 15 February, the theme to be explored is 'Disturbed by the Spirit - Called to be Sent. Religious Life, Discipleship and a Vocations Culture.' It will be held at the Stillorgan Park Hotel, Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

The main contributor to the conference is Anthony J Gittins CSSp. He is currently professor of Mission and Culture at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, USA. Also speaking at the weekend is John Waters, the well known Irish journalist and columnist.

I wish the organisers well in this ambitious endeavour. It is indeed one of the few serious attempts by the church authorities in Ireland to mark the Year of Vocation in any meaningful way.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Travel Update


One of the trends of my work in the past couple of years that has accelerated siginificantly is that of travel outside of Ireland - and in particular to Britain (I spent last weekend in London). This is necessary because of the increase in interest in the Irish Dominicans from candidates who live and work in the UK. Admittedly, some of the enquirers are Irish, though not all are. This very welcome development of interest brings its own demands too, particularly the amount of time spent travelling. It also means that trying to meet on a regular basis all those interested (and discerning) in Ireland in Britain is becoming more difficult to accomplish. In the New Year, a plan to fulfill all the engagements that are necessary will have to be put in place.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Vocation Discernment Weekends - Dominican Nuns, Drogheda.


I am very happy to mention the advance notice of two upcoming vocation discernment weekends at the Monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena, Drogheda, Co Louth (pictured above). The first weekend will take place from Friday 6th February to Sunday 8th February 2009; the second such weekend takes place from Friday 20th March to Sunday 22nd March 2009.

These special weekends are designed for young women who are discerning a vocation to Monastic life and are interested to learn more about our Dominican tradition of Contemplative Monastic life. These are basically informative weekends with opportunity to join our community in the chapel for the celebration of the liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration; in addition to some conferences there is time for personal prayer and reflection and opportunity to talk with a sister about discerning the Lord's call in one's life.

It is important to book early as places are limited. For information you can contact Sr Breda OP, Monastery of St Catherine of Siena, The Twenties, Drogheda, Co Louth or by email at siena3@eircom.net

You can visit the monastery website here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Figures don't back vocations increase claims' - Irish Catholic



An article by the managing editor of the current edition (November 27th, 2008) of the Irish Catholic paper takes issue with the national director of vocations, Fr Paddy Rushe. Fr Paddy has been in the news this past week or so suggesting that it is a myth that there is lack of people signing up to enter seminary in Ireland. The text of what Fr Rushe says can be found elsewhere on this blog.


While the managing editor of the Irish Catholic makes some relevant points regarding potential flaws in Fr Paddy's arguments (eg, the potential drop-out rates of semianrians, the plausibility that those joining seminary might have postponed thinking of joining postponed their decisions until the 'storm of controversy' passed), it is the negative tone that he (the managing editor) uses that is quite distasteful. The second half of the article is in italics below:

It also appears that from the Church's own research that the acceptance rate of applicants to the priesthood in recent years has increased. For instance, as of 2006, the acceptance rate of applicants to priesthood was 62%, compared to 50% in 2005 and only 42% accepted in 2004 (CRD report Vocations and Church Personnel 2005).

Perhaps the quality of prospective candidates is increasing, but perhaps the dioceses are getting more desperate? The Vatican only warned recently about keeping up strict screening procedures, and while I am not suggesting any deterioration in Irish screening, the figures just serve to show that any number of conclusions can be drawn. The vocations situation is, as one vocations promoter described it to me this week, 'pitiful'. We lost 160 priests last year to the 9 that were ordained.

Even if Fr Rushes's prediction does hold up and the number of ordained priests doubles, they will not be enough for the 26 dioceses and approximately 2,000 parishes to be served.

The figures below are taken from the Bishops CRD who say the figures are so variable that it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions. However, it does admit that for all other vocation categories (nuns, brothers and religious priests) a "steadying downward trend" is apparent.




Diocesan Vocations
Year:1996 ; Enetered: 52; Ordained: 46
Year:1997 ; Entered: 53; Ordained: 45
Year:1998 ; Entered: 45; Ordained: 27
Year:1999 ; Entered: 46; Ordained: 34
Year:2000 ; Entered: 29; Ordained: 24
Year:2001 ; Entered :32; Ordained: 29
Year:2002 ; Entered: 20; Ordained: 16
Year:2003 ; Entered: 19; Ordained: 19
Year:2004 ; Entered: 28; Ordained: 13
Year:2005 ; Entered: 27; Ordained: 11
Year:2006 ; Entered: 30; Ordained: 9
Year:2007 ; Entered: 31; Ordained: 9
Year:2008 ; Entered: 30; Ordained: 11


Do the figures back up Fr Rushe's thesis? No. Perhaps Fr Rushe's optimism is well placed on his day-to-day experience dealing with candidates and vocations directors, but it's just too early to say based on the numbers. Only when the classes of the last three years get to ordination will we know how good the retention rates are and if the years in between have seen the entrant numbers increase.

After all, the Dublin Report is due out in January '09 - there may be a breeze to our backs but there are a few headwinds to be dealt with first.

The article sets out to criticise the National Director of Vocations and makes suggests the dioceses are getting desperate. The article further suggests that the screening of candidates ccould be called in to question. Of course, the last paragraph of the article sounds the warning about the impending publication of another report of abuse by another Irish diocese and the implications that this could have for potential vocations.

Those involved in vocations promotion and ministry in this country are sorely tired of the ongoing negativity surrounding their work. Any possible good news story to emanate from anyone involved in vocations is a chance for journalists to turn it into a negative and suggest hypothetical allegations and arguments. That is quite distasteful and unhelpful.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vocation and Joy

Recently I was asked by a community of another congregation to give a day of reflection with a vocational theme during Advent. I readily agreed. As a matter of fact, I find it very difficult to say no when asked to speak, preach or reflect on the topic of vocations with any interested group. There are a couple of reasons for this: (1) there is a compelling and irresistible need for me to speak with others about the call of God and (2) it is not just a duty, but a joy to do so.
One might not always associate the words joy and vocation together, but at the heart of our vocation is the joy who is God. Of course there will be moments of discomfort and pain and uncertainty, but it is the realisation that God is willing you to attain the fulness of happiness. My experience is that when we understand that, it makes the more painful moments easier.

As I prepare for this day of reflection with this community I am aware that some of them are animated about rekindling a new sense of vocation to their way of life and are genuinely interested in ways of exploring how to move that process forward. There has been a deal of pain involved for many congregations who have not had new members for some time. I suspect that that pain has and will bring others to ask the real questions about how the work of vocations promotion and direction has taken a less than high priority for some time. I just sense that we are beginning to turn the corner in Ireland and rediscovering the joy at the heart of our vocation.

God doesn't give vocations to us that will cause us to be unhappy but gives us vocations that lead us on a path to life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Words from another Dominican Vocations Director


There is little doubt that one of the great success stories regarding the attraction and promoting of vocations in the Dominican tradition is that of the Nashville Dominican sisters. The full title of the congregation is 'The Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia' and they are primarily devoted to Catholic education. Recently I came across an interview with Sister Catherine Marie Hopkins who was vocations director for the congregation for 15 years. The interview was published in the internation Dominican news sheet (I.D.I) and the following question was asked of Sister Hopkins:

'You worked for 15 years as vocation director for your Order. What was the key for finding your own vocation? Did your own experience help you to aid other women in discerning theirs?' She responded as follows:

'The key to finding my own vocation was the realisation that God had the plan and I just needed to discover exactly what that plan was. It began with the inner turmoil at the thought that God could ask such a thing of me, but I very quickly found out that if he were calling, everything I needed in order to respond would be provided by him as well. That brought me tremendous freedom and my turmoil was replaced by a very strong attraction.

I was 24 years old and very happy, but not at peace since I couldn't say for sure what God's will was for my life. All I knew with certainty was that daily Mass had made me hunger for more, and so I went in search of where I could best root a growing desire to give of myself. I finally investigates religious life so that I could rule it out and marry with a clear conscience. When I actually visited our community and saw very tangible joy, youthful zeal and a long history of fidelity, fear was reduced by a newly formed conviction that this is what God had created me to do.

I would say that my own experience made me very sensitive as a vocation director to the fact that successful discernment takes place apart from any pressure and within the challenging silence of prayer. When I looked for God's will, I sought advice and asked lots of questions, but I wanted to make a decision that, while informed, drew strength from an interior conviction that I recognised as coming from God.

The Dominican Sisters in Nashville understood that it wasn't a matter of recruitment but of exposure. As a vocation director, I made it a point always to respect the delicate interior struggle through which most people must pass. My job was not to make a good sales pitch, but to convey the beauty of our life and to expose young women to it through a visit or retreat experience. I had to help those who had the inclination, but struggled with uncertainty, realise that the simultaneous fear and attraction that they felt was normal; and that a sense of unworthiness is not a bad thing since none if us is 'worthy' of divine espousal! Making the choice entails a movement away from a career mentality to the realization that religious life is about giving yourself to a love that is without limit.'

These words of really sound advice really ought to resonate with both vocation directors and discerners of vocations alike. This repsonse is part of a much longer and in-depth interview which can be found also at the Zenit News Agency website (http://www.zenit.org/article-23348?l=english) and is well worth reading.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vocations Video from Southern Dominican Province USA

I came across this recently produced vocations video of the Dominican friars of the Province of Saint Martin de Porres (Southern Dominican Province, USA). It is worth a look:

video

'You Will be My Witnesses'


On Saturday November 15th, the feast of Saint Albert the Great, over 120 members of the Dominican family in Ireland (nuns, laity, friars and sisters) gathered together in Saint Mary's Priory, Tallaght, Dublin 24 to reflect on and celebrate the common Dominican vocation.

There were several inspiring and enlightening contributions during the day. The keynote address 'You will be my witnesses - our common vocation as Dominicans' was given by fr John Harris OP. Taking his starting point of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:28-42), he challenged all present to be true witnesses of Dominic saying, 'For this surely is the object of all Dominican witnessing and preaching not that we convince by our erudite arguments or scholarly presentations (albeit that such hard work is necessary), but that those to whom the Lord has asked us to witness would come to know and love the Lord himself. That we as witnesses would become irrelevant and fade away with our jobs done, rejoicing in the knowledge that now the Truth, having been met has indeed been preached'.

Responses to this address were given by a member of each branch of the Dominican family in Ireland namely: Sr. Breda Carroll (Siena Monastery, Drogheda), fr Bede McGregor (Dundalk), Sr. Edel Murphy (Dun Laoighire) and Lucy Mooney (Dominican Laity in Ireland).

Central to the day was the celebration of the Eucharist. We were very pleased to have the local auxiliary bishop of Dublin, Eamonn Walsh to preside and preach. In a challenging homily he urged all present to bring the word of God alive and active in our time and he praised the Dominican family in Ireland for their contribution to the preaching of God's word throughout Ireland and beyond.

The second half of the day was given over to personal reflections on the Dominican vocation. There were excellent, inspiring and indeed moving accounts of how an apostolic sister (Kathleen Fitzsimons OP), a contemplative nun (Sr Marie Pascale OP), a member of the Dominican laity (Kitty O Brien) and a friar (Brian Doyle OP) came to be called to the Dominican way of life.

The event concluded with the launching of a Dominican family calendar for 2009 to celebrate the Year of Vocation and the launch of a specially comissioned piece of music for the event by Geraldine Flanagan (President of the Dominican Laity in Ireland).

It was a very successful event hosted by the vocations promoters of the Dominicans in Ireland as part of the celebrations of the Year of Vocation being celebrated in Ireland.

(Pictures from this event will be posted on this blog soon)

Analysis of Vocations in Ireland


An interesting interview given by the national Director of Vocations in Ireland, Fr. Paddy Rushe, is in italics below. It appeared first on the Catholic Ireland website.

The vocations director for Armagh archdiocese has said that concern about the country’s shortage of vocations fails to take into account a steady recovery in the number of people entering seminaries.
Speaking in the wake of Cardinal Sean Brady’s announcement of a reorganisation in his own Armagh archdiocese, Dundalk priest Fr Paddy Rushe said it is a “myth” that there is a lack of new people signing up for vocations.
"The problem is that when people sign up, it takes six or seven years for them to be ready,” he pointed out.
“We are only starting to see people emerge that signed up in 2001, which was a bad year for the Catholic Church as scandals broke and we were at the height of the Celtic Tiger” Fr Rushe said.
“So obviously, we got fewer numbers back then, but right now, for the first time in ten years, we have the highest number of people enrolling into vocations," he continued.
Fr Rushe said that if numbers of new recruits continues to rise, there will be an influx of new priests by 2014.
But he said that when this happens, Church structures that have had to be changed to cope with fewer priests should not be reversed.
"In 2014 we will see twice, if not three times as many new priests emerging”.
"The decline in numbers has brought some parishes into line -the way it used to be structured was as if we had the usual number of priests, but some parishes these days have only one priest, making it impossible for someone to take a holiday”.
“This had to change, but in the future when a parish will have more than one priest, there is no point changing it back to the way it was -we cannot change back just for numerical reasons," Fr Rushe said.
And he said the Church’s vocations drive was as pro-active and modern as that of secular employers and using up-to-date recruitment techniques.
“We are in the market more than ever these days recruiting and whatever everyone else is up to, we are doing the same.” he declared.
“We have a YouTube site, a website, we go to recruitment shows, whatever has to be done”.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Web Communications


As mentioned on a number of occasions on this blog, the presence of the Irish Dominican friars on the internet through its website http://www.dominicanfriars.ie/ has brought much attention to the work of vocations promotion. Indeeed, since the site was launched in 2007, enquiries regarding vocations rose substantially (in fact, enquiries trebled!).


The work of compiling and presenting new and relevant information about the ministry and work of the Irish Dominican friars is a difficult task. Having an attractive, informative and appealing website for this purpose (in several languages) demands much attention. I was glad to have been associated with the website of our province.


The Provincial Chapter of the Irish Dominican friars held in September has appointed another friar to manage the website, on the recommendation of the Provincial. The site has now been handed over and I wish our brother well in his task.


I would like to thank and compliment one of our younger friars in the province, Fergus Ryan OP, without whom the website would not have happened. He convinced me of the urgent need for a good provincial website that presented the life and work of the province in a positive light, that highlighted the Dominican vocation, offered practical information about all our centres, kept people regularly informed of happenings and offered some opportunities for preaching. Getting the website to launch stage involved him working with professional web designers and those contributing content (texts, images etc). In my opinion, his management of the website has been inadequately acknowledged, and I hope that this brief mention through the blog will go some way towards rectifying that.


I owe him, as indeed does the province, a great debt of gratitude.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Vocations Weekends


Part of the ongoing process of introducing candidates to the Order is through the hosting of vocations weekends when men join one of our communities for a weekend to sample our way of life. They join in the liturgy, work, prayer and recreation of the community and also get an opportunity to meet with our younger and not so young friars to gain an insight into the experience of Dominican life.

The Dominican community at Saint Saviour's, Dublin is hosting their second such weekend in a short time this weekend. We very much look forward to meeting with and sharing our life with those men who are currently expressing an interest in the Order. The St. Saviour's community over the past few weeks have also hosted other visitors who wish to know more about the Order.

Because of the pressure of space for accomodation in our studentate community at present, it is likely that there will be many such live-in 'vocation weekends' over the next number of months. As always, I ask your prayers for those who are discerning the call to the Dominican way of life at this time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dominicans celebrate 'Year of Vocation'


The vocations promoters for the Dominican family in Ireland (nuns, sisters, friars and laity) have organised a one-day event to mark the 'Year of Vocation'. The event will take place on the feast of Saint Albert the Great (November 15th, 2008) in St. Mary's Priory, Tallaght, Dublin 24.

The keynote address entitled 'You will be my witnesses - the story of our common vocation as Dominicans' will be given by fr John Harris OP. This address will have responses from four members of the Dominican family. Continuing on this theme of Dominican vocation a friar, nun, sister and member of the Dominican laity will present their vocation stories.

A Dominican family calendar will be formally launched and a specially commissioned piece of music to honour the Dominican contribution to the 'Year of Vocation' will also be launched as part of the celebrations of the day.

The central part of the one-day event will be the celebration of the Eucharist. The auxiliary bishop of Dublin, Eamonn Walsh, will be the chief celebrant and homilist.

Over 100 members of the Dominican family are expected to attend. It is an event that I very much look forward to.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Apologies....

I would like to apologise to regular readers of this blog for my lack of posting over the past few weeks. I have many excuses, mostly to do with being busy and being more or less 'on the road' during that period. Normal posting will resume from tomorrow.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vocation Stories




The telling of the story of one's vocation can be quite powerful, especially to hearers or readers and particularly to those who are considering vocation themselves. Every vocation story is unique. I have noticed that our Dominican nuns at the monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena in Drogheda, Co. Louth have, through their website, uploaded the vocation stories of some members of their community. I was particularly taken by the vocation stories of their recently professed sisters Niamh and Teresa (both pictured above). To access these stories, please log on to http://www.dominicannuns.ie/ and follow the link to 'vocation stories'.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Video of Irish Dominican Professions 2008

As you will note from the blog entry of September 16th 2008, the Irish Dominican friars celebrated the professions (simple and solemn) of six of our brothers on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows - September 15th 2008. The rite of profession took place at Saint Mary's Dominican Priory church, Tallaght, Dublin 24 within the celebration of the Eucharist. The Provincial Chapter of the friars was also ongoing at this time. The video shows some images from the Mass of Religious Profession.

video

Thursday, October 2, 2008

'Praying with the Dominicans'


Recently one of the brethren of the province introduced me to a newly published book entitled Praying with the Dominicans. The author is John Vidmar OP, a friar of the Dominican province of Saint Joseph in the USA. A detail from the introduction sums up the reason for publishing the book:

This book is an attempt to share the wealth of Dominican prayer and reflection over the last eight hundred years. What Saint Dominic envisioned....still has relevance.... for the average Christian seeking to find his or her way to the tremendous richness of Jesus Christ.

It is an excellent book (80 pages) which opens up the tradition of prayer in the Dominican Order. There are eyewitness accounts of how Saint Dominic prayed, the eucharistic texts of Aquinas, the writings of Saint Catherine of Siena, excerpts of chant and poetry. I will certainly be offering it to people who are interested in the Order as a means of opening up the richness of the tradition of Dominican prayer.

The book is published by Paulist Press.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ask and Encourage


Priesthood Sunday 2008 (in Ireland) has come and gone (almost!). I had the opportunity to preach about priesthood today and ask the congregation to pray for priests that they might be happy and fulfilled in their vocation. It is fair to say that if a preacher hasn't joy, then he will find if difficult to communicate the joy of God's love to others! Anyway, humble beginnings, but who knows where it might take us?

It did set me thinking, of course, about vocations to the priesthood. Elsewhere on this blog are entries about discernment and so on, but it strikes me that all the promotion in the world, whether it be on the internet, or in the printed media, or any other form of communication won't ever make up for the personal invitation or personal call from one person to another. One of the more common ways that God calls people is through other people. That is why it is so very important that if you think someone might be a priest or a religious that you tell them so. A lot of people have just never considered the possibility!

So, how about it? Let Priesthood Sunday 2008 be a day when you begin to pray for priests, and secondly, why not think of asking or encouraging a person who might have an interest in priesthood or religious life to consider that the Lord is calling them? Remember how Jesus did it?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vocations Director

I was appointed vocations director for the Irish Dominicans in June 2000 and reappointed in September 2004. Those eight years have been a blessing. Today, the Irish Dominicans reappointed me for a third four-year term. I am deeply honoured and look forward to the challenge ahead. Please pray for me and for the Irish Dominican Province.

Year of Vocation - Priesthood Sunday


As part of the initiatives of the team promoting the Year of Vocation, next Sunday (September 28th, 2008) has been designated Priesthood Sunday. According to the official website of the Year of Vocation the aim is to provide an opportunity to 'highlight and promote particularly, the vocation to the priesthood. It is a day to reflect upon and affirm the role of the priest in the life of the Church'. Secondly, the day is to give an opportunity 'to highlight the fact that God is calling men to become priests, and that those answering this call can be happy, content, and fulfilled, as they make a meaningful contribution to modern society'.

There is no doubt that this initiative is laudable. It is modelled on a similar celebrations in the Australian and American church these past few years. But to me it seems a pity that 'priesthood' as a vocation category is only recognised several months into the Year of Vocation. To me, there is a sense that the Irish Church is afraid to actively promote the vocation to the priesthood (and religious life).

So let us, of course, celebrate Priesthood Sunday. It might be a catalyst to overcome the fear of promoting the vocation to priesthood.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pope Benedict on Vocations.....Again!


It seems that Pope Benedict on all his travels outside Rome speaks to the bishops of the countries he visits on the theme of vocations. This is encouraging for us all, and especially those involved in vocations ministry. Below is an extract of what he said to the French bishops while in Lourdes on September 14th:

.....In order to accomplish this task effectively, you need co-workers. For this reason, priestly and religious vocations deserve to be encouraged more than ever. I have been informed of the initiatives that have been taken with faith in this area, and I hasten to offer my full support to those who are not afraid, as Christ was not afraid, to invite the young and not so young to place themselves at the service of the Master who is here, calling (cf. Mt 11:28). I would like to offer warm thanks and encouragement to all families, parishes, Christian communities and ecclesial movements, which provide the fertile soil that bears the good fruit (cf. Mt 13:8) of vocations. In this context, I wish to acknowledge the countless prayers of true disciples of Christ and of his Church. These include priests, men and women religious, the elderly, the sick, as well as prisoners, who for decades have offered prayers to God in obedience to the command of Jesus: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38). The Bishop and the communities of the faithful must play their part in promoting and welcoming priestly and religious vocations, relying on the grace of the Holy Spirit in order to carry out the necessary discernment. Yes, dear Brothers in the episcopate, continue inviting people to the priesthood and the religious life, just as Peter let down the nets at the Master’s order, when he had spent the whole night fishing without catching anything (cf. Lk 5:5).

Pope Benedict underlines prayer and invitation in this extract. We need to be constantly reminded of this!

Profession of Six Irish Dominican Friars


The 15th of September each year is an important date for Irish Dominican friars. Apart from it being the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, it is also the date when traditionally Dominicans of the province make profession.

In keeping with that tradition, six brothers of our province made profession on the 15th in St. Mary's Dominican Priory church, Tallaght, Dublin 24. Brothers Colm Mannion, Luuk Jansen and Matthew Martinez made simple profession (temporary vows for a defined period of time) while Brothers Dennis Murphy, Maurice Colgan and Brian Doyle made solemn profession (vows for the rest of their lives, until death).

Friends and families of our brothers were in attendance, along with over 50 Dominican friars of the province. It was a jouyous day for all Irish Dominicans.

As vocations director, I wish our student brothers who have just made profession every blessing in the time ahead. Days like this make it all worthwhile!

(The picture above is of the brothers who made profession on September 15th, 2008). For more, see the website of the Irish Dominicans.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Our New Novices


The prayers and best wishes of the Irish Dominican friars go to Hugh Cox, Joseph Brady and John Leigh who were clothed with the habit of the Order and received into the novitiate today, September 14th, 2008 in Saint Saviour's, Limerick. They are pictured above with the Prior and Novice Master. Today they begin the year long journey of discerning more fully their vocation in the Dominican Order as novices. With the help and support of the novice master and the formation community they will come to learn more about Dominican life, be immersed in the prayer and apostolic activity of the community and deepen their spiritual lives. It will, with God's help, be a graced time for them.

Please continue to pray for vocations to the friars of the Irish Dominican Province.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Your Prayers Please......


Please remember Hugh, John and Joseph who will receive the habit of the Dominican Order tomorrow (September 14th - The Triumph of the Cross). Please also remember Brothers Luuk, Matthew and Colm who will make first profession in the Order on Monday (September 15th - Our Lady of Sorrows) and finally to bring before the Lord our brothers Brian, Maurice and Dennis who will make solemn profession on Monday also.

As you pray for them, it would be good to ask Saint Dominic to intercede for them and for the Irish Dominicans. The following words of the 'O Lumen Ecclesiae' (Light of the Church), a hymn to Saint Dominic, are more than appropriate:


Light of the Church,
Teacher of Truth,
Rose of Patience,
Ivory of Chastity,
You freely poured forth the waters of Wisdom.
Preacher of Grace, unite us with the Blessed.

Recent Interview


Recently I gave an interview to Pat O' Leary, a journalist with the Irish Catholic. It was published in that paper on Thursday last. I am grateful to Pat O' Leary for the exposure given to the Irish Dominicans. The context of the interview is important because tomorrow (Sunday September 14th), in our novitiate house in St. Saviour's, Limerick, three men will be clothed in the Dominican habit and begin their novitiate year. On the following day (Monday September 15th) at Saint Mary's Dominican Priory church in Tallaght, Dublin 24, three of our brothers who have completed their novitiate will take simple (or temporary) vows for three years, while during the same ceremony, three of our student brothers will make solemn (or final) profession. These events are a source of great joy for the Irish Dominican friars. It is because of this good news that the interview was published.


Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On Vocations 'Crisis'

It seems that when it comes to vocations, we have only one word to offer: crisis! Maybe it's because we have only heard that one word 'crisis' that we really believe it! Yet, those involved in vocations ministry have to be the most optimistic of people and must not have that word (crisis) in their vocabulary. Why? Because we (vocations promoters and directors) really must believe and be convinced of the call of God in people's lives and also that we be true to the founders of our orders, congregations and societies, who did not set them up to die.

On Vocational Enquirers

My experience over these past eight years has shown that there are a significant number of young people who have a deep desire to follow the Lord. I meet them on a regular basis. Often they feel inhibited - thinking that they lack the qualities needed to become priests and religious. For me, it has been imperative to have a care and concern at a pastoral level for individuals who enquire about vocation to religious life and priesthood. This means that a proper method of discernment be followed and that enquirers and candidates have a real and authentic experience of what our life is like. It is also important that they feel that we have a deep care and concern for them and that we are honoured by their interest in our way of life.

On Communication

Making ourselves known and visible is vitally important. We can no longer take it for granted that people know who we are and what we do. To this end it is vital that we be where our young people are looking - that means that we take communicating ourselves seriously. It is important, therefore, to have a good and vibrant presence on the internet and to have quality promotional materials in schools, churches and other institutions. This is necessary to encourage people to consider us as a serious option. This means being up-to-date and not slipshod in our approach to communicating ourselves. It turns people off otherwise.

Is there a Vocations Crisis?

There is if we want there to be one. There isn't if we make decisions and be bold and put out into the deep, make ourselves known wide and far, have a deep care and concern for those who wish to join our way of life and make the changes necessary to welcome new vocations. There is certainly no vocations crisis if we place our trust in the Lord and pray earnestly that God sends laboures to His harvest.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Provincial Chapter 2008


The Provincial Chapter of the Irish Dominican friars is now in its second week of deliberations. For relevant updates on the work of the chapter, please take a look at the 'news and events' section of the provincial website.

The provincial chapter meets every four years to reflect on the life and ministry of the friars and also to plan for the coming four years. The chapter has designated six areas of our life for particular consideration. They are: (1) Government, (2) Our Future (resources and manpower), (3) Vocations, Formation and Studies, (4) Preaching, Mission and Collaboration, (5) Care of the Brethren, the sick and the elderly and (6) Finances. While these areas will receive much attention, the chapter will also deal with other matters that it deems important and necessary.

When the chapter has concluded its work, brothers elected as difinitors, will assist the provincial in writing the acts of the chapter which must be approved by the Master of the Order.

The brothers at chapter elected (for a second consecutive term) fr Pat Lucey OP as Provincial. Our prayers and good wishes go to him.
The picture accompanying this post is of the brethren and some invited guests at the opening days of the chapter when all the friars of the province were invited to participate in discussions relating to the provincial chapter.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Are we ready to receive new vocations?


I was recently asked to give an interview to one of the Catholic newspapers in Ireland, and to address the question: Is there a vocations crisis? My answer to the question posed is that there is a vocations crisis if we want there to be one! There isn't a vocations crisis if we make decisions to be bold and to put out into the deep, make ourselves known far and wide, have a deep concern and care for those who wish to join our way of life and if we make the changes necessary to welcome new vocations. There is certianly no vocations crisis if we place our faith and trust in the Lord and pray earnestly that he send labourers to the harvest.

The reality for many religious congregations (male and female) in Ireland is that they have not had vocations for many years. It remains an immense challenge for them. The question that we and they have to face is this: are we willing and able to receive new members? In my experience, religious congregations often ask the wrong questions - they often ask whether they can adapt to meet the young where they are? They often ask whether they even want to do that? They often ask the question as to whether they ought to die out rather than compromise what now seem to be vital aspects of our lives which the young reject? Congregations really must ask the most serious question: is there space for new members?

It is a vital question! So often, I hear of congreagations setting up committees and commissions about how to tackle the perceived vocations crisis. This leads to a lot of talk and little action. I often hear members of congregations say that they have served their purpose and that it would be wrong to encourage people to join them! I find this eminently sad and contrary to the Gospel.

It's often easy to blame the world, the young, the Church - even God for the lack of vocations. If there are no vocations, congregations need to ask what are they really doing about it! Are they really willing to receive new members? Are they ready to be challenged by the young and not so young?

Monday, September 1, 2008

On a lighter note......


I have set up Google Alerts for 'Dominican vocations'. To the uninitiated this means that I receive an email every time any blogger writes something new about the words 'Dominican' and 'vocations'. It is a very useful tool. Today I got a great chuckle out of the following from the blog of Joseph Fromm who is interested in all things Jesuit. A very good blog it is too. Anyway, the blog entry is called 'Met any Albigensians lately?' See it here.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Provincial Chapter of Irish Dominican Friars


Tomorrow, September 1st 2008, marks the opening of the Provincial Chapter of the Irish Dominican Friars at Saint Mary's Priory, Tallaght, Dublin 24 (pictured above). The chapter meets every four years to reflect on the life and mission of the Irish Dominicans over the past four years and also plans for the future of the province over the next four year term.

It is the single most important meeting of the brethren (some who attend the chapter by virtue of their office and others who are elected to represent the communities and other brethren) and has many serious decisions to make.

I would ask all readers of this blog to keep the brethren who are attending the Provincial Chapter in their prayers, and to pray also for the Irish Dominicans and its ongoing mission of preaching.
For news about the chapter over the coming weeks, please consult the website of the Irish Dominican Friars - www.dominicanfriars.ie

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vocational Discernment


It has been good and heartening to read various reports in the Catholic media in Ireland this past week or so of the entrance of 22 new seminarians to the National Seminary in Maynooth, Co. Kildare (pictured above). This number is very much in line with the intake of new entrants to the seminary over the past three years.

Figures for new entrants to religious orders in Ireland in 2008 are being compiled at present and a clearer picture will emerge over the coming weeks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that numbers joining religious orders in Ireland (male and female) are on the rise. This is good news indeed.

However, vocations and new entrants to seminary and religious life is not about numbers. At least, it ought not to be. At this time of year when new membership is a hot topic, I cannot but think of the vital role of vocational discernment in the process of entry to seminary and religious life. I believe it is something that we take for granted. It is often presumed that a vocations director will do that job. My experience is that this is not always the case, and that the preparation of candidates for entry can often be haphazard. I hold the opinion that there should be norms laid down for all dioceses and religious orders and institutes in relation to following a recognised plan of vocational discernment. If this were implemented and followed, the Irish church could be assured that a standard procedure of discernment for admission is used. It would also raise the standards for acceptable vocational accompaniment.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Youth Evangelization


It has been very heartening to hear of the great success of the many Catholic youth festivals around Ireland during the summer months. From Knock to Clonmacnois to All Hallows and other venues hosting smaller events, young people have been learning about and celebrating their faith. Great credit is due to the organisers of these festivals - particularly the Youth 2000 movement and the Legion of Mary who are at the forefront of youth evangelization and peer ministry. It is evident that their work is paying dividends.
Ten years ago, these Catholic youth festivals in Ireland would have been unheard of. To me, this sign of growth as young people desire to know and practice their faith is a powerful sign of the Holy Spirit in action. It is also quite clear that the engagement of our young people with these young Catholic lay groups will be a source of vocations into the future.

The great Catholic youth event of the year was, of course, the World Youth Day(s) in Sydney, Australia. I have been reading the texts of what Pope Benedict had to say and it is evident that he made a point of encouraging the young people to follow Christ, even when this would prove difficult. His words to seminarians and young religious in St. Mary's Cathedral sum up his encouraging words:

I wish now to turn to the seminarians and young religious in our midst, with a special word of affection and encouragement. Dear friends: with great generosity you have set out on a particular path of consecration, grounded in your Baptism and undertaken in response to the Lord’s personal call. You have committed yourselves, in different ways, to accepting Christ’s invitation to follow him, to leave all behind, and to devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness and the service of his people.
In today’s Gospel, the Lord calls us to “believe in the light” (Jn 12:36). These words have a special meaning for you, dear young seminarians and religious. They are a summons to trust in the truth of God’s word and to hope firmly in his promises. They invite us to see, with the eyes of faith, the infallible working of his grace all around us, even in those dark times when all our efforts seem to be in vain. Let this altar, with its powerful image of Christ the Suffering Servant, be a constant inspiration to you. Certainly there are times when every faithful disciple will feel the heat and the burden of the day (cf. Mt 20:12), and the struggle of bearing prophetic witness before a world which can appear deaf to the demands of God’s word. Do not be afraid! Believe in the light! Take to heart the truth which we have heard in today’s second reading: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and for ever” (Heb 13:8). The light of Easter continues to dispel the darkness!

There are signs of life in the Irish church as evidenced by the participation of these young people in the many and varied festivals and meetings. We will be failing in our own commitment to the preaching and living of the Gospel if we do not encourage and support them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Year of Vocation - Dominican Event

Apologies to readers of this blog for the lack of posting during these past couple of weeks. As mentioned in a previous entry, I have been busy meeting new enquirers during that time which necessitated a fair deal of travel. It is always very humbling to meet people who are interested in the Dominican way of life, and I am always inspired by their courage in making first contact. That can be difficult!

I have found time though during these past couple of weeks to meet with those having responsibility for encouraging and attracting new membership to the various branches of the Dominican family in Ireland - i.e the Dominican laity, the Cabra congregation of Dominican sisters and the contemplative nuns in Siena monastery - to begin the process of planning a Dominican family event to celebrate the year of vocation.

Plans are at an advanced stage now and we hope to hold the event on the feast of Saint Albert the Great (November 15th, 2008). Further details about this in the next week or so.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Feast of Saint Dominic


Greetings to all readers of this blog on the feast of our holy father Saint Dominic. Today is a day of great joy and celebration for all the family of Dominic as we honour the founder of the Order of Preachers.

My favourite account of the life of Saint Dominic is Saint Dominic and His Times by Marie Humbert Vicaire OP (Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1964). Towards the end of this scholarly work, Vicare tries to sum up Dominic's life and mentions the many great qualities of the man - administrator, joyful friar, spiritual father, confessor and so on. But it is the following quotation on Dominic the preacher that means much to me:

Undeniably, he was born to be a Preacher. He had the temprament for it. Simple, without inhibitions, generous, heroic, he naturally gave the best of himself. Moreover, he had that liveliness of imagination that enabled him to see without difficulty the magnitude of what he was describing, whether deserving of praise or blame, and to give his words a spontaneous lyricism, a dramatic influence which made him a great orator. If he made his hearers weep, it was because he was also deeply moved, because he was convinced, and because he was speaking of that to which he had given his life. Then again it was because he loved the [men] to whom he was preaching.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Enquiries

The month of August is traditionally a relatively quiet month in the lives of vocations promoters and directors in this part of the world- a month we generally look forward to before the new academic year begins in September.

Not so this year for this blogger. I have been compiling the statistics about enquiries about vocations to the Irish Dominicans since the last academic year began (September 2007). Since then there have been 60 new enquiries about our way of life and requests for information about being a Dominican. This is slightly more than double the average numner of enquiries of the past few years.

All this means that August will see me travelling from Donegal to Kerry and from Waterford to Antrim and many other places in between, along with a couple of trips across the Irish Sea to meet some of these new enquirers.

There is no one identifiable reason for this sudden upsurge in interest in the Dominican vocation in Ireland during this past year. However, I am convinced of the beginning of a trend generally in Ireland of men and women who are beginning to ask serious questions about their faith, their relationship with God, and how they can be of service in the church. Enquirers reveal to me that the mission of preaching, along with the community element of the Dominican life are primary attractions. A general analysis of this can be seen in the previous post on this blog.

As preparations begin to celebrate the feast of Saint Dominic tomorrow (August 8th), there are signs that his spirit is beginning to bring forth new life in Ireland.

Friday, August 1, 2008

What are you looking for?


A regular question posed to me is: 'what are the people who seek to join the Order looking for?' An interesting question indeed! Of course, it is unhelpful to generalise, but for me there are clear and distinct trends emerging in answer to this question.

It is important to state, in the first instance, that the generation who are now potential enquirers and postulants are very much of a post-Vatican II culture. This culture is one with new convictions and new desires. The following is a provisional analysis of the desires and convictions expressed by those I come in contact with. It is by no means a full and exhaustive analysis.

1. The desire for identity and community. It is evident to me that enquirers need to know about the strong identity of the Order, who is in it, and that they themselves want a clear identity to share with the Order. So, they are drawn by the identity of the habit we wear, by the fact that we pray communally and that there is a regular and visible religious life being led. The Dominican tradition of study remains a strong identifiable reason why people present themselves for acceptance into the Order. In this context, they like the semi monastic qualities of our life and do not feel the need to shake off monastic customs in order to be apostolic religious.

2. The desire for clarity. Those seeking to know more of the Order and become serious candidates want to connect with they consider to be the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, which they believe an older generation has betrayed. They identify this tradition in very visible forms, such as devotional practice. There is a liking for clear authority and a dislike for liberal attitudes. My sense is that they have a deep desire for the authentic and ultimate truth which is found in Jesus Christ.

3. The desire for connection. Enquirers want to be connected to an immediate and identifiable group. Naturally, they want and desire to help others - but in a direct way through generous service to people rather than through campaigning groups. It appears to me that they are hungry for authenticity and for personal and meaningful experiences of religious life.

Like all young people, they challenge the culture that raised them, which in the case of the Church means the post Vatican II culture. If the baby boomers of our generation are the renewal people, then those who are seriously contemplating life in the Dominican way are post-renewal people. It seems to me that the post Vatican II renewal aimed to strip away, to ask questions and to challenge structures; by contrast, this post-renewal generation wants clear identity and immediate connection.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

First Profession.....Live!


A very joyful event will take place on next Saturday (July 26, 2008). It is the first profession of Sr. Maura Walsh OSsR, a Redemptoristine cloistered nun in their monastery - The Monastery of Saint Alphonsus, St. Alphonsus Road, Drumcondra, Dublin (pictured above).

This event will be carried live from the monastery by Church Resources TV. To watch the profession ceremony as it is streamed live, please click on http://www.churchservices.tv/ and follow the appropriate links. It begins at 12 noon. (I wonder if this is a first?)

I know Sr. Maura and the Redemptoristine community very well. This is a very important moment in Maura's life and that of the community. My prayers and best wishes go to them.

Upcoming Events of Interest


A couple of events of note with a vocational theme that have come to my attention:

  • Sunday, July 27th 2008 is an important date for the many thousands of people who will climb Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo (pictured above). On that day, the 11.00 am Mass will be broadcast from the summit of the holy mountain by the national television broadcaster RTE. The Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary will preside and preach the homily. The theme of his homily will be on vocations to coincide with this 'Year of Vocation'.

  • Sunday, August 24th is a day when people are invited to join a 'Year of Vocation' pilgrim walk from Shannonbridge to Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly. The event is being organised in conjunction with the Ursuline sisters. The pilgrimage will start at 2.oo pm on the day at the church cark park in Shannonbridge. The route from there to Clonmacnoise is approximately four miles. There will be several stops along the route for prayer and reflection.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

World Youth Day


Many of the readers of this blog will be interested in the events surrounding World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. With that in mind I would like to bring to your attention the official website of World Youth Day 2008 - particularly for the possibility of live streaming of the main event tomorrow night (Saturday 19th July 2008). Not everyone has EWTN which has extensive coverage of all events in Sydney. Also, RTE, the Irish national television broadcaster is showing some events tomorrow and Sunday (delayed).

Some of the brethren of the Irish Dominican Province are among those attending this very important event in the life of the universal church. My good wishes go to them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vocations Recession??


This week's copy of 'The Irish Catholic' came through the post this morning. The headline put a smile on my face! A sub-editor in this popular Catholic newspaper has been busy! The headline reads: 'Dublin plan to tackle Vocations recession'. The lead article is about the Archdiocese of Dublin and its plans to create new 'pastoral areas' with the new appointments of various clergy around the diocese - allowing parishes to pool resources and having priests and pastoral councils to work in teams with the hope of reinvigorating the task of evangelisation in the diocese. All this is aimed as a means of offsetting the vocations decline in the archdiocese.

So now you have it: we're not just in the middle of an economic recession, but a vocations recession too! In Ireland it is said that we're talking our way into an economic recession....it looks like the Catholic media in Ireland is talking us into a vocations recession as well! Good news stories on vocations doesn't sell papers obviously!

'Vocations in Black and White'


A recent visit to our nuns in Siena monastery, Drogheda, Co. Louth a couple of days ago brought me in contact with a new book entitled 'Vocations in Black and White'. It is an excellent exposition of the stories of vocations of twenty three contemplative Dominican nuns. These cloistered women tell with great humour, wit and deep faith their call to be members of Dominican contemplative communities in the United States.

Rarely have I come across such an inspiring book on the Dominican vocation. And it leads me to a long held belief about vocations and their promotion - namely that the stories of the friars, nuns, sisters and other members of the Dominican family - if they were to be told in a public way would have a profound impact on young people wishing to know more about being 'called' by the Lord and what it means to be a Dominican preacher. Anyway, this book has given me a few more ideas to work on!!

I have some copies of this book. If you would like one, let me know and I'll do my best to get one to you. Incidentally, the book is published by IUniverse.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Blogs to take a look at...


A few blogs related to vocations and Dominicans that caught my eye recently and are worth having a look at:

An excellent resource on Dominican history associated with the Dominican Province of Saint Joseph. A group of young people (mostly from the United States) who are discerning their vocation host a very good blog here. A relatively new blog with a selection of video resources can be found here, and they have some footage with some Dominican interest. I have long admired the people who present the Roman Catholic Vocations blog, and is very definitely worth looking at. Finally, the Dominican nuns of Summit, New Jersey, USA have a very fine and upbeat blog which I like and can be found here.

Incidentally, I should draw your attention to the website of the Dominican Order worldwide which is undergoing something of a revamp at present, and of course to encourage readers to visit the website of the Irish Dominican friars.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Today, I joined the Dominican nuns at Siena monastery, Drogheda, Co. Louth for the first profession of Sr Teresa Dunphy OP. Sr Teresa, from Co Laois, joined the monastery over two years ago and has completed her novitiate. In making profession, she makes a three year commitment to life as a Dominican nun. Of course, simple profession is made with a view to making a lifelong commitment (called solemn profession or final vows) in the near future.
Sr Teresa is the second novice at the only enclosed monastery of Dominican nuns in Ireland to make temporary profession in the past twelve months (Sr Niamh made profession last year).

This event is a cause of great joy for the Domincan family in Ireland, and is a sign that the Dominican vocation to preach in the contemplative way is as necessary now as it always has been. And a good day for the Dominicans of Co. Laois as well!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Provincial Chapter 2008


Since I am the mode of asking people to pray, here is an intention that requires much prayer. The Irish Dominican Province holds its Provincial Chapter in September 2008. This meeting of the friars of the province in assembly and by brethren elected and appointed to attend the Chapter is the most important event in the life of any province. It reflects on the life and mission of the province and plans for our mission for the next number of years. Since the chapter has many serious and difficult decisions to make, I earnestly ask your prayers. More on this topic in the near future.

Fatima


A note from Lisbon Airport. Not the nicest place to be when your flight is delayed and there is no information about when we might be likely to depart! In any case, it gives the opportunity to reflect on the past few days in Fatima.

Like most other Marian shrines that I have had the opportunity and fortune to visit, Fatima is primarily a place of prayer and penance. Many Irish pilgrims, young and old, visit here every year. I always take the opportunity when in these places to talk about vocations and the Dominican vocation particularly. I believe it is always necessary to find the opportunities wherever and whenever they arise to encourage people to pray for vocations. And because pilgrims go to Fatima (and other places of pilgrimage) to pray I ask for their help in praying for vocations to the Irish Dominicans. Fundamentally, vocations grow out of the prayer of the Christian community - and I believe that no prayer goes unanswered.

Visiting Fatima is a humbling experience. One gets the opportunity to meet all sorts of people who visit for all sorts of reasons - wanting to know God more fully in their lives, and seeking comfort, solace and peace. Many of course, return over and over again in thanksgiving.

With the Lord's help, the prayers of the pilgrims I have been accompanying this past week will not go unanswered. It has been a great experience.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Priestly Ordination


While here in Fatima, many of the pilgrims with me will be offering prayers and good wishes for our brother, Declan Corish OP, who will be ordained a priest tomorrow (Sunday 22nd June 2008) in his native parish (Tagoat) in Co. Wexford by the bishop of Ferns Dr. Denis Brennan.

Since joining the Order in 2002, Declan has lived and studied in our communities in Limerick, Rome and Dublin. A horticulturist by profession, Declan worked for the Parks Department for South Dublin County Council prior to joining the Order. He now awaits his first assignation as a priest this coming September.

The Irish Province rejoices in our brother's ordination to the priesthood. But the province is also very fortunate this year in that later in the summer (September) we will have new novices, brothers making first profession in the Order and brothers making solemn profession in the Order. News of these events will be posted later as details are announced.
Let us thank God for his goodness.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Interviews for Admission to the Dominican Novitiate


This entry is written in Fatima, Portugal. I arrived here this evening accompanying a group of pilgrims from the Tallaght area. It is my third visit here in the past few years - and I have looked forward to this visit with the usual intentions that I have.

This time though, prayers of thanksgiving will be very much part of my week long pilgrimage here. Giving thanks to God especially for the work of vocations direction and promotion this past year. Yesterday, the admissions board of the Irish province completed their deliberations on the candidates who presented themselves for admission to our novitiate in Limerick. Those who have been accepted will begin their year long novitate early in September 2008.

The process of admitting candidates is long and comprehensive. Those applying will normally have met with me for at least one year, but more often than not for a longer period. The admissions process is the culmiantion of much work and preparation. I think it is a very good process and have always been impressed with the friars and others appointed to assist in its work.

While here, I will be thanking God for the gifts that he gives us - and especially for the men who will take the next step in their discernment process by becoming novices in the Order. Please pray for them and for the Irish Dominican Province.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Vocations and Growth

I have spent the last couple of days visiting one of our student brothers in France. I had been interested to hear that the province of France (there are two French Dominican Provinces in the Order: the province of Toulouse and the province of France) has been receiving novices consistently each year for almost thirty years now.

I'm told that there is even talk of opening a new community of Dominican friars somewhere in the country with several concrete possibilities being considered. It is unlikely the province would be able to do this without the intake they have experienced these last few decades.

The Irish Dominican Province has itself been experiencing a degree of stability on the vocations scene these last ten years, something which has not always been noted. I have every confidence that as a province we too will be able to think in terms of growth rather than decline. Death and decline, crisis and closure are, unfortunately, terms receiving great use in Irish Church circles these days. It's time to think differently!

Here's the website of the Province of France: http://www.dominicains.fr

Friday, June 6, 2008

Reflections on Vocations by the Masters of the Order


I have been reading the official acts of the General Chapter of the Dominican Order held in Bogota, Colombia last year. This meeting of brothers from the provinces of the Order throughout the world is charged with reflecting on the life, mission and work of the brethren and to legislate, when necessary, for the good of the Order worldwide.

Naturally, I am interested to read what the General Chapter has to say on vocations. In his letter on the 'state of the Order', the Master General, fr Carlos Aspiroz Costa (pictured above) reflects on the theme and speaks of the gift of vocations, the deep necessity to pray for vocations, the possibility of meetings of the friars involved in vocations ministry to meet together and share their experience. He encourages greater collaboration between the various branches of the Dominican family in encouraging new membership with a particular emphasis on the promotion of vocations by the friars for the contemplative nuns.

Fr Carlos also quotes his two immediate predecessors as Master of the Order on the theme of vocations. Firstly, he quotes fr Damian Byrne (Irish province) who was Master of the Order from from 1983 to 1992: 'For what do we want vocations? How are we going to form them? (...) How are we going to form ourselves so as to receive the new religious and how are we going to carry out the necessary changes in our life that will enable us to live with them in the peace of the Gospel and to bear their challenge and that of their world?' Here, fr Damian challenges the brethren to receive new members and to make the necessary changes to allow them to flourish - even if it means that the brethren have to form themselves to do so! His words are as important today as they were when he wrote them to the brethren at General Chapter in Mexico in 1992.

Secondly, fr Carlos quotes his immediate predecessor fr Timothy Radcliffe. The quote is from a letter to the Order written in 1994 entitled 'Vowed to Mission': 'Do we dare to accept into the Order young people who have the daring to face these new challenges with courage and initiative, knowing that they may well put in question much of what we have been and done? Would we happily accept into our own Province a man like Thomas Aquinas, who embraced a new and suspect philosophy and posed hard and searching questions? Would we welcome a brother like Bartolome de las Casas, with his passion for social justice? Would we be pleased to have a Fra Angelico who experimented with new ways of preaching the Gospel? Would we give profession to Catherine of Siena, with all her outspokenness? Would we welcome Martin de Porres, who might disturb the peace of the community by inviting in all sorts of poor people? Would we accept Dominic? Or might we prefer candidates who will leave us in peace? And what is the result of our initial formation? Is it to produce brothers (and sisters) who have grown in faith and courage, who dare to try and risk more than when they came to us at first? Or do we tame them and make them safe? These are challenging questions posed by our brother Timothy - reminding the Order that it has a duty to be challenged by its new members, and by new membership itself. And ultimately that we give to those who come to join us the opportunity to grow spiritually, intellectually, humanly and psychologically to be effective preachers!