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.


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:

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!

Interviews for Admission to the Novitiate

The interview process to admit candidates (postulants) to the novitiate of the Irish province are scheduled to take place over a three day period i.e. June 16th to 18th 2008. Those applying to join the novitiate programme will have been in contact with me for at least one year and generally for a longer period than that. This element of discernment and period of accompianment constitutes postulancy in the Irish province of Dominicans. The men who will present themselves for admission will also have had some experience of Dominican life during that period of postulancy.
The interview process is the final stage of discernment in which candidates are interviewed by a panel of Dominicans (the admissions board). They are also assessed by suitably qualified professionals in the psychological field who assist the admissions board in their deliberations. If the candidate is successful, the admissions board recommend that he be accepted. It is the Provincial who then admits a candidate to the novitiate.

This is a very important step in the journey of those whose desire to become Dominicans in the Irish Province. The process is one that always has prayer at the core of all the deliberations. It is because of this that I ask those who read this blog entry to pray particularly for the men who will apply to join our novitiate this year, but also to remember those involved in the decision making process. May the spirit of wisdom be with all and may our Holy Father Saint Dominic intercede for us.