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.