I am always heartened to hear of groups of people who take on the responsibility to pray specifically for vocations to religious life and priesthood. Both evidence and experience point to the fact that the numbers of people, parishs, groups and communities engaged in vocational prayer are growing all over Ireland at a great rate. It is worth noting that the prayers of these people are not being left unheard. Although statistics and figures are not yet readily available to hand, it appears that in Ireland this year there will be a significant increase in new members to religious life (male and female) and to seminary.
I suspect that many will find this to be somewhat strange considering the very difficult situation in which the Irish church finds itself. However, it is the continuance of the prayers of ordinary people along with the inspiration of God that continually prompts people to respond in a generous way to follow the Good Shepherd. I have heard people question why young people would, in this current climate, test their vocation in the church in Ireland. I have also heard their motivation being called into question. It is evident to me and others in vocation ministry that those now testing their vocation are a much more mature, reflective and prayerful generation than in the past. A final, but very important point to stress is this: the new generation of candidates have never known the Irish church to be any other way than the way it is now: a broken church and a church beset by scandal. But they are acutely aware that the mission to spread the good news of the Gospel is needed now more than ever. That's the ultimate reason that they are making this radical choice at this time - and it is the reason why we need to continually pray for vocations.