Below are some further highlights of 2011:
January: The year began with the ordination to the diaconate of three of our brothers (Denis Murphy OP, Maurice Colgan OP and Brian Doyle OP) by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin in Saint Saviour's, Dublin on January 2nd. January 2011 was important too for the Lay Dominicans in Ireland - two new members were received in Dublin, which began a trend during the year - with new young members being received in Tralee and Kilkenny also.
February: The Dominican nuns at Siena monastery in Drogheda, Co. Louth gave the habit to Sr M Cathy OP on February 2nd and she began her novitiate training. Pope Benedict issued in advance his letter to the church for Vocations Sunday 2011 - the theme being: Proposing Vocations in the Local Church.
March: The third annual Dominican family vocations day took place on March 26th in Cabra. This was an opportunity for men and women interested in the four branches of the Dominican family in Ireland to come together to meet the lay Dominicans, friars, apostolic sisters and nuns for a day of reflection and information. Irish Dominican Vocations also signed up to 'Twitter' in March and has been tweeting regularly since!
April: A historic event took place on April 16th in St Mary's priory church in Cork as our brother Stephen Cummins OP made his first profession. Stephen, who had been a priest of the diocese of Cloyne, became the first priest in 61 years to make profession as an Irish Dominican. It was also in April in that Irish Dominican Vocations received the news that he would be Rome bound for the first ever Catholic bloggers meeting in the Vatican organised by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
May: The first days of May were spent in Rome at the Catholic bloggers meeting in Rome. It was a unique experience and a great privilege to be there. To coincide with Vocations Sunday a new dedicated vocations website for the Irish Dominican friars was launched: www.dominicanfrairs.ie. May also saw the lauch of a new initiative of Vocations Ireland called 'Explore Away' - a discernment programme for men and women interested in religious life in Ireland. This was a welcome development.
June: There were three significant events during the month of June. Firstly, the Master of the Dominican Order, fr Bruno Cadore OP visited Ireland. I was delighted to have a brief private meeting with fr Bruno where we had a wide ranging discussion on all aspects of vocation ministry. He was very encouraging. Secondly, the Dominican nuns at Siena monastery in Drogheda celebrated the final profession of Sr Mary Teresa Dunphy OP. This blogger was especially proud of this event because of the fact that Sr Teresa is from County Laois! And finally, interviews for admission to the novitiate took place and were successfully completed.
July: The summer months bring some respite for vocations personnel, thankfully. However, in Ireland, as has been the case for my twelve years as vocations director, yet another report on the mis-management and mis-handling of abuse of minors and young people by the Irish church was published. This 'ongoing crisis' has been the constant backdrop for vocations ministry in Ireland for a long time now. It makes a difficult ministry even more difficult.
August: The highlight during August was the final profession of our brother Matthew Martinez OP in his native Trinidad. Some of the friars of the Irish province were in attendance, including this blogger for the joyful event. Bro Matthew has since returned to Ireland to continue his theological studies.
September: September was an exceptionally busy month. The ordinations to the priesthood of our brothers Brian Doyle OP, Denis Murphy OP and Maurice Colgan OP took place. In mid-September, the Irish Dominicans celebrated the soelmn professions of Luuk Jansen OP and Colm Mannion OP and the first professions of Paul Hughes OP and Alan Hopkins OP. Five men were received as novices in the Order and were clothed with the habit on September 14th. They were: Kevin O Reilly, Gearard Flynn, Murchadh O Madagain, Christophe Cole and Sean Crepin.
October: This month sees this blogger take off around the country and abroad on what is the 'real meat' of vocations ministry - meeting and discerning with candidates and taking the opportunity to promote the Dominican vocation in schools, colleges and third-level institutes.
November: Co-operation between the various branches of the Dominican family in Ireland is crucial to the promotion and fostering of Dominican vocations. I regularly meet with the vocation promoters of the other branches of the Dominican family in Ireland exploring ways to best do this. During this month I have been privileged to work with members of a new lay Dominican group attached to Queens University in Belfast who will be officially erected in January 2012.
December: This month is a continuation of the ongoing meetings with interested candidates and also planning and preparation for the first six months of 2012 take place. And this blogger looks forward to the Christmas holidays.
The year just gone has been overshadowed by one major event. It was the death of my beloved mother, Bridget Dunne, who died on February 23rd after a long illness. I owe much to her. She had a great love for the Dominicans and always had a keen interest in my work as vocations director. If you get to read to the end of this blog entry, you might just pause and say a prayer for the repose of her soul.