The ordination to the priesthood of Derek Ryan CSsR at the weekend in Dundalk, Co. Louth is a sign of hope for the religious orders of men in Ireland. The fact that there are so few ordinations to the priesthood in our country means that such events are now big news in religious circles and in the media.
Ordinations and religious professions are signs of hope for the church and the world, but they ought not allow us to rest on our laurels as vocations ministers/directors. I am reminded of the words of Pope Benedict when he visited Bavaria in 2006. Speaking to priests and deacons he said, "We cannot simply recruit people by using the right kind of publicity or the correct type of strategy. The call which comes from the heart of God must always find its way into the heart of humanity. And yet, precisely so that it may reach into hearts, our cooperation is needed."
Vocational discernment begins in the heart of the individual. For it to begin and flourish, the primary task of a vocations director involves enabling young and not so young people to develop their relationship with God.
Vocations discernment then, has two core elements. Firstly, at some point the individual begins to feel a specific calling or simply a desire to serve God and others more generously. That personal discernment can lead to fear sometimes and even feeling uncomfortable. Secondly, the Church has a role to play in order to confirm signs of a genuine vocation. Usually, this begins formally with the vocations director and is carried through and brought to completion by the admission process ans the subsequent years of formation. However, a vocations director also has a crucial role in accompanying individuals - helping them to clarify their call, strengthening their commitment and allaying potential fears.
The hope and prayer of all of us is that the newly ordained priest will have received all the necessary support from vocation directors and formation personnel to bring him to this important step of his journey. Irish Dominican Vocations congratulates Fr Derek and the Redemptorist congregation in Ireland on this happy event.