In a time of great uncertainty around vocations in Ireland, the ordination to the diaconate of seven men on Sunday last in the National Seminary in Maynooth is a sign of hope. The seven (six of whom are pictured above) were ordained by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin. They come from six dioceses around Ireland (Ferns, Meath, Tuam, Armagh, Kilmore and Dublin) and one from the Irish Redemptorist Province. A further six men were ordained deacons in the Irish College in Rome at Easter time.
Having these thirteen men prepare for priesthood in the next number of months will certainly give optimism and hope to others who might feel called to religious life and priesthood. This number, however, masks an underlying worrying trend in vocation numbers in Ireland. In a number of weeks we will become aware of the numbers who will begin seminary training and formation for the dioceses of Ireland and for religious congregations. It now looks likely that the numbers will be down again - for a second year in a row. While it is impossible to draw conclusions from statistics over such a short period, it should really focus the mind once again of those charged with promoting vocations in Ireland to immediately look seriously at their vocations strategies. Clearly, there is much work to be done because the strategies employed are not working very well and in some cases not at all.
It seems clear to me that there is a case to be made for all the interested parties concered with promoting vocations in Ireland (religious and diocesan) to come together and discuss planning for the future. It does not require a further 'Year of Vocation', but a planned, strategic and professional response to trends now becoming clearer.
See the full text of Archbishop Martin's homily at the diaconate ordinations here. A good analysis of the homily and the ceremony by journalist Sarah McDonald appears on the cinews website here.