Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dominican Connect - September 2013 issue

Dominican Connect is back after the slow summer and begins its second year of publication.
Coming at the beginning of the academic year, ths month's issue reflects on Dominican friars involved in studies - either in initial studies, postgraduate studies, teaching or in chaplaincy work.
Some of the summer events in which Irish Dominicans were involved are reported inside, including a vocations pilgrimage to Rome for the Year of Faith.
Finally, editor of the "Alive!" newspaper, Fr Brian McKevitt OP, is this month's featured friar.

Follow this link to download a pdf copy of September 2013's Dominican Connect

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Conor McDonough OP on religious life and vocation in

The article below is written by on of our student brothers - Conor McDonough OP. It appeared in one of Ireland's most popular online journals - . The article gives Br Conor's reasons for joining the Dominicans and explains the enduring appeal of religious life. Well worth reading.

"Opening available for challenging and unfashionable work. Salary – non-competitive, non-negotiable. Flexibility required. Availability for weekend and night duty essential. Location variable. Contract – until death…’
It doesn’t exactly leap off the page, does it? So why do people continue to enter religious life?
Late August is a time when many young Irish people are pondering career options. The Leaving Certificate class of 2013 are preparing to enter college. As they take their first steps on their chosen ‘career paths’ few will be immediately considering entering religious life (becoming a monk, friar, brother, nun or apostolic sister), but we can be sure that a small number of them will at some point in the future choose to leave behind jobs and romantic relationships and begin to lead lives of poverty, chastity and obedience.
What could motivate such a radical choice?

Finding my calling

Each vocation story is of course entirely personal, and difficult to articulate. A vocation is usually experienced as a ‘calling’ to serve Christ and his Church. For me, this experience commenced in earnest when I went to university.
At the age of 17, I went to Cambridge to study Natural Sciences and I found myself in an environment which was sometimes hostile to the faith I had happily inherited. My non-believing friends constantly forced me to rethink my position vis-à-vis the Catholic faith: Is it true? Is it liberating? Is it worth sharing with others? Ultimately, after much study, prayer, and conversation with patient friends, I found other major worldviews wanting in important respects, and I was able to give my heart entirely to the God of Jesus Christ.

Br Conor McDonough OP

The story of Abraham inspired me

Of course, this is perfectly normal for a maturing Christian, and being a committed Christian doesn’t rule out a normal professional and family life. And so, after graduation, I ploughed a straightforward furrow. I became a secondary school teacher in the north of England and loved every minute of my work. But throughout my time in teaching I was nagged by the dim sense that God was calling me to leave this comfort zone, and give my life to him in a more adventurous, radical way.
The story of Abraham in particular inspired me: he left his city to live in a foreign land, sheltering in tents like a nomad. And so, in 2009, having made contact with the Dominican vocations director, I left behind my nascent teaching career and pitched my tent with 12 other novices in Pope’s Quay, Cork.

Serving the Church seems all the more urgent now

Adventures usually involve difficult stretches, and the publication of reports about the abuse of children in the Church was immensely challenging. It was almost impossible to calmly discuss such evil – we were moved to silence and brought to our knees, praying in atonement for crimes committed, and especially for the healing of survivors.
I’m often asked if the abuse crisis ever caused me to question my vocation. In fact, the opposite is the case. These reports chronicle Christianity-gone-wrong, but I have experienced the Church differently. I was blessed with believing, praying parents, who taught me how to love and live and introduced me to Christ as their friend and mine.
Following Christ in his Church has brought me joy and freedom, so as far as I’m concerned, he is the solution, not the problem. Giving my life to preaching Christ and serving his Church seems all the more urgent then, in the light of scandals.

Religious life is once again counter-cultural

In our lifetimes, the good reputation of religious life has rapidly decayed, but this decline in respect for religious has had at least one positive outcome: religious life has become counter-cultural again. At its origins, religious life was not at all respectable, but involved a flight from respectability, in favour of ‘holy foolishness’. When religious life becomes a respectable career, it loses its counter-cultural dynamism.
I’m deeply grateful that in 21st century Ireland, religious brothers and sisters are at the margins, not in the mainstream. I don’t mean to paint religious as the original hipsters (‘I listen to Gregorian chant. You’ve probably never heard of it…’), but choosing poverty, chastity and obedience and a life in community is now, once again, a subversive option.

What is following a religious life like?

What’s it like living this subversive option? Well, for me, so far, a joy. I’m in the fourth year of eight years of formation, which involves studying philosophy and theology, as well as ancient and modern languages.
We are given pastoral work to do, through which I’ve had the opportunity to befriend and learn from all sorts of people: homeless men, addicts, the elderly, university students, inner-city teenagers.
Above all, we live a life of prayer: five times daily we get together to sing the psalms, and the daily Mass is the high point of our day. In the past four years, my value in the job market has undoubtedly decreased, but I’ve had to work hard on developing virtues which don’t usually appear on a CV: humility, readiness to forgive, gentleness, prayerfulness, zeal, self-control…

The right choice for some adventurous Christians

The Dominicans are an order of mobile preachers, and all our formation is aimed at producing confident communicators of the Gospel; we’re also known for producing Thomas Aquinas, having puffins named after us, and being the reason the Pope wears white.
After we’re ordained, we could end up ministering to Christians in Iran, hearing confessions in Tralee, editing YouTube videos in Dublin, researching in Rome, preaching novenas in Newry, or all of the above. Anything is possible, and the vow of obedience renders us free to set up camp wherever we are sent.
Sensible careers are all well and good, but for some adventurous Christians, the attraction of religious life endures."

New novices and professions in the Polish Dominican province

The Polish Dominican friars received 15 men into the Order (pictured above) and clothed them in the habit on August 17th last. Irish Dominican Vocations send best wishes to the brothers of that province. There have been strong links forged between the Irish and Polish provinces in the past number of years and there are Polish brothers assigned to and working in the Irish province, providing chaplaincy and parish ministry.

On the following day, the Polish province received the first profession of 11 friars (see picture below). Both events took place in the Dominican church in Służew.

Photographs are reproduced here with the kind permission of the Polish Dominican province - photos by P. Barczuk.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ireland's 20 new seminarians - an open letter to the bishops of Ireland

Saint Patricks's College, Maynooth

As the news of twenty new seminarians entering Ireland's national seminary was revealed today, I decided to write an open letter to the bishops of Ireland on the matter. The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Irish Dominican province.

Dear bishops,

The fact that twenty men have entered the seminary in Maynooth this past weekend is a reason for rejoicing. The men who have presented themselves as candidates to test their vocation are brave. They are the product of their faith communities, parishes and families. Most of all they are the product of prayer of the very many Irish Catholics who fervently pray for vocations on a regular basis. Without their prayer, you can be certain that there would be fewer vocations. I mentioned the bravery of these men. It is difficult to contemplate a vocation to priesthood in Ireland today. I am sure that you share the concerns of these new seminarians. They enter their further discernment in what has become known as post-Catholic Ireland. Stepping up courageously as they do is now a very counter cultural act. They withstand many forces from the world in which they live, but also they find little to help them in their decision from within the church - a church that has put vocation to priesthood and religious life at the lower end of the Catholic agenda. As bishops with primary responsibility for creating the often quoted 'culture of vocations', you are I am sure aware that the joy of accepting these twenty new seminarians will be greeted with shock and disappointment too. Twenty seminarians for Ireland's almost four million Catholics in no cause for rejoicing.

In 2009, you courageously supported and promoted the 'Year of Vocation'. The original concept to have the year to pray for and support priestly and religious vocations soon became a Year of Vocation for all types of vocation. The year quickly lost focus as the church decided to include the valuable vocation to marriage and single life and others. To me, it appeared that there was a fear in promoting vocations to priesthood and religious life - we dare not offend anyone! A great opportunity was lost. Why are you afraid of singling out the joy of vocation to priesthood? It is notable too that many dioceses have put a lot of time, effort and resources in promoting the permanent diaconate. This is laudable, but those same dioceses seem to have little to say about priesthood and it's value as a vocation.

Much is written about the 'vocations crisis' as you know. Many people have a view on how best to solve it. Personally, I don't like the term because I don't believe that it exists. When we say there is a crisis we are suggesting that somehow God has stopped calling his people to be religious and priests. This, of course, is patently untrue. God has never stopped calling. Perhaps we have stopped listening. In exercising your ministry, you are called to be the first person to witness to priesthood and the sacredness of that vocation. In many years of observing how you carry out this mission, I have become very disheartened at your efforts. With some notable exceptions, it is rare to find a bishop speak about vocations in a positive and authentic way - as a means of planting the seed in the minds of the young and not so young that they too could be called to serve God as priests, brothers, nuns and sisters. What's even more discouraging is the fact that when some bishops do take the opportunity to speak about vocations - their words can have a very negative impact and create uncertainty in the minds of potential candidates.

Most of you appoint vocation directors. I have huge respect for these men. They have a very difficult task. In most cases they are already over worked parish priests or curates. Having the vocations portfolio added to their brief can cause a considerable strain. Are they adequately supported in their ministry as vocation directors? Does the diocese give the necessary financial, material, human and spiritual support to these men? Have any of the bishops given consideration to appointing priests as full-time vocation directors or at the minimum making sure that vocation promotion is a primary ministry for a nominated priest in a diocese? This does not seem to be the case in Ireland. There is much evidence to suggest that appointing a vocations director full-time can have significant positive results in terms of stimulating interest and translating into recruiting potential candidates.

Many people that I meet in vocations ministry often express the fact that while they might like to become priests (or religious), they find it difficult to find priests and religious who radiate joy because of their calling to follow the Lord. You know that it is often said that one important reason for potential candidates who consider this call is the joy and happiness of a religious or priest that they already know. As bishops, you will be aware no doubt, that many who consider a vocation today can often be confused when they encounter organisations and associations of Catholic priests and religious who appear to portray negative images of vocation to priesthood and religious life - and where there is a distinct lack of joy in their vocation. Can you help these men and women who would like to commit themselves to the Lord by encouraging existing priests and religious under your care to make a supreme effort to welcome the young and not so young candidates - and give them an understanding the richness of your vocation?

Living in the fast paced digital age gives bishops and dioceses a real opportunity to engage in a creative and imaginative way with potential recruits. I travel the length and breadth of Ireland as a vocations promoter. I call into many rural and urban churches throughout the island. With some exceptions, I rarely find a reference to 'vocations' in church porches or bulletin boards. Very few dioceses have a vocational presence on the internet and fewer still are engaged in social media. Any young man or woman today will use these tools as a first port of call to find out information about vocation. My question to you is why you use these essential tools so rarely, if at all. In my experience, over ninety per cent of new enquirers come through this medium. You and I together are missing out on a whole cohort of potential vocations by neglecting these opportunities. The internet and social media are a cheap and cost effective way of promoting vocations and indeed preaching. While on the topic of preaching, why do we only hear from you on the topic of vocations around Vocations Sunday each year?

 In my opening remarks I mentioned prayer for vocations and the many people who do this as a daily task. You and I should be on our knees thanking God for them. On the topic of prayer, we have a direct command from the Lord himself to 'pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to His harvest'. Why is it that we do not take this seriously in Ireland. I do not wish to be presumptuous in suggesting that you do not - but all the evidence is to the contrary. I rarely hear of prayer events for vocations - or indeed a simple prayer added at the Sunday eucharist asking God to intervene and prompting men and women to consider His call? You and I know that a concerted and coordinated effort at this task of praying will bear fruit - but we have to do it first!

We look to our bishops for leadership in all matters of faith. You have so much to deal with on a daily basis as you set about encouraging the faith communities in your dioceses. You have many administrative and sacramental tasks. You have to care for your priests, religious and people. You also have a duty to foster and encourage vocations to priesthood and religious life - and we desperately need you to show leadership on this issue now more than ever. The future of the church in Ireland depends on you. I ask for your support in this most important of tasks. More than that, I encourage you to give consideration to having a 'vocation' assembly where all who are interested and concerned with the ongoing lack of vocations to priesthood and religious life can give their opinion and input to you. Working together, we can make a difference.

Yours sincerely,

Gerard Dunne OP
Vocations Director

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dominican news from around the world

 It has been a busy summer with important and joyful events for the Dominican friars, sisters, laity and nuns throughout the world. We are happy to share some of them with blog readers and ask you to pray for the Order and for vocations.
The English province celebrated two ordinations during the month of July. Brother Nicholas Crowe was ordained to the diaconate and Brother Gregory Pearson to the priesthood. The ordination ceremonies took place in Blackfriars, Oxford. Both were ordained by Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, a Dominican friar and are pictured above.
 The Saint Joseph province in the United States continue to attract large numbers of men to the Order each year. In July, they received eighteen men into their novitiate in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 8th, the feast of our holy father, Saint Dominic. The following week (August 15th), eight novices who had completed their novitiate made first profession. The twenty six brothers are pictured above.

 The Master of the Order received the profession of three brothers at the end of the General Chapter on August 8th, the feast of Saint Dominic. The joyful event took place in Split, Croatia.
While here in the United States, the most talked about religious are the Dominicans! This time though it is the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor in Michigan. They have been on many of the television networks promoting their debut sacred music album entitled 'Mater Eucharistiae'. This young, new and vibrant congregation of Dominican religious women were founded in 1997 and already have 110 members - and are growing. This blogger had the privilege of meeting some of them recently in Connecticut.
 The Mexican Dominican province received four men as novices(above) on August 3rd - and so they begin their year long discernment of their vocation with the friars of that province.

The Dominican friars of the Central province in the United States celebrated the first profession of five brothers (pictured above) and received six new novices on August 18th last.
All these joyful events (and they are just a flavour of the many other events that we could highlight) are a constant reminder to us of the goodness of God to the Order, but more importantly that we realise that it is the prayers of so many that make the Dominican life flourish. Please continue to pray for all the branches of the Dominican family especially in Ireland - that we may all continue to receive vocations for the important mission of preaching the Gospel

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Dominicans are youthful as they prepare to celebrate 800 years

There are many reasons for optimism as the Dominican Order begins the preparations to celebrate it's 800th anniversary. The video clip above highlights contributions from some of the friars attending the recent General Chapter in Trogir, Croatia. Included are former Masters of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe OP and Carlos Aspiroz Costa OP. The fact that there are one in six brothers in formation worldwide gives the sense that the Order is youthful even if it is almost 800 years old.

The Order was founded in 1216 with the twofold mission of preaching and the salvation of souls. That mission is as important now as it was then. Would you like to be part of this exciting mission? Then, do get in touch - we would love to hear from those who are passionate about preaching God's word in our time.

Friday, August 16, 2013

New female religious order arrives in Ireland

The Franciscan sisters arriving at their new home - pic courtesy of Drogheda Independent
The Franciscan sisters of the Renewal have arrived in Ireland. They were welcomed to Drogheda yesterday at a special celebration in St Mary's parish church by the local bishop Michael Smith. Also in attendance were Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the Papal Nuncio to Ireland Charles Brown, the new bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty and local parishioners and clergy.

This new community arrive at an important time in Ireland. Previously in the parish, the Mercy sisters were very active, but with an ageing congregation and few vocations, they have withdrawn from the area. On the invitation of the local bishop and the suggestion of Cardinal Dolan, the sisters will take up residence in the town of Drogheda in the words of Bishop Smith to "bring a consciousness of God’s love to the poor and neglected, visiting the sick, walking with the homeless, feeding the needy. They will seek to touch the poverty within, the inner needs of the human heart, with the compassion of Christ.”

The sisters arrive soon after the Meath diocese welcomed a community of Benedictine monks from Oklahoma to Stamullen last year. It is very heartening for religious in Ireland to see these invitations from an Irish diocese to other religious orders with an international outreach. Their presence is to be welcomed and there is great anticipation that these very visible religious will attract vocations to their way of life. It has often been said in religious circles in Ireland that the lack of 'visible' religious is one of the many reasons as to why there are fewer vocations to religious life in this country.

The sisters join the many other religious communities in the Drogheda area, including the Dominican friars and Dominican contemplative nuns. Welcome to them and we all look forward to collaborating in furthering the mission of the church and the work of attracting and cultivating vocations to religious life in Ireland.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The numbers game and vocation discernment

As the end of August approaches each year, there will be much media interest in the numbers who have been accepted to diocesan seminaries and religious orders in Ireland. Will it be a good or bad year? If it is a year when the numbers of new entrants are low, there will be the same tired analysis of the Irish church in crisis. If the numbers are better than expected, then the media will want to understand why people would offer themselves as candidates for priesthood and religious life at such a time. For vocations personnel, it's a no win situation.

Whether the numbers game is positive or negative, it will rightly get those concerned with vocations in Ireland to think once again about discernment. Vocation discernment is often the poor relation when it comes to candidates and enquirers. There remains a distinct lack of authentic discernment programmes or methodologies for men and women who feel called to follow the Lord. I regularly hear of prospective candidates being pushed toward the path of spiritual direction when they present themselves as interested in seminary or religious life. Spiritual direction is good and can be necessary but it is not a substitute for the discernment of a potential vocation.

Part of the difficulty lies in the fact there is a lack of clarity about who should discern in the first instance. While determining whether a candidate has the desired aptitudes or not is a necessary element in the discernment process - the preparation of a candidate for religious life or seminary has to be the first concern of a vocations director. All too often our way of doing things can be ambiguous. On the one hand, we hope that the candidate will discover his or her vocation; as a matter of fact, though, more often than not, we seek protective measures against candidates who may spell 'trouble'. We want to avoid failure and we seek security in the event of someone departing. Seminaries and religious orders take departures quite badly as though they spell failure, despite our reassuring utterances that formation is a time for discernment, for trying things out. We often don't try hard enough to ascertain what has happened.

The first person responsible for discernment is the candidate. Signs are no guarantee of his or her success. Discovering that a person has a vocation is not tantamount to saying that he or she will see it through successfully. Recognising certain signs allows and invites the candidate to align their human and spiritual tendencies. In as much as the aspirant/candidate is the principal player  in the discernment process, he or she has to find their proper place. While there are many modes of vocational discernment - in the end it boils down to the quality of the pastoral accompaniment provided by vocation directors. Vocations personnel  need to keep in mind always that the call of God is to some one. The invitation to think it over has to be extended, without trying to decide for the individual, without trying to protect the institution from 'doubtful' candidates, or what can be worse, without seeking to attract only the best or perfect candidates. If God is calling, it is with the assistance of the Holy Spirit that everyone must work.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dominican General Chapter 2013 concludes

The General Chapter of the Dominican friars which took place in Trogir, Croatia has concluded. The video below gives a flavour of some of the outcomes and decisions of the chapter. Some of the contributions are in English and you will note that the chapter dealt with the important themes of formation, vocations, government, economy, constitutions, community and the upcoming 800th anniversary of the foundation of the Order.

New Irish bishop makes vocations a priority

Bishop Denis Nulty - Kildare and Leighlin diocese

The newly ordained bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty  (the home diocese of this blogger) has indicated in his remarks at his address to the congregation on the day of his installation that he will make vocations a priority as he takes up his new role. This is newsworthy and very encouraging for all who are involved in vocations ministry in Ireland. It is a rare event to hear an Irish bishop speak about vocations (other than Vocations Sunday each year) at a public event. Indeed for those who do, generally the tone is one of pessimism or to undermine those who have courageously taken the decision to give themselves to God in pursuing their vocational call. I hope earnestly that Bishop Nulty will give leadership on the issue of vocations in the time ahead. In the meantime, I wish him well in leading my home diocese.

In that opening address, the new bishop stated: "The priesthood is a call, not a career; a way of life, not a job; an identity, not just a role. The word gladness has its roots in gratitude and gratefulness – we serve the Lord because we have so much to be thankful for – we serve the Lord with joy. The best examples of priesthood for me are joyful priests who love their faith and who love the Church. Every priest is a Vocations Director – we priests and people need a renewed vigour about our priesthood and a fresh courage to invite others to respond to that call."


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Feast of Saint Dominic

Participants at the General Chapter in Trogir, Croatia July/August 2013
Irish Dominican Vocations would like to wish all readers of this blog a very happy feast day. Dominicans throughout the world will be celebrating the feast of our founder Saint Dominic. He continues to be our inspiration and our guide and it is heartening and encouraging to see the continuing interest in his legacy to the church - that men and women would be enthusiastic in the preaching mission and by extension bring others closer to God.

For those who contemplate the Dominican vocation, I am reminded today of the words of the former Master of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe OP, who wrote about the desire of the young friars to bring enthusiasm to the Order:

"Just as the birth of a child engages the life of all the family, so each generation of young people coming to us modifies our fraternal community. You come with your questions, for which we do not always have an answer; with your ideals which reveal sometimes our insufficiencies; with your dreams that we do not necessarily share. You arrive with your friends and your families, your culture and your tribe. You come and disturb us, and that is why we need you. You generally come with requirements that are in fact essential to our Dominican life, but we have sometimes forgotten or depreciated: a deeper community prayer life, a more beautiful, more intimate fraternity ion which we care more about one another; courage to leave our old commitments and to set off on new roads. Often, the Order is renewed because young people come and insist on trying to build the Dominican life such as they read it described in the books! Go on insisting!

We pray today through the intercession of Saint Dominic that he will inspire many more men and women to follow in his way.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What makes for good preaching? - Fr Paul Murray OP

"What Makes for Good Preaching?" with Fr. Paul Murray, O.P from Blackfriar Films on Vimeo.

In this brief video extract, Irish Dominican friar fr Paul Murray OP speaks about preaching, and what makes for good preaching. 'All of us need the sustenance of truth' he says reflecting the Dominican desire to live out the primary motto of the Order - Veritas.

The canonical title of "Order of Preachers", given to the work of St. Dominic by the church almost 800 years ago, is in itself significant, but it indicates only the dominant feature. The Constitutions of the Order are more explicit: "Our order was instituted principally for preaching and for the salvation of souls." The end or aim of the order then is the salvation of souls, especially by means of preaching. For the attainment of this purpose, the Order must labour with the utmost zeal — The principal and main efforts should be put forth, earnestly and ardently, in doing good to the souls of our fellow-men."

If your desire is to be a preacher of God's truth and helping others to come closer to God, then the Dominican vocation might be of interest to you!