Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vocation and Joy

Recently I was asked by a community of another congregation to give a day of reflection with a vocational theme during Advent. I readily agreed. As a matter of fact, I find it very difficult to say no when asked to speak, preach or reflect on the topic of vocations with any interested group. There are a couple of reasons for this: (1) there is a compelling and irresistible need for me to speak with others about the call of God and (2) it is not just a duty, but a joy to do so.
One might not always associate the words joy and vocation together, but at the heart of our vocation is the joy who is God. Of course there will be moments of discomfort and pain and uncertainty, but it is the realisation that God is willing you to attain the fulness of happiness. My experience is that when we understand that, it makes the more painful moments easier.

As I prepare for this day of reflection with this community I am aware that some of them are animated about rekindling a new sense of vocation to their way of life and are genuinely interested in ways of exploring how to move that process forward. There has been a deal of pain involved for many congregations who have not had new members for some time. I suspect that that pain has and will bring others to ask the real questions about how the work of vocations promotion and direction has taken a less than high priority for some time. I just sense that we are beginning to turn the corner in Ireland and rediscovering the joy at the heart of our vocation.

God doesn't give vocations to us that will cause us to be unhappy but gives us vocations that lead us on a path to life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Words from another Dominican Vocations Director

There is little doubt that one of the great success stories regarding the attraction and promoting of vocations in the Dominican tradition is that of the Nashville Dominican sisters. The full title of the congregation is 'The Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia' and they are primarily devoted to Catholic education. Recently I came across an interview with Sister Catherine Marie Hopkins who was vocations director for the congregation for 15 years. The interview was published in the internation Dominican news sheet (I.D.I) and the following question was asked of Sister Hopkins:

'You worked for 15 years as vocation director for your Order. What was the key for finding your own vocation? Did your own experience help you to aid other women in discerning theirs?' She responded as follows:

'The key to finding my own vocation was the realisation that God had the plan and I just needed to discover exactly what that plan was. It began with the inner turmoil at the thought that God could ask such a thing of me, but I very quickly found out that if he were calling, everything I needed in order to respond would be provided by him as well. That brought me tremendous freedom and my turmoil was replaced by a very strong attraction.

I was 24 years old and very happy, but not at peace since I couldn't say for sure what God's will was for my life. All I knew with certainty was that daily Mass had made me hunger for more, and so I went in search of where I could best root a growing desire to give of myself. I finally investigates religious life so that I could rule it out and marry with a clear conscience. When I actually visited our community and saw very tangible joy, youthful zeal and a long history of fidelity, fear was reduced by a newly formed conviction that this is what God had created me to do.

I would say that my own experience made me very sensitive as a vocation director to the fact that successful discernment takes place apart from any pressure and within the challenging silence of prayer. When I looked for God's will, I sought advice and asked lots of questions, but I wanted to make a decision that, while informed, drew strength from an interior conviction that I recognised as coming from God.

The Dominican Sisters in Nashville understood that it wasn't a matter of recruitment but of exposure. As a vocation director, I made it a point always to respect the delicate interior struggle through which most people must pass. My job was not to make a good sales pitch, but to convey the beauty of our life and to expose young women to it through a visit or retreat experience. I had to help those who had the inclination, but struggled with uncertainty, realise that the simultaneous fear and attraction that they felt was normal; and that a sense of unworthiness is not a bad thing since none if us is 'worthy' of divine espousal! Making the choice entails a movement away from a career mentality to the realization that religious life is about giving yourself to a love that is without limit.'

These words of really sound advice really ought to resonate with both vocation directors and discerners of vocations alike. This repsonse is part of a much longer and in-depth interview which can be found also at the Zenit News Agency website ( and is well worth reading.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vocations Video from Southern Dominican Province USA

I came across this recently produced vocations video of the Dominican friars of the Province of Saint Martin de Porres (Southern Dominican Province, USA). It is worth a look:

'You Will be My Witnesses'

On Saturday November 15th, the feast of Saint Albert the Great, over 120 members of the Dominican family in Ireland (nuns, laity, friars and sisters) gathered together in Saint Mary's Priory, Tallaght, Dublin 24 to reflect on and celebrate the common Dominican vocation.

There were several inspiring and enlightening contributions during the day. The keynote address 'You will be my witnesses - our common vocation as Dominicans' was given by fr John Harris OP. Taking his starting point of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:28-42), he challenged all present to be true witnesses of Dominic saying, 'For this surely is the object of all Dominican witnessing and preaching not that we convince by our erudite arguments or scholarly presentations (albeit that such hard work is necessary), but that those to whom the Lord has asked us to witness would come to know and love the Lord himself. That we as witnesses would become irrelevant and fade away with our jobs done, rejoicing in the knowledge that now the Truth, having been met has indeed been preached'.

Responses to this address were given by a member of each branch of the Dominican family in Ireland namely: Sr. Breda Carroll (Siena Monastery, Drogheda), fr Bede McGregor (Dundalk), Sr. Edel Murphy (Dun Laoighire) and Lucy Mooney (Dominican Laity in Ireland).

Central to the day was the celebration of the Eucharist. We were very pleased to have the local auxiliary bishop of Dublin, Eamonn Walsh to preside and preach. In a challenging homily he urged all present to bring the word of God alive and active in our time and he praised the Dominican family in Ireland for their contribution to the preaching of God's word throughout Ireland and beyond.

The second half of the day was given over to personal reflections on the Dominican vocation. There were excellent, inspiring and indeed moving accounts of how an apostolic sister (Kathleen Fitzsimons OP), a contemplative nun (Sr Marie Pascale OP), a member of the Dominican laity (Kitty O Brien) and a friar (Brian Doyle OP) came to be called to the Dominican way of life.

The event concluded with the launching of a Dominican family calendar for 2009 to celebrate the Year of Vocation and the launch of a specially comissioned piece of music for the event by Geraldine Flanagan (President of the Dominican Laity in Ireland).

It was a very successful event hosted by the vocations promoters of the Dominicans in Ireland as part of the celebrations of the Year of Vocation being celebrated in Ireland.

(Pictures from this event will be posted on this blog soon)

Analysis of Vocations in Ireland

An interesting interview given by the national Director of Vocations in Ireland, Fr. Paddy Rushe, is in italics below. It appeared first on the Catholic Ireland website.

The vocations director for Armagh archdiocese has said that concern about the country’s shortage of vocations fails to take into account a steady recovery in the number of people entering seminaries.
Speaking in the wake of Cardinal Sean Brady’s announcement of a reorganisation in his own Armagh archdiocese, Dundalk priest Fr Paddy Rushe said it is a “myth” that there is a lack of new people signing up for vocations.
"The problem is that when people sign up, it takes six or seven years for them to be ready,” he pointed out.
“We are only starting to see people emerge that signed up in 2001, which was a bad year for the Catholic Church as scandals broke and we were at the height of the Celtic Tiger” Fr Rushe said.
“So obviously, we got fewer numbers back then, but right now, for the first time in ten years, we have the highest number of people enrolling into vocations," he continued.
Fr Rushe said that if numbers of new recruits continues to rise, there will be an influx of new priests by 2014.
But he said that when this happens, Church structures that have had to be changed to cope with fewer priests should not be reversed.
"In 2014 we will see twice, if not three times as many new priests emerging”.
"The decline in numbers has brought some parishes into line -the way it used to be structured was as if we had the usual number of priests, but some parishes these days have only one priest, making it impossible for someone to take a holiday”.
“This had to change, but in the future when a parish will have more than one priest, there is no point changing it back to the way it was -we cannot change back just for numerical reasons," Fr Rushe said.
And he said the Church’s vocations drive was as pro-active and modern as that of secular employers and using up-to-date recruitment techniques.
“We are in the market more than ever these days recruiting and whatever everyone else is up to, we are doing the same.” he declared.
“We have a YouTube site, a website, we go to recruitment shows, whatever has to be done”.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Web Communications

As mentioned on a number of occasions on this blog, the presence of the Irish Dominican friars on the internet through its website has brought much attention to the work of vocations promotion. Indeeed, since the site was launched in 2007, enquiries regarding vocations rose substantially (in fact, enquiries trebled!).

The work of compiling and presenting new and relevant information about the ministry and work of the Irish Dominican friars is a difficult task. Having an attractive, informative and appealing website for this purpose (in several languages) demands much attention. I was glad to have been associated with the website of our province.

The Provincial Chapter of the Irish Dominican friars held in September has appointed another friar to manage the website, on the recommendation of the Provincial. The site has now been handed over and I wish our brother well in his task.

I would like to thank and compliment one of our younger friars in the province, Fergus Ryan OP, without whom the website would not have happened. He convinced me of the urgent need for a good provincial website that presented the life and work of the province in a positive light, that highlighted the Dominican vocation, offered practical information about all our centres, kept people regularly informed of happenings and offered some opportunities for preaching. Getting the website to launch stage involved him working with professional web designers and those contributing content (texts, images etc). In my opinion, his management of the website has been inadequately acknowledged, and I hope that this brief mention through the blog will go some way towards rectifying that.

I owe him, as indeed does the province, a great debt of gratitude.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Vocations Weekends

Part of the ongoing process of introducing candidates to the Order is through the hosting of vocations weekends when men join one of our communities for a weekend to sample our way of life. They join in the liturgy, work, prayer and recreation of the community and also get an opportunity to meet with our younger and not so young friars to gain an insight into the experience of Dominican life.

The Dominican community at Saint Saviour's, Dublin is hosting their second such weekend in a short time this weekend. We very much look forward to meeting with and sharing our life with those men who are currently expressing an interest in the Order. The St. Saviour's community over the past few weeks have also hosted other visitors who wish to know more about the Order.

Because of the pressure of space for accomodation in our studentate community at present, it is likely that there will be many such live-in 'vocation weekends' over the next number of months. As always, I ask your prayers for those who are discerning the call to the Dominican way of life at this time.