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COVID-19 offers opportunity to reflect on vocation

By Ann Marie Foley - 28 April, 2020

At a time when RTÉ One Television prepares to broadcast the Vocation Sunday Mass, Ireland’s main seminary remains closed because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Father Willie Purcell, National Diocesan Vocations Coordinator, who is to concelebrate the Mass with Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan next Sunday, said that those studying for the priesthood are at home with their families.

Last autumn, 15 seminarians began their formation and academic programme for 2019/2020 at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and the Pontifical Beda College, Rome, with a number of others undertaking a propaedeutic programme in Ireland and abroad. This brought to 68 the total number of men studying for the priesthood for Irish dioceses.

As Vocations Sunday approaches, Fr Purcell said he is optimistic about vocations in Ireland. “The reality is that those interested in priesthood and religious life are still entering. There is no time that there are not people in formation in Ireland,” Fr Purcell told CatholicIreland.net. “It has declined of course, yes, but it has not stopped.”

Father Purcell added that during COVID-19 restrictions it is very timely to talk about vocations “in a time of great silence and solitude, and when people have more time to reflect on their lives and where their lives are going”. He added: “We all live in a very busy world with lots of noise around us, and very little opportunity to reflect.”

He said that is particularly true for those who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, as it presents an opportunity “with greater silence, to reflect, pray, and read more in relation to where they might be called.”

Speaking of priesthood, Fr Purcell said that priests are among front-line workers at the moment, and their parishioners are very conscious of that and show their support and encouragement by sending cards, texts or emails to them, or even dropping notes through their letter box.

“They do recognise us as front-line workers at the moment, particularly with the unfortunate situation around funerals. The priest is now a key person in relation to that because the priest has to work with the family and to guide the family in relation to the regulations from the government and the Church and to be there for people at a very vulnerable time of their lives,” he said.

“Because only ten people can attend the funeral it is more difficult for people. It is very sad really.”

RTÉ One Television will broadcast the Vocation Sunday Mass at 11 a.m. on 3 May 2020. Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, chair of the Bishops’ Council for Vocations, who will celebrate the Mass, stated that Pope Francis has asked the Church to continue to promote vocations.

“The Holy Father asks us to find courage to say ‘yes’ to God, to overcome all weariness through faith in Christ. My prayer is that all who are being called to diocesan priesthood will have that courage to say ‘yes’ to God’s call,” he said.

This year, Vocations Sunday has the theme, “Words of Vocation: pain, gratitude, encouragement and praise”. The Vocations or Good Shepherd Sunday is the annual day for Catholics around the world to offer special prayers to encourage vocations from families and parishes to the priesthood and to religious life.

This Mass will be broadcast on RTÉ One television, Radio 1 and on digital at 11.00 a.m. on 3 May from the Donnybrook studio. It will be the first Mass from RTÉ to use a virtual outdoor chapel created on a video wall. The organist for the Mass will be Simon Orrock; violist, Killian Grumley-Traynor; Cantor, Kerri Connor; conductor, Sister Moira Bergin; and Deacon Rev Eric Cooney will also be in attendance.

For Pope Francis’ message for Vocations Sunday see: https://catholicnews.ie/popes-message-for-vocations-sunday-released-by-the-vatican.

Also see: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/vocations/documents/papa-francesco_20200308_57-messaggio-giornata-mondiale-vocazioni.html.

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