By Cian Molloy - 18 December, 2016
Donegal’s newest priest is a Hiberno-Iranian, Fr Damien Nejad, who is believed to be the first Irish diocesan priest to have a Persian family background.
Fr Nejad was ordained on Sunday 11 December by Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe at the Cathedral of Sts Eunan and Columba in Letterkenny, which was filled with family and friends for the occasion. More than 50 priests were present to concelebrate the Mass.
The only son of an Iranian Muslim and a Catholic mother from Annagry, Fr Nejad was born and raised in Glasgow, where his mother’s sister was a pivotal influence on his life. As a boy, the young Hiberno-Iranian became aware that unlike his friends he was unbaptised, said Fr Morty O’Shea of Lettermacaward, who writes an online blog.
“At the age of six, his auntie asked him one day what was the thing he wanted most in life. His response was baptism. Auntie brought him up to the local church and he was baptised inside half an hour. When he was nine his auntie insisted on bringing him for holy hours to the church. She promised that Jesus would speak to him while he was praying. This was the beginning of his spiritual life.”
In his homily, Bishop Boyce said: “In our Eucharistic celebration here today at Saint Eunan’s Cathedral, we have an added reason for joyful hope and expectancy. A young man, Damien Nejad, approaches the steps of the altar and presents himself for ordination to the priesthood in the Diocese of Raphoe. He is following Christ’s call to be with the Master for the rest of his life and to serve the people entrusted to his care. Ordination day is always a day of joy and gratitude: joy at the precious gift received, gratitude to the Lord for calling a young man to his exclusive service in the ordained ministry.”
The Bishop also spoke about the joy of the Gospel in the life of a priest, telling the newly ordained clergyman: “In your daily ministry let people experience the joy of Christ in your work, and not simply the burdens of your duties. Pope Francis has spoken many times about the joy of the gospel and the joy of evangelisation, notably in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. This is to be your life in the years that lie ahead. You are to live and work with Christ, the very first and the greatest evangeliser.”
Fr Nejad celebrated his first holy Mass on Monday 12 December at the Church of Saint Mary Star of the Sea in Annagry, where he was ordained a deacon in January of this year.