By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 April, 2015
Up to 600 clergy, religious and laity attended a special gathering in the diocese of Cork & Ross on Friday last to mark the Year of Vocation and pay tribute to the contribution of religious orders locally.
At a liturgy lead by Bishop John Buckley, the congregation heard the ‘story’ of religious life in the diocese, beginning with St Finbarr and St Fachtna in the 600s and continuing right up today.
Representatives of each of Cork and Ross’s parishes were presented with a set of sunflower seeds and an outline of a liturgy for a seed-planting ceremony in their own church grounds with their fellow parishioners.
Sr Karen Kent, Coordinator of Pastoral Development in the diocese of Cork and Ross, told CatholicIreland.net, “We all need to plant the seed of vocation and tend and nurture vocations in our families and our parishes.”
It is hoped that some parishes will also host a vocations event in the autumn at which seeds from the parish sunflowers can be passed to families to plant in their gardens.
According to Sr Karen, the diocese often hears in their formation and training programmes with parish councils and assemblies that people’s ideal for their faith community is that they will have a resident priest.
“Bishop Buckley will often say to parishes who are facing a reduction in clergy numbers, ‘give me a priest from your community and I will give you a priest for your parish’. It is a reminder to them that vocations grow in families and parishes – we need to pray and invite always.”
She added that creating a culture of vocation involves parents, parishioners, clergy and religious promoting priesthood and religious life as a positive life choice.
“That is why we linked our celebration of consecrated life to the weekend of Vocations Sunday, so that we celebrated past and present while looking to the future positively and with hope in our hearts.”
The reflection at Friday’s ceremony was given by Dr Andrew O’Connell, Communications Officer with the Presentation Brothers.
In his address, ‘Looking to the Future with Hope’, he focused on Easter hope and the parallel between the cross and the resurrection.
Each of the diocese’s 31 religious orders, 14 male and 17 female, which are spread across 127 religious houses, was invited to bring forward a candle to mark their part in the story and in doing so, according to Sr Karen, who is an Ursuline Sister, “We built this space of light in the sanctuary as the story was being told”.
The story, she explained, included every religious order as it came to the diocese and why it came.
“We wanted them to see that some orders came because a lay person invited them and paid for them, others came because of a need and others came because they asked if they could come.”
The aim was to show that the religious orders didn’t just grow up in the middle of Cork but emerged as a consequence of an action undertaken by a lay person, or a bishop or the order themselves responding to a need.
Sr Karen said the event was also intended to build on the good feeling which last year’s double ordination to the priesthood had created.
Asked about other vocations, she said a young woman from Ballincollig had made her first profession with the Dominicans during the course of the year while another young woman had joined an enclosed order.
“People are aware that there are certain pockets in which vocations are beginning to emerge. This ceremony on Friday was to try and build on that and say religious life is a positive life choice – it isn’t all negative to choose consecrated life.”
“It is important for lay people to know this because they are the ones that say ‘there is nobody coming to Mass’ and ‘we want a resident priest’.”
The Story of religious orders in Cork can be read YCL 24april story: