By Ann Marie Foley - 29 September, 2020
“While we are all aware of the great challenges facing the Church and society at this time, we know also that God the all-powerful is always with us,” said Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, chair of the Bishops’ Council for Vocations.
Thirteen students have begun studies for the priesthood for Irish dioceses this week, while at the weekend one seminarian finished his studies and was ordained.
For the academic year 2020-2021, new students are in formation in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth; the Pontifical Beda College, Rome; the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Dundalk; and the Venerable English College, Rome. A number of others are beginning their propaedeutic programme in other locations in Ireland and abroad.
“While we are all aware of the great challenges facing the Church and society at this time, we know also that God the all-powerful is always with us,” said Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, chair of the Bishops’ Council for Vocations. The number of new seminarians “offer us a sign of hope”, he added.
Fr Willie Purcell, national diocesan vocations coordinator for the Bishops’ Conference, said, “The role we have as vocations directors is to help young people realise that each one of them has a unique calling from Christ, and we aim to support them in answering that call, particularly in the case of those who are discerning vocations to the priesthood or religious life.”
He thanked vocations directors across the country for their work in accompanying those who are discerning a vocation to priesthood.
These new students bring to 72 the total number studying for the priesthood for Irish dioceses. Last year, 15 began studies for the priesthood, while in 2018 there were 17.
Meanwhile, on Sunday (27 September) Bishop Martin Hayes, Diocese of Kilmore, ordained Thomas Small to the priesthood.
Speaking at the ordination, Bishop Hayes said: “You are to become a bridge to people, so as to be of service, to reconcile and to seek out the lost – and there are those who are lost today, struggling, particularly, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Yours is a calling, a privilege, a responsibility that may cause many to be fearful; however, the Good Lord promises ‘I am with you to protect you’.”
In the presence of family and friends of Thomas Small, the bishop said COVID-19 had “brought uncertainty, worry and frustration, resulted in physical sickness, mental anguish, the tragic death of loved ones, bereavement and it is still ongoing. Jesus Christ is with us in our uncertainty, our suffering and pain; He has shared in our human frailty – He has been there Himself.”
He added that we have a “solid basis in Jesus Christ” with which to offer hope to all who are feeling frustrated, anxious, and fearful today.
The bishop spoke of how families, including that of Thomas, with their example of faith and love, have an influence on the decision to commit to priesthood. The parishioners, neighbours and friends (in Annagh, Marian Park in Belturbet, and Milltown for Thomas) also have a role in Christian formation.
“Recent research into the caring of priests, religious and those in pastoral ministry has shown that a life-giving ministry requires that we stay true to our original call, remain in touch with the memories, the vital sources of personal growth found in a loving, caring home environment,” said the bishop.
“It is in solid family and local community life; its nurturing, its joys and coping with sorrows, its fragility, where that ‘still small voice’ of God, the God who journeys with us, is heard,” he added.
Bishop Hayes also cautioned that administrative responsibilities or ‘being a busy priest/bishop” may conflict with the value of just ‘being present to others in Christ”.
“We need to develop a balance between our pastoral work and the care of ourselves, while remaining rooted in a deep spiritual life,” he said.
He concluded by stating that everyone present celebrated with the extended family, parish community, friends, and the people, priests and deacons of the diocese. He congratulated the new Fr Thomas Small and prayed for blessing on his future priestly ministry in the Diocese of Kilmore.
For vocations information and resources, visit vocations.ie.