Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Statistics and all that.........

I like opinion polls. I find them fascinating. In the political sphere, they are generally accurate (in Ireland) - particularly at election time. I complained for years that I had never been approached by any of these research companies - but I was recently. I'll be watching the new opinion polls avidly!!

Recently, I found myself reading some more statistics - this time in The Catholic World Report on priestly vocations in America, and the recent trends in same. Some interesting facts emerge. When the late Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978 there were 63,882 major seminarians worldwide - when he died in 2005, that number had increased to 114,439 seminarians - an increase of 79.1%. Impressive, isn't it? Several American dioceses have been part of that surge in numbers. So, the magazine publishes a 'league table' of sorts of those dioceses doing well, and those doing not so well - and try to analyse these trends.

I was interested in those doing well ,obviously! What is interesting is the reasons for those who do well in attracting vocations. They are (in no particular order): prayer; 'the culture of vocations'; prayer before the Blessed Sacrament; good priests; the avid interest of a local bishop (superior); prayer groups; sound formation; direct contact with young people; the culture of praying for vocations in a parish or diocese. Do you notice a trend there? Yes, prayer! We need to pray - we need to ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers! All the other reasons are important, but surely, prayer! (Statistics don't lie, do they?)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Approval for Year of Prayer for Vocations

I am very happy to hear that the Irish Episcopal Conference have given the go-ahead for the proposed Year of Vocation - as outlined elsewhere in this blog (entry for October 31st). It will be an opportune time for religious orders and congregations and the dioceses of Ireland to highlight vocation for a full year. Great credit is due to all those who have worked on getting the project accepted - and well done to the bishops for the wisdom in approving. I am looking forward to the year! The year of vocation has a logo (above) that you will no doubt become familiar with!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

New Attitude to Vocations Promotion in Ireland?

It is very heartening to read this week's new look Irish Catholic newspaper. The newly ordained Bishop of Ossory, Seamus Freeman - a member of the Pallotine Order, gives an interview and speaks about the 'vocation crisis' in this way: 'There is a lack of awareness of how grave this situation is. People know there are no vocations, but no one is inclined to promote vocations, it's not seen as a priority. People look for other solutions, the only solution to the crisis of vocations is to promote vocations and recruit more young men to join the priesthood. We have to make people in the parishes aware of the real urgency of no vocations. If it's not said people will not know it's an urgency, it has to be very well known that this is the number one problem.' Bishop Freeman is making vocations promotion a priority. In my forty odd years, I have not heard any other bishop or religious superior say in a public way that the promotion of vocations was a priority. Hopefully now, through the courage and enthusiasm of the new bishop, others will follow.

Commenting on Bishop Freeman's interview in the same paper, correspondent Andrew O' Connell, who is the communications officer for the Presentation Brothers in Ireland welcomes this news and adds, quite rightly, that '.........the kind of leadership we now need is one which will take issues by the scruff of the neck.' Andrew points to the fact that this is back breaking work but that it is work that must simply be done lest we ignore the words of the late Pope John Paul II: 'Let no one, on account of our negligence, lose the beautiful gift of their vocation.'

And a final piece in this week's paper is a letter from a writer extolling the virtues of Saint Joseph's Young Priest Society - an organisation founded in 1895. It is an organisation of lay people devoted to the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life as well as the promotion of the laity. I know from experience the wonderful work they do. It would be great to see this organisation have a presence on the internet and spread their message more widely.

All in all, it was great to see these articles and letter about vocations. A lot of common sense. I would like to think it marks a new trend in our thinking about vocations promotion.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


What attracts people to religious life? Why do so many express interest? What is the profile of enquirers? There is a notion abroad that these people are 'conservative'! Not true, in my experience.

On average, I meet around thirty (30) people who express an interest in the Irish Dominican friars each year. They all fit into the ready made groupings suggested by those with little else to be the profile includes 'social justice Catholics', 'charismatic Catholics', 'neoconservative Catholics', 'Vatican II Catholics', 'traditional Catholics' - oh, and Catholics too!! Despite the labelling, two important trends emerge: a desire to know, love and serve Jesus Christ and secondly, to experience authentic community. And overarching all that is the deep desire to be associated with a group of people who have a strong identity.

The identity of any group, religious or otherwise is dependent on the goodwill and authentic lives of its members. I am often amazed when people suggest the holiness of a particular friar as a reason for wanting to join the Order. But I shouldn't be amazed though. We are blessed with many brethren who embody the identity of the Dominican Order by their living authentic lives. And these brothers aren't too interested in labelling others - they are more interested in bringing people closer to the Lord. And thats the purpose of our Order - preaching and the salvation of souls.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blogs that have caught my eye recently...

The wonder of the web allows bloggers to track blogs that have similar interests to one's own. I regularly get updates that allow me to see blogs that have the words 'Dominican' and 'vocation' in them. Below I list four that caught my eye recently. You should know that because I list them here does not necessarily mean that I agree with the content or tone - but I found them interesting. Take a look: - a very comprehensive blog maintained by a candiadate for the permanent diaconate in the diocese of Raleigh, USA - a blog maintained by a young Dominican friar in the Central Province, USA - a blog of a member of the Dominican laity, Idaho, USA the blog of Philip Powell OP, Texas, Southern Province of Dominicans, USA

By the way, I hate blogs that are used purely for the purpose of ranting and raving!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Numbers Game!

If I were in the position to receive a cent for the amount of times that I am asked the question: 'How many do you think will join the province this year?', then I would be very well off indeed! It is certainly the most frequently asked question of me by my Dominican brothers! I am very often inclined to respond in the same way as one of my predecessors '......and how many have you asked to join this year?' Cliched and all as that answer is, it has a strong message in it. The fact of the matter is that all of us are called to be vocations directors and vocations promoters!

Would the disciples have taken the risk to join Jesus if he had not asked them? We don't know, but one thing is certain - they were called. And in being called, they responded. It is the duty of all baptised members of the Catholic Church to ask the question about commitment to faith and the question of how best to serve God. If we don't ask, then nothing will happen!

'How are the other religious orders doing?' is another favourite question among religious. The Irish Episcopal Commision's Council for Research and Development carries out survey each year to determine these facts, figures and numbers. The results of previous surveys can be seen at the website for Irish Catholic communications. These surveys don't always make for pleasant reading. I dont know what statistics are like this year, but anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a slight increase in vocations over the past three year period.

So, the numbers game continues. There will be no numbers in the future unless we ask the question!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reading Material (Part 2)

An often asked question is: What is the spirituality of the Dominican Order? And it is difficult to answer. However, I have found the following three books helpful - as indeed have enquirers who wish to open up their minds to the spirituality of Saint Dominic and the Dominicans in general.

Firstly, '15 Days of Prayer with Saint Dominic' by Alain Quilici OP (Liguori Publications, Missouri, USA) is a spiritual journey into the life of the founder of the Order of Preachers. The reader is invited to spend fifteen days contemplating various aspects of Dominic's life with practical guides to focus the reader and some questions for reflection. It's an excellent introduction to the spirituality of our founder.

Secondly, 'The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality - A Drink Called Happiness' by Paul Murray OP (Burns and Oates, London). Paul Murray is an Irish Dominican. This book explores Dominican spirituality as one that '..... from the beginning has a sense of openess to the world.' Paul continues in this vein with a very interesting take on our sptirituality that is bound up in happiness and joy. I could not put it down on my first read of it. I have returned to it many times since. A great resource.

Thirdly and finally in this section I would recommend 'The Dominican Tradition' by Thomas C. McGonigle OP and Phyllis Zagano (Liturgical Press, Minnesota, USA). This book is in the 'Sprituality in History' series and it is an excellent exposition of Dominican spirituality through the great figures of the Order - Saint Dominic, Eckhart, Catherine of Siena, Martin de Porres, Lacordaire to name just a few. Highly recommended.

More to follow in Part 3.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Reading Material (Part 1)

A regular question from enquirers to the Irish Dominicans revolves around suitable reading material for those interested in getting to know the Order. With this in mind, I normally send three books immediately to them as a way of introduction.

The first is 'Saint Dominic and the Order of Preachers' by Simon Tugwell OP (Domincan Publications, Dublin). This is a brief history of the founder of the Order and the book also charts the early years of growth of Dominican life. As an introduction, this is an invaluable gem.

Then I strongly recommend two books by the former Master of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe OP. The first 'Sing a New Song - The Christian Vocation' (Dominican Publications, Dublin) is a series of letters and addresses to the various branches of the Domincan family during his tenure as head of the Order worldwide. It gives a flavour of the life, concerns and mission of the Order at the end of the 20th century heading into the new millenium. An excellent exposition.

And finally, I would strongly recommend Timothy Radcliffe's 'I Call You Friends' (Continuum Publishing). The first portion of this book is an interview with Radcliffe and charts his own vocation story. Many of the questions and particularly the answers will resonate with many enquirers. Again, highly recommended.

If enquirers then wish to explore Dominican spirituality, prayer, authors, theology etc., I will recommend further reading. I will make this list available in part 2 of 'reading material' on this blog.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Year of Prayer for Vocations

I am delighted to hear of an initiative by the national director of vocations in Ireland, in conjunction with the religious and missionary vocations personnel, to have a year of prayer for vocations in Ireland. It is proposed to begin the year on Good Shepherd Sunday (the world day of prayer for vocations) 2008 and to conclude on the same Sunday in 2009 i.e. 13 April 2008 to 3 May 2009. The proposed year of prayer is to highlight vocation in all its forms during that year by having prayer and other events.

It is also hoped that the initiative will encourage those already in ministry; provide an opportunity for young adults, the general Catholic population, migrants and minority ethnic groups, the mass media and others to become involved at a deeper level. It is an aim to renew the sense of identity and direction of vocations and to also establish a new 'time' to encourage vocation to the priesthood, as well as returning Vocations Sunday to its rightful emphasis.

Some information about this initiative is posted on the website for diocesan vocations directors and I thank the national director Fr. Paddy Rushe for drawing it to my attention. The proposed year of prayer is awaiting approval from the next meeting of Irish bishops.

This proposed year of prayer, when approved, will be an exciting time and I am encouraged by the prospects and possibilities that it holds. May the time of prayer be a fruitful one. I will keep readers posted as I get more information.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rambling Thoughts

I was at a meeting recently of vocations directors. We were reflecting on how we were doing. Some were feeling a bit dejected because there was no interest being shown in their order or congregation. Others were desperate and wondering what the future holds if there are no vocations. Some others again were content to sit back and trust in God's providence. And then, to my horror, one or two vocations directors noted that it was probably inevitable that their congregations/orders would die out and that that was fine with them - and God!!And it is at the latter brother vocations directors that I despair! How terribly sad. No concept of the desire of their founders. No understanding that God called members of their congregations to build up God's kingdom in a particular place and time. No appreciation of the labours of the vast amounts of good religious who gave their all to promote the charism of their founder. No trust in the goodness of young (and not so young) men still considering, pondering where God is calling them. Ultimately, no trust in God.It is God who calls. The onus is on us to listen. Listening is not a passive activity, but an active and vibrant pondering of God's presence in our lives. It takes extravagant and sometimes outrageous gestures of action to respond to that call. Thousands of people are making those gestures. There is no such thing, in my opinion, as an inevitability that religious orders should die out..............but congregations and orders really need to let go of the modern day fatalistic attitude that is so pervasive!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Making Ourselves Known

It is opportune to say a few words about the website for the Irish Dominicans. The site is an opportunity to let people know about the life and work of the Irish Dominicans. It is very much a work in progress, and now that it is 'up and running' it will be updated and improved as time goes on. It's fair to say that no website is ever perfect, but every website can be improved upon. And that is what we hope to do.

The vast majority of enquiries to me as vocations director for the province come through the website. In fact, 90% come from that medium - hence it is so important that we make ourselves known through the internet.

I was part of a team of people who worked on making the website. I am deeply indebted to them for their dedication, time and patience.

As part of promoting the website, I have visited all the communities in Ireland with new vocations promotion literature and took the opportunity to encouarge all the friars to promote our way of life as much as possible. One of our new vocation posters is pictured above.

Recent Events

Finding the time to blog recently has been difficult. It has been a busy time. So, I recently preached then annual novena in honour of our Lady of Fatima in our priory church in Pope's Quay, Cork. The interior is pictured above. In my opinion it is the most ornate of all the Dominican churches in Ireland - and really beautiful. It is well worth a visit.

The novena went well. There were two sessions each day with the exception of the two Sundays - one session with rosary, sermon and benediction. It was great to see good numbers attending each day - and particularly gratifying to see the church full on occasions for the event. Obviously, a lot of work went on behind the scenes to prepare for the novena - and the community there worked hard to make the novena successful.

A novena is primarily a time of prayer. It was a source of great encouragement to accompany a praying community for these nine days - so it was an enjoyable experience.

On the vocations front, I was able to meet with all of the enquirers from the Munster region while in Cork - and of course to promote the Dominican vocation to those attending the novena.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A prayer for Dominican vocations.....

A new prayer-card has just been issued to promote vocations to the Irish Dominicans. The same prayer card is also an opportunity for people to learn more about the life and work of the Dominicans in Ireland by accessing the new website of the province. (More on this anon!)

The text of the prayer is:

Lord Jesus, as you once called Saint Dominic to preach the Gospel, so now send preachers into your harvest. Give them courage, wisdom and grace to make them faithful witnesses of your death, resurrection and return in glory. Through the intercession of Mary, patroness of the Order, may they bring true faith and light to brighten the darkness. You who live forever. Amen.

Readers of this blog who would like to have copies of this prayer card can message me through the comment facility on the blog or alternatively through the 'contact vocations director' section of the website of the Irish Dominicans.

Monday, September 24, 2007

News from across the pond.........

Congratulations to our brothers in the English province on their reception of new novices in Blackfriars, Cambridge and the first profession of last year's novices - also at Cambridge. These events are very well documented at the excellent blog of the English Dominican students. I heartily recommend a visit to the said blog!!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Solemn Profession

The Irish Dominican province joyfully celebrated the solemn profession of our brother, Declan Corish OP on Saturday 15th September (Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows) in St Saviour's Church, Dominick Street. In making solemn profession a brother makes a definitive commitment to remaining a Dominican until the end of his earthly life.Br Declan is originally from Co Wexford, and he was clothed in the habit on 14th September 2002. Since then he has lived and studied in our Dominican communities in Limerick, Dublin and Rome. He is one of a group of three Irish brothers who began their Dominican life together in 2002 and who are all proceeding through their initial formation.I pray God's blessing on our brother Declan as he continues his Dominican journey.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Our New Novices

Pictured above (left to right) are Brothers Colm Mannion, Luuk Jansen and Matthew Martinez who were clothed in the Dominican habit by the Provincial of the Irish Province Fr. Pat Lucey OP today, September 14th, 2007.

They begin their novitiate today. In the Constitutions of the Order the novitiate is defined as '......a trial period during which the novices come to understand more clearly the nature of a divine and Dominican vocation. They experience the Order's way of life, are trained, mind and heart, in the Dominican spirit, and their intention and suitability may be ascertained.'

I pray that the Lord may bless our three new brothers abundantly in the year ahead.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More on Discernment....

The late Pope John Paul II said: 'Take courage: Christ is calling you and the whole world awaits you! Remember that the Kingdom of God has need of your generous and total dedication. Do not be like the rich young man who, when invited by Christ, was unable to accept but remained with his possessions and sadness, even though Jesus glanced at him with love. Be like the fishermen who, when they were called by Jesus, left everything promptly to become fishers of men.'

There is no doubt that the words of John Paul inspire and challenge everyone to discern God's unique call. Most of us know, however, that this is never as easy as it seems. Discerning your vocation has few, if any, absolutes. If you are waiting for a burning bush or a tongue of fire or a sms message on your mobile telephone, then you're in for a long wait. God speaks in the quiet of our heart and in the people around us. His call, no matter how it is heard, requires only one thing from you: a commitment to respond and a desire to honestly examine your life.

Whenever you seek to discover God's call in your lives you enter a period of discernment. The common definition of discernment is to separate, sort out and sift through. Discernment, then, is a time of sorting out and sifting. Religious and vocational discernment is also a time to see with the eyes of your heart so that you can choose a life in God. It is a time when you allow yourself to be open to God's will, and it is an opportunity to allow your heart to guide your mind more than only trusting your own reasoning.

A vocations director will know that it is perfectly natural to feel some sense of uncertainty at this stage. You may not know a lot about the Dominican Order. You may not know how to begin the discernment process. That is natural - and you will not be the first! The ministry of any vocations director centres specifically on helping you discern God's call.

There are some other hints on discernment in other contributions to this blog. But it is important to know too that you will have access to many resources including being sent information material. You will be sent books on vocation related topics. You will be sent relevant articles about discernment and vocation. Arrangements will be made for you to visit our priories for prayer and sharing in our common life. You will be invited, if deemed appropriate, to attend vocations weekends at various times through the year. You will be invited to meet regularly with the vocations director (at least once a month).

It takes courage to take first steps, but be assured that you will be helped through every step of the discernment process.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A time of preparation....

It's early September. Traditionally, communities go on retreat around this time. Our new novices are currently on retreat prior to receiving the habit of the Order on September 14th - the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Readers of this blog might include these three men in their prayers as they begin their year of discernment in the novitiate in Limerick.

Our student brothers are currently on retreat too at this time. One of them will make solemn profession on September 15th (Feast of our Lady of Sorrows) and one other student brother will renew simple profession on the same day.

Its an appropriate time for all of us to reflect on our own vocation as preachers during this week - which is a week of hope and joy in our Irish province. We are receiving new members and new life. We thank God for his goodness to us.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Enquirers and Discernment

Experience over the past few years has shown me that the number of enquiries about vocations fall during the summer months. But not this summer. Enquiries are up on previous years. I wonder has it something to do with our poor summer weather? In any case, many of those who have been in touch over the past few weeks have been asking about 'discernment'. What is it and what does it entail?

There are five essential elements to discernment:

Prayer: Vocational discernment can only take place in the context of prayer. The type of payer here is important - namely wanting to know and desiring the will of God in my life.

Openness to the Holy Spirit: Being genuinely open to the promptings of the Spirit is a pre-requisite. If and when the particular option (religious life or priesthood) gives rise to feelings of contentment, joy or peace - then this is a possible sign that the option one is making is in line with God's plan for me.

Recognise the result of prayer: Having prayed earnestly, look for the feelings that have emerged. If your discernment continues to be positive, then the next stage is the prayer to make a firm decision and to actually choose making a commitment.

Seek confirmation: The process of discernment between yourself and God needs to be confirmed with the help of others. Here a vocations director will assist you in clarifying your decision at other levels e.g. practically, emotionally, spritually. Other professional people assist by helping you understand the decision you are making or have made.

Motivation: At all times through the process of discernment, check what your real motivation is! If you have followed the prayerful route and recognise that it is God who is motivating you in the direction of serving Him, then you are on the right path. If not, seek help and do not lose heart.

To sum up then: discernment is a process which should lead you, through prayer, to understand where God is calling you. It is a difficult journey, but the rewards of genuinely seeking God's will are truly worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Feast of Saint Dominic

Today, August 8th, is the feast of Saint Dominic - founder of the Order of Preachers. It is a day of great celebration for Dominicans throughout the world - a day for the Dominican family, of friars, nuns, sisters and laity to ponder the legacy of Dominic.

It is tempting to try and situate his legacy in the context of our own time - our own period in history. To do this is to do a disservice to the charism of Saint Dominic. The principal charism is of course that of preaching. This is interesting since no text has preserved the content of his sermons for us! Marie - Humbert Vicaire OP in his excellent Saint Dominic and his Times (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1964. London) reminds us that evidence from the early brothers of the Order tell that "Dominic preached frequently to the brethren 'almost every day'. Whatever his fatigue might be when he arrived in one of his houses, he immediately called his brethren to chapter and began to preach. He did the same in the case of religious who gave him hospitality. Moreover he did so for the travellers whom he joined along the road."

The Constitutions of the Order contain the formula which Saint Dominic is said to have repeated many, many times - namely: 'To speak of God or with God'. This indicates clearly enough that he envisaged a preaching that should be positive, doctrinal, theocentric and an exposition of Christian revelation.

This remains the task of the Order today. It is, of course, an urgent task - as urgent as it was in Dominic's time. It is a task that captures the minds of many - even in these past twenty four hours I have received enquiries from three individuals who want to explore the way of Dominic, the way of preaching. The spirit and charism of Dominic is alive in the twenty first century.......may it continue to bear fruit in abundance.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lourdes Revisited.......

I have just returned from Lourdes. It's been my second visit this year. I accompanied a group of young people with CLM (Cuairteoiri le Muire - Visitors with Mary). This is an organisation that has been on the go for nearly 50 years - it is a voluntary movement bringing the sick, disabled and underprivileged to the Marian shrine.

The group of young people, boys and girls, were secondary school pupils from different schools in Mallow and Clonakilty. (According to them, there is a new town in Cork called Mallakilty!!) It was a great experience to be with them - to see them celebrate their faith, pray, help others and have great fun. Lourdes, and Mary, never cease to amaze me at the people they call.

Late on in the week, I had the privelige of meeting a priest friend from Cork who joined the Dominicans with me back in 1987. He is now serving as a secular priest in the diocese of Cloyne. Meeting him reminded me of the early days of my own exploration of vocation to the Order - and meeting the young people from Mallakilty certainly encouraged me in my own vocation. They were just great!

Lourdes is quiet this year - the word is that people are holding off until next year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparations. Take a look at the website

Thursday, July 19, 2007

General Chapter 2007

Chapters in the Dominican Order define our system of government. Each community and province has a chapter to decide on how our communities and provinces are governed. Chapters also, at defined times elect superiors. The Order worldwide too organises General Chapters at particular times, generally every three to four years. Since Tuesday (July 17, 2007) the provincials of the various provinces throughout the world, along with some others appointed to join them and the Master of the Order, are meeting in Bogota, Colombia (see pic) to discuss, discern and make decisions about the work, ministry and life of the Order worldwide for the next few years.

General Chapters are the supreme legislative body of the Order when they are in session, and their conclusions have implications for all the brothers of the Order worldwide. Let us pray for our brother provincials at this important time. You can follow some of the deliberations in Bogota by visiting

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer Happenings...........

It's hard to believe that it is summertime in Ireland. We have had the most atrocious weather during June, and July has been very wet so far. It makes one think of sunny and warmer climates. But, we Irish are the eternal the weather can only get better, can't it?With the admissions process for this year concluded (almost!), it is time to turn thoughts towards the next academic year. While this vocations director will take a break at intervals during the next couple of months, it will also be a busy time. These summer weeks are given over to planning activities for the next twelve months. I hope to arrange:

schedule of visits to third level institutions for vocation promotion purposes.
dates and venues for vocations weekends.
ongoing visits and meetings with the many interested candidates.
meetings with Catholic youth movements.
a new website for Irish Dominican vocations.
visits to Dominican communities throughout Ireland to keep vocation promotion as a priority at local level.

All the above are priority during this summer period. In the meantime, I hope readers of this blog will continue to assist these most important tasks by praying for the success of and the blessing of God on all that we do.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

An Anniversary..........

Today, June 3oth, 2007 I celebrate the eleventh anniversary of my priestly ordination. It only seems like last week! I have so much to be thankful for as I remember that day. I was ordained by the auxiliary bishop of Dublin, Dr. Eamonn Walsh and remember him vividly reminding us of the joy that priesthood can bring. I certainly did not fully understand his words then, but I do now. The joy of priesthood, for me, is in the service of the Lord - bringing Christ to others. I do not underestimate the many challenges that it also presents - but these are graced moments too.

Today, I think of a particularly holy Irish Dominican friar that I had the pleasure to know and who died some years ago: Fr. Anselm Moynihan OP. Fr Anselm wrote a beautiful book entitled The Lord is Within You and I'd like to quote from a section of the book on the understanding of the Blessed Sacrament. It has helped me hugely:

'At Communion, we meet the Son of God in a way that breaks down all bodily barriers. It is the closest of personal presences this side of heaven.

Jesus is not merely present in the Eucharist. He is there to be eaten. He gives us his Body and Blood as the spiritual food of our souls. Food is necessary for life. Our life of grace, in which we share the divine life of God, is a very real kind of life.

- the life of grace,

- the trinitarian life of our souls,

- the indwelling presence.

This supernatural life needs supernatural food. And the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is that supernatural food for our grace-life. It is the Body and Blood of the Incarnate Word of God. Quite simply, faith teaches us that Jesus is the source of all our grace-life'.

Thanks be to God, and thanks to the goodness and kindness of family, friends and my Dominican brothers for deepening the appreciation of the Eucharist in my priestly life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Interviews for Admission to the Novitiate

One of the many tasks of a vocations director is to accompany candidates through a period of discernment to a point where they wish to apply to join the Order and enter the novitiate. This process can take some time.

The minimum period of accompaniment is one year and generally up to two years. During that time those interested in the Order learn to know more about the Dominican way of life through regular contact with the director of vocations, meeting other friars, spending some time living with Dominican communities, learning about our spirituality and through prayer.

During the week ahead, three men will present themselves to the Irish province for acceptance into the novitiate. They will undergo some days of assessment and interview ending on Friday 29th June. The admission process will take place in Saint Mary's Priory, Tallaght.

In a few weeks, the Province will interview a candidate from Trinidad for acceptance to the novitiate of the Irish province in Limerick. (Irish Dominican friars live and minister in Trinidad and Tobago, which is a vice-province of Ireland).

This is an important event in the life of our province, but more importantly a significant moment in the life of those who seek acceptance into the novitiate. Please pray earnestly for all concerned at this time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dominican Priestly Ordination

It is a cause of great joy for myself and all the Dominicans of the Irish Province to announce the priestly ordination of Ciaran Dougherty OP. The ordination will take place at 4.30 pm on Sunday June 17th, 2007 in the Dominican church of Saint Saviour, Upper Dorset Street, Dublin 1. The ordaining prelate is Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Ciaran, from Belfast, a graduate in philosophy from Queens University, joined the Order in 2001. He has undergone his formation and training in our novitiate house in Limerick, our student house in St. Saviour's, Dublin and in Blackfriars, Oxford. In the past year he has undergone post graduate studies in philosophy at University College, Dublin.

Ciaran is the first of those who joined the Order during my time as Vocations Director to be ordained priest, and so is a source of great pride!

I wish him every blessing in his future priestly ministry.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Vocations Sunday 2007

The fourth Sunday of Easter (29 April 2007) each year is given over to the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. To lead us into prayer and reflection, we are invited to look closely at and meditate on Christ the Good Shepherd.

The image of Christ as shepherd is appropriate as we imagine Christ as our leader, but also the one who cares and calls. It is a comforting image, but one that is equally challenging.The challenge is to all followers of Christ to follow Him in whatever state of life we find ourselves - whether it is as married, single or religious people.

The very nature of our baptism into the Lord demands it. I am convinced that to live out this call of baptism we have to constantly question our own response to that call. Even more importantly is the call of each one to be leading others to Christ. This is a demanding but essential aspect of our individual vocation.

I am reminded this Vocations Sunday of a story from Timothy Radcliffe OP, former Master General of the Dominican Order when addressing a group of vocations directors in Ireland a couple of years ago. He suggested that in order for any vocation to take root or indeed to flourish one must have two things - passion, and secondly passion! By this he meant that one must have passion in one's life for something - whether it is music, or drama, or reading or sport. But secondly, and more importantly that one must have passion for Jesus Christ and his Gospel. I agree with him and am praying earnestly this weekend for those who have that same passion.And finally, pray for us vocations directors on this day - and our work!

Take a look at and if you have a little time!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The power of prayer

We had a gathering of a large number of Dominican friars of the Irish province in St. Mary's Priory, Tallaght recently to discuss (as part of our ongoing formation) the importance of prayer in our lives. It was organised by our promoter for ongoing formation in the Irish province, fr. Ronan Cusack OP. The meeting consisted of inputs on an evening before a full day of prayer and reflection for those who wished to take part - a mini-retreat of sorts!

One of the inputs was given by two Dominican nuns from Siena monastery in Drogheda, Co. Louth. In a powerful and moving presentation, both sisters gave us a rare insight into the singular importance of prayer in their daily living. In listening to them, it was so very evident that their prayer permeated every aspect of their religious life. But it was the naturalness of it all for these contemplative nuns that struck me most. I felt humbled.

I shouldn't have been surprised though. I fell the power of their prayer very profoundly in my own ministry of vocations promotion. I know I would be less well off without their prayer!

There's good news for the nuns too - one of the novice sisters makes first profession on May 31st. We could return a prayer in thanksgiving for this great event in the life of Monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena, Drogheda. May God bless them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An American Perspective on Vocation Promotion

I note with interest that Vocations Ireland (an umbrella body which promotes the vocation of religious men, women and missionary congregations in Ireland) is organising two weekends for interested vocations directors in late August and early September on the 'Ferdinand' model of promotion. These weekends will take place in the Emmaus Retreat Centre in Swords, Co. Dublin.

The 'Ferdinand' model is based on the work of the Benedictine sisters in Ferdinand, Indiana, USA who spend much energy and time in promoting vocations through prayer, direct contact, marketing, communications and other methods - with a great deal of success.

Many Irish congregations, male and female, have sent delegations to Ferdinand over the past number of years to learn how these sisters have been approaching this awakening of vocations to their form of life. The experience, I know, has been valuable, but the translation of the success of the Ferdinand sisters has not always been easy to replicate in the Western European context. I am delighted then to hear that two of the sisters from Ferdinand will be leading these weekends in Dublin. I look forward to attending them in the hope that we can learn from each others experience.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Vocations Weekend in Tallaght

The Dominican community at Saint Mary's Priory, Tallaght (pictured) hosted the latest vocations 'live-in' weekend from May 5th to 7th 2007. Four men from various parts of the country (Kerry, Donegal, Sligo and Laois) were attending. They were introduced into the life, prayer and work of this community as part of the weekend. They were joined by some of our student brothers on the Saturday morning to learn of the younger friars experiences. On the Saturday afternoon, they visited our community of friars in Drogheda and were warmly welcomed by the Prior, who gave an inspiring talk on his own life as a Dominican. After this, they joined the Dominican contemplative nuns in 'Siena' monastery for evening prayer. They departed after lunch on Sunday having had a rich experience of our life and work.

As a vocations director, these 'live-in' weekends are an invaluable resource to those who are curious about our way of life. The old adage that 'there is no substitute for experience' is appropriate here. Candidates who are seriously considering becoming Dominicans should really see a Dominican community in action, and get to know the friars. It is humbling to hear the brethren tell of their own vocation stories - and I have no doubt that it impacts hugely on those who are interested.

All in all, this was a succesful weekend. To date, 12 enquirers have attended weekends this year. Further weekends are planned in some of our communities in the coming months.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Quarter of a Million Kilometres

I returned to Dublin this evening and noticed that I have clocked up 90,000 kilometres on my two year old car - a Nissan Almera. It set me thinking about the amount of time I spend travelling. In the past seven years I have travelled about 250,000 kilometres around Ireland on vocations ministry. This doesnt include the many air miles travelled for the same purpose.

This week of travel was a typical one: On Sunday, I travelled to my hometown of Portlaoise, on Monday to Navan for a vocations meeting, Tuesday to Belfast to meet with a prospective candidate, Wednesday to Sligo to meet with a new enquirer and Thursday to Galway for a similar meeting. All in all over 1,000 kilometres. But this travel is essential - particularly to meet those who are enquiring about our way of life - whether they are new enquirers or those who I meet on a monthly basis! It is one of the most important tasks of vocation ministry - namely to get in touch as soon as a person makes contact about the Order. I realise the great effort it is for someone to make contact about vocation - the least we can do is return the courtesy immediately.

For many years I was closely associated with an association of vocations directors. From feedback from enquirers to that organisation, the greatest criticism of vocations directors was that they (vocation directors) were exceptionally slow to to respond to enquiries!! It never made sense to me - it still doesnt't! The quarter of a million kilometres so far has been worth it!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pilgrimages and Prayer for Vocations

This post is written in Medjugorje - a place of prayer and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I am bowled over by the faith of the pilgrims here. I am accompanying a group from a parish I used work in in Tallaght. They are seasoned pilgrims.

It is striking how many young people are here - many of them searching for their rightful place in God's plan for them. Many consider vocations to priesthood and religious life. It is easy to see how they would ask such questions here. They ask for prayers for guidance. It is a pleasure to meet them and discuss the question of call.

Two weeks ago I accompanied a group for the sevent time to Lourdes with the charity IHCPT. Take a look at their website att The week after Easter is given over to those children and young adults with special needs. They are faith filled - with a sense of joy and celebration that is infectious and enthusiastic. We were blessed with many helpers, doctors, nurses, chaplains and indeed bishops.

Three Irish bishops accompanied the Trust this year, namely Bishops Dermot O Mahony, John MacAreavy and Bill Murphy. The bishops were very encouraging to all present. I asked the group of people with special needs that I am associated with to pray for all those who are considering the call to priesthood and religious life. I am firmly convinced that their enthusiastic prayers will be answered abundantly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Word of Welcome

Welcome to the blog. It will be an effort to communicate something of my work as vocations promoter for the Irish Dominicans - and to know something of the life of the Order of Preachers in Ireland.

Today, I am putting the final preparations in place for the forthcoming vocations weekend in our Limerick priory. Five men from various walks of life will live with the novitiate community. During the weekend they will experience and partake in our life of common prayer, study, community and mission. Weekends such as this make the life of a vocations director very worthwhile

Monday, March 19, 2007

Vocations Weekend

A vocations weekend for men interested in joining the Irish Dominican friars will be held in St. Saviour's Priory, Glentworth Street, Limerick from March 23 to 25, 2007. Saint Saviour's houses the novitiate of the Irish Dominicans. The weekend is fully subscribed. A further vocations weekend will be organised in early May 2007 in Saint Mary's Priory, Tallaght, Dublin 24.

First Posting

This is the first post in a new blog of the Director of Vocations of the Irish Dominicans.

I hope that it will prove beneficial for those considering a vocation to the priesthood of religious life.