Friday, May 30, 2008

Reflecting on Saint Dominic

I realise that it has been some time since an entry into the blog, but it has been so busy recently. There has been an upsurge in new enquiries during the past few weeks - and I have been busy meeting these new enquirers. I am currently collating data on new enquirers (among other things) for a report I am preparing for our upcoming Provincial Chapter in September 2008 (of which more later). Besides this work, meetings of all sorts to do with vocations ministry have kept me on the road and away from my desk a lot! Such is life...

In the past few days I have found myself preparing some talks on the early Dominicans and Saint Dominic for a group of lay Dominicans. It has me scurrying back to read and re-read some of the early texts on Saint Dominic and the early years of the Order. I have always been enthralled on reading the texts of the process of canonisation of Saint Dominic and the testimonies given in favour of our founder by his brethren. It gives a strong impression of the type of man he was - and why he is still so important for us, his followers, today. What follows is a piece of testimony by a Brother Ventura (he was prior of the convent in Bologna) who received the habit from Saint Dominic and made profession in the hands of Dominic as well:

When he (Dominic) came to any place where there were any religious houses, he visited them all, preaching and encouraging them to regular observance. There was no one so troubled that he would not go away comforted if he came and listened to his words. He did this in parts of Lombardy like Milan and the Cistercian monastery of Colomba. He also said that he preached nearly every day unless he was prevented, or gave the brethren a conference, during which he would weep a lot and make the others weep too. He was strict in punishing the faults of the brethren, and was a great enthusiast for the rule, but at the same time his words were so pleasant that the brethren endured the penances imposed by their loving father with the utmost patience and eagerness. He was constant in his attendance at the Divine Office, and used to spend the night in prayer, weeping a lot. When the witness was asked how he knew this, he said he often found him in church praying and weeping, and sometimes overcome by sleep. Sometimes when he was tired because of his vigils, he would go to sleep at table.

This snapshot into the life of Saint Dominic gives an insight into his life of prayer, contemplation, preaching, administration, government and humanity. These qualities are those required by those wanting to join the path of Dominic - even today!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Theme Song for Year of Vocation

The Year of Vocation is to have a theme song called 'You Will be my Witnesses' and it is due to be launched tomorrow, Saturday 17th May, 2008 in the St. John of God Hospital, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin at 4.00 p.m.

The St. John of God Choir and soloist Patricia Bourke d'Souza who perform on the official recording will be providing music at the launch. 'You Will be my Witnesses' will have its first public performance at the event and the song will be launched by Brenda Drumm, Project Manager for the Year of Vocation.

Friday, May 16, 2008


The Redemptorists and particularly those who produce their monthly magazine 'Reality' are to be warmly congratulated on their May 2008 issue - which is a special issue on vocations. Triona Doherty has a very good investigative report on the fall in vocations and invites commentators to give some analysis on the situation. The Redemptorist vocations director Michael Cusack CSsR writes a fine article on why he accepted the job as vocations director recently. Much of what Michael writes resonates very much with my own experience. Sue Leonard carries a very good interview with Maura Walsh, a Redemptoristine novice (enclosed nuns). Communications Director for the Presentation Brothers, Andrew O' Connell gives his usual articulate and profound analysis on vocations ministry in an excellent article. Mercy sister Helena O' Donoghue writes on 'Have we Amnesia about Religious Life?' and makes the plea for promotion of religious vocations. Again, this is an excellent article. Other contributions to the issue make for very good reading.

It is very evident that the 'Reality' team put in a very big effort to put the special vocations issue together. They have done us all a great service in so doing. You can visit their website at

'The Sheaf'

I am very grateful to St. Joseph's Young Priest's Society for sending me the current edition (Summer 2008) of their newsletter 'The Sheaf'. This issue is almost completely devoted to the Year of Vocation containing articles about an address on vocation by Bishop Donal McKeown(chairman of the Bishop's Commission on Vocations) to a regional congress of the society in Dublin, another article on an address by Fr. Muredach Tuffy, the Director of the Newman Institute in Ballina, Co. Mayo to members of St. Joseph's Young Priests Society on vocations to priesthood and consecrated life. The issue also carries the remarks of Dr. Eugene Duffy (Mary Immaculate College, Limerick) on the theme of vocations to a large gathering of the society in Tralee in April 2008. Finally, 'The Sheaf' gives part of the text of Pope Benedict's address concerning vocations at St. Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers, New York during his recent visit there. All are excellent articles and I'd like to highlight some of the texts:

Bishop McKeown on the vocation of priesthood:
Priesthood - along with all the other vocations in the Church - has to be proclaimed as a call to service. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians about the many gifts of God's Spirit, was keen to insist that all the gifts were necessary. There was no room for pride about one role being more important than the other. Pope Paul VI said we needed nit just teachers but witnesses - and that teachers would be listened to because they were witnesses. In other words, we need to invite men to listen for God's call to priesthood, not merely to defend the church or to recreate the past but to proclaim the Gospel by word and sacrament and to build communities where the spirit of service for the poor and the marginalised is central.

Fr. Muredach Tuffy on the important role of grandparents:
I really feel there is a special apostolate available to us today, particularly those who have grandchildren or grandnieces or nephews. The world is getting busier and busier; parents are getting more and more stretched and in an effort to make sure children have all the opportunities and things they think they need in life, the first thing to suffer is the passing on of the faith. I believe we are all in a very influential position in our families to pass on the secret of hope, joy and consolation to our younger generation.

Dr. Eugene Duffy on the 'questioning generation':
Amidst the prosperity that has been unleashed there is a profound questioning afoot. Many of our very bright and successful young executives are asking questions about the meaning of life and what they have achieved. They are asking questions about how they can best spend the rest of their lives; how they can begin to make a difference, so that the lives of others may be enhanced and enabled to flourish. We need people who can meet them, who can talk to them in a way that can help them to find ways of living their lives so that they are enriched and in turn others enriched by them. For me that is where vocations directors need to turn.

Pope Benedict on the witness of religious:
Religious sisters, brothers and priests contribute greatly to the mission of the Church. Their prophetic witness is marked by a profound conviction of the primacy with which the Gospel shapes Christian life and transforms society. Today, I wish to draw your attention to the positive spiritual renewal which congregations are undertaking in relation to their charism. The word charism means a gift freely and graciously given. Charisms are bestowed by the Holy Spirit, who inspires founders and foundresses, and shapes congregations with a subsequent spiritual heritage. The wondrous array of charisms proper to each religious institute is an extraordinary spiritual treasury.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Year of Vocation - What's Happening?

The Irish Catholic Church launched the Year of Vocation almost four weeks ago. Have you noticed that since the launch there has been a lot of silence? There have been very few references in media circles about the year. The Catholic press in Ireland has largely ignored the event. The official Year of Vocation website hasn't been updated since its launch. Most dioceses and religious congregations make little or no reference to the year on their official websites. Rarley in my travels do I hear any mention of even a prayer for vocations at the celebration of Masses or other liturgical events that I attend. Can someone explain why this is so?

It is quite disheartening, to say the least.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What is a Vocations Weekend?

The above question has been brought to my attention recently by one of our friars. He was reminding me that a 'vocations weekend' is not an open invitation to all and sundry to walk in off the street, so to speak, and live with us for a period of time. He is, of course, quite right. The vocations weekends organised by the Irish Dominicans are by invitation only. Those attending would have met with the vocations director on a number of occasions before being invited to participate in such a weekend.

Vocation weekends too are part of the overall process of discernment. It is part of the experiential module of discernment. The other parts of discernment are prayer, regular meeting and contact with the vocations director, meeting with other friars of the province who have special interests in formation, study, spirituality etc., gathering information about the Order through literature, research and other means and, as mentioned, through the experience of living with and sharing in the life of communities from time to time.

The hope, of course, is that for the discernment process to work well, all these component parts would form part of the overall picture for candidates and enable them to make an informed decision as to whether the Domincan way of life is suitable for them. As I write, the final vocations weekend of this academic year is about to get underway in a few hours time - an opportune time for me to ask your prayers once again for those attending.

Monday, May 5, 2008

New Tools for Vocations Promotion

I joined the Order in September 1987 (can it be that long ago?). It was an advert in the very popular Saint Martin Magazine asking readers to contemplate a vocation to the Irish Dominicans that prompted me to make contact. It was the response to that advertisement in the magazine that has me here today. I can assure you that I thank Saint Martin de Porres every day as well!

Back then, the people who joined the Order with me would have made contact in a similar way through responding to a vocations advertisment or through having been associated with some of our communities and friars throughout the country.

How times have changed. I have been visiting some of our communities in Ireland over the past few weeks and talking to them about the Year of Vocation. I have been telling the brethren that well over 90% of enquiries about vocations come through the internet. It is rare enough to get a phone call or letter enquiring about vocation.

As technology permeates almost every area of life, Roman Catholic communities around the world are also adapting it to their efforts to reach out to people who are interested in the possibility of vocation. So many religious and priests are blogging - websites are becoming ever more professional.

So, when I was joining over 20 years ago, people like me would have been depending on magazines, or the local parish priest for information for religious life. Today people go to Google or some other search engine and type: 'religious vocations' or in our case 'Dominican vocations'. All of this shows that people are generally very well informed about the Order even at an initial meeting.

Websites, blogs, podcasts and videos are all the new tools for vocations promotion. But, they must be good and up to date if the present generation of enquirers are to be convinced by them. But, despite all this technology, one thing reamins constant and that is that the Holy Spirit still has to be at work to prompt people to begin the search.