Monday, August 31, 2009

Like to Know the Dominicans?

Regular readers might like to know of an upcoming event organised by the promoters of vocation for the Dominican family in Ireland, The friars, sisters, nuns and the Dominican laity in Ireland are hosting an open day for those who are interested in knowing about our way of life as nuns, laity, friars and sisters. It will take place in Saint Dominic's Retreat Centre, Ennismore, Montenotte, Cork (pictured above) on Saturday, October 17th, 2009. The event will begin at 9.30 am and conclude at 5.00 pm.

It will be an opportunity for men and women who are interested in the Domincan way to meet with and socialise with the friars, nuns, laity and sisters and to know more about how we live our lives as Dominicans. As always with these events, prayer and the celebration of the eucharist will be the high points of the day.

This blog entry is to give some advance notice of the event. Details of speakers and contributors are currently being finalised and you will be kept informed on the various websites and blogs of the Dominicans in Ireland in the coming weeks. Experience shows that these are popular days and early booking is advised. To secure a place or for more information you can email me at or Sr Breda at Siena Monastery in Drogheda at

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Good News on Vocations in Ireland......38 New Seminarians

From the National Co-Ordinator of Diocesan Vocations Fr Paddy Rushe:

Fr. Paddy Rushe, National Coordinator of Diocesan Vocation Directors, said that these figures represented the highest intake of new seminarians since 1999, and were almost double the number that entered in 2003. "I want to acknowledge the hard work of vocation directors around the country who have spent time, in many cases well over a year, guiding and directing these men and preparing them for this step in their lives. Despite ongoing challenges to the Gospel values in the modern world it is encouraging to see evidence that God continues to inspire people to answer His call of service in the priesthood," he said.

Most of the new seminarians will study at St Patrick's College, Maynooth with others studying in Belfast, Rome and Spain. Welcoming the new candidates, their families and friends to Maynooth, the President of the College, Monsignor Hugh Connolly, said: "It is truly wonderful to witness the generosity of spirit of our new seminarians as, at this time, the Church in Ireland has completed a ‘Year of Vocation' and we begin, together with all the faithful throughout the world, the ‘Year for Priests'."

The new students range in age from those who have just completed their Leaving Certificate to those in their thirties and forties who are coming from a wide range of employment backgrounds.

Bishop Donal McKeown, chairperson of the Vocations Commission of the Irish Episcopal Conference, also welcomed the news saying that it was an encouragement to all those in parish communities and other organisations associated with the promotion of vocations, who continue to pray for and promote vocations in many ways. "Priests don't just appear out of mid-air," he said, "they come from families and communities; they are sons, brothers and uncles; work colleagues and friends; part of a Christian community."

A breakdown, by diocese, of the 38 first year seminarians for 2009 is as follows:

Ardagh & Clonmacnois 2; Armagh 3; Cashel & Emly 1; Clogher 1; Cloyne 2; Cork & Ross 1; Down & Connor 5; Dublin 5; Galway 2; Kildare & Leighlin 2; Killaloe 2; Kilmore 3; Meath 4; Ossory 1; Raphoe 2; Tuam 1 and Waterford & Lismore 1.

36 new seminarians will begin studies immediately, with another 2 commencing during the first term. 30 new seminarians began studies for Irish dioceses in 2008, 31 in 2007 and 30 in 2006, 27 in 2005, 28 in 2004, 19 in 2003.

The students will be spread over St. Patrick's College, Maynooth; St. Malachy's College, Belfast, The Pontifical Beda College, Rome; and The Royal English College, Valladolid, Spain;
The St Patrick's College Maynooth is the National Seminary for Ireland and has been forming men for the priesthood since 1795, see the college website here.
The website for the Diocesan Vocations Directors of Ireland is available here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

NRVC Research - A Brief Analysis

The recent publication of the survey for the National Religious Vocations Conference in the USA (see previous post) has attracted much attention in the United States and also in this part of the world. The study and survey has confirmed what many are realising and can verify - namely that those following a religious vocation are becoming more traditional - in the positive sense of the word. The survey suggests that two-thirds of the new religious (male and female) chose orders who have maintained their unique identities, have chosen to wear their religious habit and who follow a traditional communal prayer life. This along with fidelity to the Church and its teaching are cited as very important.

In contrast, the survey also finds that those religious orders who have opted not to wear their religious habits, who have abandonded their monasteries, priories and convents and in some cases have diluted their charisms and become akin to social workers are those congregations and orders that are not attracting vocations.

Evidently, more religious vocations are needed. In Ireland there are vast differences in vocation numbers between dioceses (rural and urban). Also, while the number of men following religious vocations may be increasing, the number of young women is not showing the same upward trend. These issues need to be addressed.

In Ireland, the generation of religious that is absent coupled with the generation of Catholics who do not practise their faith in any meaningful way are being replaced by a newer and, it could be argued, more committed generation. It is of the highest importance that this new generation of religious and young Catholics are not stymied by a generation that is older and has lost its way. It is also unhelpful to classify, as many do, these young people as conservative or traditional. It is evident that Catholics can not be either strictly liberal or ultra conservative but rather that Catholics must reconcile both by respecting and handing on tradition but also seeing what is needed today. Religious orders and, by extension, the Church itself must not neglect the needs of today or ignore the value of tradition - otherwise it will fail in attracting men and women who have an earnest desire to preach the Gospel for our time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Current Religious Vocations Trends in USA

The National Religious Vocations Conference (NRVC) in the United States has in the past few days released a major survey/report entitled Recent Vocations to Religious Life.

It contains the results of a professionally conducted survey of almost 600 religious institutes in the United States and a survey of 1,568 religious who have entered in the past 15 years including those who are still at various stages of formation. It also contains the findings of focus group research conducted among religious institutes which have been successful at attracting and retaining new members.

The results of such a survey will obviously have resonances for us on this side of the pond. For vocations directors and those charged with attracting new membership to orders and congregations, the following quotes from the report should prove helpful. All the quotes are from the report under the section entitled: Best Practices in Vocation Ministry.

The research also suggests, however, that good intentions, sophisticated marketing
campaigns, and the investment of resources into vocation promotion alone will not attract new
members. It is the example of members and the community life, prayer life, and/or ministries of
the institute that most attract new members."

"Many of the successful institutes are characterized by a “culture of vocations” within the
institute. In these institutes everyone – not just the vocation director – has a sense of
responsibility for vocation promotion and is involved in and supportive of vocation efforts."

"Findings from the survey of religious institutes reveal that there is a positive correlation
between having a vocation director, especially one who is full-time, and having candidates and
new members in initial formation."

"Although the relationship is not as strong, having a vocation team is also positively
correlated with having new members."
" p.118

"Several new members mentioned vocation directors who they experienced as pandering
to them or giving them a sales pitch. Examples included promises of opportunities to travel and
assurances that they could do anything they wanted in terms of ministry. These new members
suggested that this was the wrong mindset and the wrong approach for those with authentic

"Both vocation directors and new members emphasized the importance of honesty and authenticity in presenting the institute and suggested that websites
and other promotional materials will be for naught if they do not match the reality in the institute."

"In particular, those [institutes] that sponsor discernment retreats are significantly more likely than those who do not sponsor
these retreats to have new members in initial formation and to be more successful in retaining
new members. It is important to note again that many young people today have little or no direct
contact with men and women religious. Discernment retreats and “Come and See” experiences
may be the first prolonged exposure to men or women religious for some of these potential
p. 120

"Results from the survey of religious institutes indicate that institutes that sponsor
vocation promotion and discernment programs directed toward college students and young adults
are more likely to have new members than those who do not sponsor programs for these groups.
Although the relationship is not as strong statistically, targeting high school students also appears
to have an impact on attracting and retaining new members."

"Findings from the survey of new members show that 40 percent of the men and almost 50
percent of the women first considered a vocation to religious life before they were 18 years of
age. More than a quarter of the women considered it before they were 14. These findings
suggest that vocation directors might want to consider targeting some of their vocation efforts at
those in elementary and high school. Anecdotal evidence from vocation directors also suggests a
possible trend toward considering religious life at a younger age than was the case even a few
years ago."

For further information on the survey/report and to download the findings please visit

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aspects of Dominican Vocation

A video of some of the friars of the Irish Dominican Province sharing some thoughts on Dominican life and vocation.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dominican Jubilee - towards 2016

The Dominican Order worldwide is planning to celebrate the 800th anniversary of its foundation in 2016 by focussing on various aspects of the Dominican charism in the years leading up to the jubilee. The focus for this year 2009 is 'Saint Dominic, Preacher of Grace' with a parallel reflection on the first verse of the Prologue to Saint John's Gospel: 'In the beginning was the Word' (John 1:1).

As we will celebrate the feast of Saint Dominic tomorrow (August 8th), I would like to bring to your attention the web resource of the Dominican jubilee which can be found at There are some very interesting reflections by various Dominican men and women throughout the world on the theme of Dominic, the Preacher of Grace.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Attitudes towards Vocations in Ireland.

I recently picked up a hard copy of Fr Micheal MacGreil's The Challenge of Indifference : A Need for Religious Revival in Ireland. It is a comprehensive survey of religious attitudes and practices in Ireland. It is published by the Survey and Research Unit, Department of Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, County Kildare.

The chapter on 'Attitudes towards Vocations' obviously caught my attention. The data and statistics contained in the chapter are concerned primarily with the response of Roman Catholics to the question :'If you had a son or a daughter and he/she came to you and said he/she had decided to become a priest/nun, how would you respond?' The findings to this question are interesting. 64.1% would greatly welcome or welcome with reservation their son to become a priest (the corresponding figure in 1988/9 was 79%), while 60.9% would greatly welcome or welcome with reservation their daughter to become a nun/religious sister (the corresponding figure in 1988/9 was 75%).

While in both cases there is a significant nominal drop (15%) the statistic can be seen in a positive light in that alomost two thirds of Roman Catholics in Ireland would welcome the news of their son's or daughter's decision to respond positively to his or her vocation to become a priest or nun. The statistic is also to be seen in the context of recent negative stereotyping of priests and nuns in some of the popular media and in the decline of frequency of religious practice in Ireland.

There is a wealth of information available in this survey which really ought to be chewed over by vocations directors of dioceses and religious congregations and orders. The substantial survey is available in Catholic bookshops now priced at around €15.