Thursday, January 28, 2010

Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas

The solemn blessing at the end of Mass (above)
The friars gathered to liturgically celebrate the feast of St Thomas Aquinas

Today, January 28th is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The brothers of the formation communities (our students and novices) came together to the house of formation of the studentate in Saint Saviour's, Dublin (pictured above) to celebrate the feast. The regent of studies of the Irish Province, fr John Harris, was the main celebrant and homilist of the eucharistic celebration in honour of the great feast. In his homily, fr. John spoke of the role study plays in the religious formation of preachers and teachers in the thought of St. Thomas. If they are to be the salt of the earth and light to the world, it is through study of the sacred sciences that the salt is kept dry and the light kept shining.
The brothers in formation were joined by members the teaching staff of the Dominicans in Ireland (the coetus lectorum) and also by the Provincial, fr Pat Lucey.

A number of other events were planned for the brethren in formation throughout the day to coincide with the feast of Aquinas.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Welcome to The Blogging Brother!

Although the blog is a few months old already, I wanted to welcome to the blogging world Br Ray Dwyer (pictured above) who is the vocations director for the Presentation Brothers in Ireland and the UK and his new vocations blog The Blogging Brother. Ray is recently appointed to this new ministry and has really hit the ground running by also being elected to the executive of Vocations Ireland.

On more than one occasion on this blog I have mentioned that the Presentation Brothers in Ireland have made a significant contribution to the promotion of vocations in Ireland as well as to their own province, and more importantly have showed the way to other congregations and orders as to how it can be done. We owe them a great debt because of this. Please drop by the blog and say hello.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dominican vocations 'bursting at the seams'!

No! Not the Irish province of Dominican friars (although we have the largest number of friars in training for many years) but the Dominican Province of Saint Joseph in the USA. The photo above and the extract in italics below is from the vocations blog of that province. The best wishes of Irish Dominican Vocations goes to them.

In humility and gratitude, we are happy to report that the Province of St. Joseph is continuing to attract vocations. As you can see from the picture above---taken last week when the novices from Cincinnati were visiting with the student brothers in Washington---there are currently 40 young Friars at various stages of religious and priestly formation. The House of Studies and the Novitiate are bursting at the seams! And next year's novitiate class is already shaping up to be the largest in decades!

The above photo reveals not only the blessing of numbers---for which we are thankful---but also the joy and enthusiasm the young Friars easily show for the life they have embraced. Of course, these blessings do not come to the Province without your prayers and generous assistance. Thank you for your prayerful support of all of the brothers in formation, and please continue to pray for vocations to the Province and to the Order.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Young and Not So Young Dominicans

A picture of some of us young (and not so young!) Dominicans who attended the recent Youth 2000 Christmas retreat in the Domincan College at Newbridge, County Kildare recently. Over 500 young people participated in the weekend of prayer and reflection in the days leading up to Christmas. For more on Youth 2000 see their website:

'Ten Things that Promote Vocations' - Vocations Awareness Week in USA

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) celebrate a 'National Vocations Awareness Week' each year. This year it runs from January 10th to 16th. To coincide with the week, the interim director for the Office of the Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the USCCB offers 'ten things' that Catholics can do to ptomote vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The first five 'things' are for all Catholics, the remaining five are directed towards those discerning a vocation. They are set out below and give very good advice, even if those of us on this side of the Atlantic might find the tone and content to be 'very American'!

For all Catholics:
1. Pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Jesus says in Matthew 9:38 “to beg the master of the harvest to send laborers into the vineyard.” If we want more priests, sisters and brothers, we all need to ask.

2. Teach young people how to pray. Pope Benedict XVI said that unless we teach our youth how to pray, they will never hear God calling them into a deeper relationship with Him and into the discipleship of the Church.

3. Invite active young adults and teens to consider a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life. A simple, sincere comment should not be underestimated. An easy way to do this can be remembered by four letters: ICNU. “John, I see in you (ICNU) the qualities that would make a good priest, and I want to encourage you to pray about it.” It is a non-invasive way to encourage openness to a religious vocation.

4. Make it attractive. Show the priesthood for what it truly is – a call to be a spiritual father to the whole family of faith. Similarly, the consecrated life for a young woman is a call to be united to Christ in a unique way, and to be a spiritual mother to those she encounters in her life and service. The challenge for priests and religious is to be joyful models of their vocations.

5. Preach it, brother! Vocations must be talked about regularly if a “vocation culture” is to take root in parishes and homes. This means, first and foremost, the people need to hear about vocations from priests through homilies, prayers of the faithful, and discussions in the classroom. Vocations kept out of sight are out of mind.

For those considering a vocation:
6. Practice the faith. We all need to be reminded that the whole point of our lives is to grow in a deep, intimate and loving relationship with God. This is the first step for any young person desiring to discern any call in life.

7. Enter into the Silence. Silence is key to sanity and wholeness. We can only “hear” the voice of God if we are quiet. Take out the ear buds of your iPhone, iPod, and iTunes and listen to God, the great I AM. Young people should try to spend 15 minutes of quiet prayer each day – this is where you can begin to receive clear direction in your lives.

8. Be a good disciple. Some bishops say, “We do not have a vocation crisis; we have a discipleship crisis.” Young people can become true followers of Jesus Christ by serving those around them. By discovering your call to discipleship, you also discover your particular call within the Church.

9. Ask God. Ask God what He wants for your life and know He only wants what is good for you. If, in fact, you are called to the priesthood or consecrated life, it will be the path to great joy and contentment.

10. In the immortal words of a famous sneaker manufacturer: “Just do it!” If you feel that God is inviting you to “try it out,” apply to the seminary or religious order. Remember, the seminary or convent is a place of discernment. You will not be ordained or asked to profess vows for many years, providing ample opportunity to explore the possibility of a call to priesthood or religious life.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

2009 - A Look Back

The New Year is well underway. Before looking forward to the year ahead, I thought it might be appropriate to take a look back at the important events for Irish Dominican Vocations in the past twelve months:

January 2009: A number of vocations weekends were organised in some of our priories during this month. A total of 35 men visited our communities at different stages throughout the year to come to know more about our life and ministry in the Irish Dominican province. The large numbers attending these weekends reflects the high number of enquiries to the Vocations Office during the past twelve months. For the second year in a row, over 60 new enquiries concerning vocations were made by individuals and subsequently processed.

February 2009: Our Dominican nuns at Siena Convent, Drogheda, Co. Louth began their very fine blog The nuns are a tremendous source of strength and support for the friars of the Irish Dominican province and in particular to myself as vocations director. They warmly welcome the many enquirers that I bring to Siena and are very helpful in the sharing of their time and resources in introducing potential new friars to the spirit of the Dominican family.

March 2009: The highlight of this month was the hosting of a day for men and women interested in the four branches of the Dominican family in Ireland (nuns, sisters, friars and Dominican laity). It was held in our priory of Saint Saviour's, Dorset Street, Dublin in mid-March. It attracted almost 20 men and women to find out about the life, work and ministry of the Dominicans in Ireland. This event, which was organised as part of the Dominican contribution to the Year of Vocation, highlighted the strong working links that have been forged by the vocations promoters of the Dominican family in Ireland.

April 2009: For anyone involved in vocations ministry, Vocations Sunday each year is the highlight and particularly so this year because Vocations Sunday marked the end of the Irish church's Year of Vocation. There was a mixed reaction to the year set aside to highlight the vocation of all. Some felt that it put vocation back on the agenda, while others thought that much more could and should have been done. Whatever the reaction, I was happy with the Dominican contribution to the year and am deeply grateful to all who gave of their time and energy in the various projects and events that were organised.

May 2009: Vocations weekends and the preparation of candidates for admission to the novitiate were the main concerns and highlight of May 2009. It became apparent as the year progressed that we were going to have a significant number of applicants to join our novitiate in September. This is the culmination of a long process of discernment for the candidates/applicants and there is much work to be done in preparation for interviews. It is the responsibility of the vocations director to make sure that all the advance preparations are made for the process of admission. For me, this was the month of 20 hour working days and over 20,000 kilometres of travel! Sadly, this month also saw the publication of the Ryan report into institutional abuse of children in the care of religious orders in Ireland. It painted a painful and shameful chapter of Ireland's recent history.

June 2009: Much of the month of June is taken up with the process of admitting candidates to the novitiate. It is a lengthy and thorough procedure. The friars of the Province who make up the membership of the admissions board certainly had a lengthy task this year. However, it was a very worthwhile piece of work when the outcome revealed that the Province would be receiving thirteen novices in September. June also saw the launch of the Year for Priests. The initiative was launched by Pope Benedict on the feast of the Sacred Heart as a year of prayer for priests taking the life and writings of Saint John Vianney as a model to follow.

July 2009: Thankfully, July is a relatively quiet month on the vocations front. Among vocations directors there is always the issue of whether it was a good year or not in terms of numbers. It must be said that 2009 was an exceptional year for vocations in Ireland. The number of seminarians entering the National seminary in Maynooth was up considerably - the highest number in some years. The number of candiates entering religious life was also up significantly on previous years. For the Irish Dominican friars, preparations were underway to move our novitiate from its present location in Limerick to its new home in Saint Mary's, Pope's Quay, Cork in anticipation of the arrival of our thirteen novices.

August 2009: Time for a brief holiday! I was reminded during this month while travelling around the country and abroad of the need for prayer for vocations. There has been an upsurge in the number of groups of people praying for vocations - in prayer groups, parishes, churches, communities and homes. 'Pray the Lord of the harvest to bring labourers to His harvest.' I remain more convinced than ever of the need for continuous prayer for vocations. Without prayer, certainly no vocations.

September 2009: No doubting the highlights of this particular month: the solemn profession of Brother David Barrins OP, the simple profession of Brothers John Leigh and Joseph Brady, the reception of our brother novices Stephen Cummins, Gary Burns, David McGovern, Damian Polly, Ronan Connolly, James Cassidy, Patrick Desmond, Stephen Jones, Daragh McNally, Conor McDonough, Sean Oberc, Stephen Hackett and Eoin Casey.

October 2009: On the road again. October is a month for the preparation of schedules for promotion in various colleges and educational institutes around the country - finding opportunities, times and dates to promote the Dominican vocation. This is an area that is neglected somewhat and for which I wish I had more time and resources. It is essential work though. October also saw the canonisation of a new Dominican saint fr Francisco Coll.

November 2009: Preaching engagements along with visits to other congregations and religious communities around the country coupled with the regular monthly meetings with enquirers/candidates are the mainstay of this month. I would say that my work has evolved over the past few years to be 80% accompaniment and 20% promotion.

December 2009: Just as the year started with the organisation of vocations weekends, so the year concluded in that fashion as well. Much of the month was given over to travel to the UK where a significant number of enquiries now come from. There were many meetings to attend this month as well, just as in every one of the previous eleven. In the context of the Irish church, December saw the publication of the Murphy report - a report which looked at the abuse of children by clergy in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

It was the best of years, and the worst of years. It was a very good year for vocations to the Dominicans in Ireland. For this, we thank God. It was the worst of years too following the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports and it will take the church in Ireland a very long time to recover from the contents of these. We must, however, keep focused on the job in hand - to preach Christ and His Good News in these times, whether the times are good or bad.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all readers of Irish Dominican Vocations. Regular blogging will resume on January 6th.