Saturday, December 31, 2011

Irish Dominican Vocations - Review of 2011

2011 has been a very positive year for vocations to the Irish province of Dominican friars. The stand-out events for the past year were the reception of five novices in September to our novitiate (a further novice will be clothed with the habit of the Order later next month - January 2012), the first profession of three of our brothers during the calendar year, the solemn (perpetual) profession of another three of our brothers during the months of August and September and, of course, we had three of our brothers ordained to the priesthood in 2011. While the Irish Dominicans rejoice in the goodness of God to the province in recent years in terms of vocations, we are more than mindful that still much more needs to be done and that we have a duty to continue to attract men to our way of life for the preaching of the Gospel in our world.

Below are some further highlights of 2011:

January: The year began with the ordination to the diaconate of three of our brothers (Denis Murphy OP, Maurice Colgan OP and Brian Doyle OP) by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin in Saint Saviour's, Dublin on January 2nd. January 2011 was important too for the Lay Dominicans in Ireland - two new members were received in Dublin, which began a trend during the year - with new young members being received in Tralee and Kilkenny also.

February:  The Dominican nuns at Siena monastery in Drogheda, Co. Louth gave the habit to Sr M Cathy OP on February 2nd and she began her novitiate training. Pope Benedict issued in advance his letter to the church for Vocations Sunday 2011 - the theme being: Proposing Vocations in the Local Church.

March: The third annual Dominican family vocations day took place on March 26th in Cabra. This was an opportunity for men and women interested in the four branches of the Dominican family in Ireland to come together to meet the lay Dominicans, friars, apostolic sisters and nuns for a day of reflection and information. Irish Dominican Vocations also signed up to 'Twitter' in March and has been tweeting regularly since!

April: A historic event took place on April 16th in St Mary's priory church in Cork as our brother Stephen Cummins OP made his first profession. Stephen, who had been a priest of the diocese of Cloyne, became the first priest in 61 years to make profession as an Irish Dominican. It was also in April in that Irish Dominican Vocations received the news that he would be Rome bound for the first ever Catholic bloggers meeting in the Vatican organised by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

May: The first days of May were spent in Rome at the Catholic bloggers meeting in Rome. It was a unique experience and a great privilege to be there. To coincide with Vocations Sunday a new dedicated vocations website for the Irish Dominican friars was launched: May also saw the lauch of a new initiative of Vocations Ireland called 'Explore Away' - a discernment programme for men and women interested in religious life in Ireland. This was a welcome development.

June: There were three significant events during the month of June. Firstly, the Master of the Dominican Order, fr Bruno Cadore OP visited Ireland. I was delighted to have a brief private meeting with fr Bruno where we had a wide ranging discussion on all aspects of vocation ministry. He was very encouraging. Secondly, the Dominican nuns at Siena monastery in Drogheda celebrated the final profession of Sr Mary Teresa Dunphy OP. This blogger was especially proud of this event because of the fact that Sr Teresa is from County Laois! And finally, interviews for admission to the novitiate took place and were successfully completed.

July: The summer months bring some respite for vocations personnel, thankfully. However, in Ireland, as has been the case for my twelve years as vocations director, yet another report on the mis-management and mis-handling of abuse of minors and young people by the Irish church was published. This 'ongoing crisis' has been the constant backdrop for vocations ministry in Ireland for a long time now. It makes a difficult ministry even more difficult.

August: The highlight during August was the final profession of our brother Matthew Martinez OP in his native Trinidad. Some of the friars of the Irish province were in attendance, including this blogger for the joyful event. Bro Matthew has since returned to Ireland to continue his theological studies.

September: September was an exceptionally busy month. The ordinations to the priesthood of our brothers Brian Doyle OP, Denis Murphy OP and Maurice Colgan OP took place. In mid-September, the Irish Dominicans celebrated the soelmn professions of Luuk Jansen OP and Colm Mannion OP and the first professions of Paul Hughes OP and Alan Hopkins OP. Five men were received as novices in the Order and were clothed with the habit on September 14th. They were: Kevin O Reilly, Gearard Flynn, Murchadh O Madagain, Christophe Cole and Sean Crepin.

October: This month sees this blogger take off around the country and abroad on what is the 'real meat' of vocations ministry - meeting and discerning with candidates and taking the opportunity to promote the Dominican vocation in schools, colleges and third-level institutes.

November: Co-operation between the various branches of the Dominican family in Ireland is crucial to the promotion and fostering of Dominican vocations. I regularly meet with the vocation promoters of the other branches of the Dominican family in Ireland exploring ways to best do this. During this month I have been privileged to work with members of a new lay Dominican group attached to Queens University in Belfast who will be officially erected in January 2012.

December: This month is a continuation of the ongoing meetings with interested candidates and also planning and preparation for the first six months of 2012 take place. And this blogger looks forward to the Christmas holidays.

The year just gone has been overshadowed by one major event. It was the death of my beloved mother, Bridget Dunne, who died on February 23rd after a long illness. I owe much to her. She had a great love for the Dominicans and always had a keen interest in my work as vocations director. If you get to read to the end of this blog entry, you might just pause and say a prayer for the repose of her soul.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas from Irish Dominican Vocations

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers of this blog every joy and blessing. While Christmas is a joyful time, it also affords us an opportunity to look back and be thankful. The friars of the Irish Dominican province are extremely grateful for all the encouragement and support for their work and ministry and especially for vocations ministry. We are acutely aware that it is because of your help and prayerful support that we can continue this work. We thank God for those who have responded to the call of God to follow Him in the Dominican way, and pray that the Lord will continue to bless the Irish Dominicans with vocations in the year ahead.

Again, deepest thanks and have a blessed Christmas!

Fr Gerard Dunne OP

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dominican Vocation Events 2012

The Vocations office of the Irish Dominican friars is pleased to announce the following events for the opening months of 2012. Full and comprehensive details of all these upcoming events will be posted in the coming days.

Sunday January 15th 2012: A prayer initiative for Dominican vocations will be launched. An icon of Saint Dominic has been commissioned and will be used as a focus of prayer in the many Dominican locations throughout Ireland. It is envisaged that those who worship and pray in our churches and centres throughout the country will join with us in praying for vocations to the Dominican way of life. It is hoped that this campaign of prayer will be a significant boost to the many groups of people who already pray on a regular basis for vocations to the Order.

Friday January 20th to Sunday January 22nd 2012: The first formal vocations weekend for those interested in the vocation of the Dominican friars will be held at our novitiate community - Saint Mary's Priory, Pope's Quay, Cork. This is an opportunity for those discerning the call to follow the Lord as a friar to meet with the brethren and to enter into the life, prayer and work of the novitiate over the period of a weekend.

March 24th 2012: The fourth annual Dominican Family vocations day takes place at the Dominican priory of Saint Saviour's, Upper Dorset Street, Dublin 1. This is an opportunity for those men and women who are interested in the four 'branches' of the Dominican family (nuns, lay Dominicans, frairs and apostolic sisters) to come together for a day of information and reflection on the Dominican life, spirituality and charism. There will be guest speakers and all participants will get to meet with members of the various branches of the Order in Ireland. Booking is essential for this event.

Friday March 30th to Sunday April 1st 2012: The second formal vocations weekend for those men interested in the life of the Dominican friars in Ireland takes place. It will again be hosted by the Dominican community at Saint Mary's Priory in Cork city. Other vocation weekends on a non-formal basis are also arranged throughout the year by the vocations director.

For information on any or all of these events, please contact me at

Monday, December 19, 2011

'We have almost screamed at the Holy Spirit for vocations....'

An interesting article in the widely read Irish newspaper the Irish Independent this weekend carried the quote which is the title of this blog entry. The article was trying to predict what the Irish church might look like in the year 2020. It is worth quoting in full: "We have almost screamed at the Holy Spirit for vocations but He doesn't seem to be hearing us. Maybe He is saying there is a different way, which might involve dropping the rule of celibacy. When you weigh the value of celibacy against regular access to the Eucharist, obviously, in the theology of the church, the Eucharist is much more important. The leadership of the church has to start taking its head out of the sand."

The quote is from a Columban priest Fr Sean McDonagh who is one of the founders of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland. This association of priests represents around 10% of the priests in Ireland with approximately 500 members.

There are many reasons to be perplexed by the quote from Fr McDonagh but the suggestion that the Irish church has 'almost screamed' at the Holy Spirit for vocations is a downright untruth. In my 12 years as vocations director for the Irish Dominican friars I have had occasion on a weekly basis to travel the length and breadth of Ireland to attend Mass, meetings, gatherings of clergy, religious and lay people and all sorts of other  religious events and I could count on one hand the amount of times that I have heard a prayer for vocations to priesthood and religious life. This is hardly an experience of 'screaming' - it is more like a faint whisper. Fr McDonagh and I will clearly not agree on many things but we might on one issue - the distinct lack of leadership in the Irish church when it comes to vocations (by vocations I clearly mean priesthood and religious life). Let it be unambiguously said that in Ireland there is no plan, no strategy, no prayer, no leadership around vocations. In fact, if anything, the sacred calling is being completely undermined and watered down by the persistent attempts of leadership to promote co-workers, associates and other well-intentioned people. It is a pity that the untruths around vocations in Ireland are used to fuel other agendas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Redemptorist ordination is a sign of hope

The ordination to the priesthood of Derek Ryan CSsR at the weekend in Dundalk, Co. Louth is a sign of hope for the religious orders of men in Ireland. The fact that there are so few ordinations to the priesthood in our country means that such events are now big news in religious circles and in the media.

Ordinations and religious professions are signs of hope for the church and the world, but they ought not allow us to rest on our laurels as vocations ministers/directors. I am reminded of the words of Pope Benedict when he visited Bavaria in 2006. Speaking to priests and deacons he said, "We cannot simply recruit people by using the right kind of publicity or the correct type of strategy. The call which comes from the heart of God must always find its way into the heart of humanity. And yet, precisely so that it may reach into hearts, our cooperation is needed."

Vocational discernment begins in the heart of the individual. For it to begin and flourish, the primary task of a vocations director involves enabling young and not so young people to develop their relationship with God.

Vocations discernment then, has two core elements. Firstly, at some point the individual begins to feel a specific calling or simply a desire to serve God and others more generously. That personal discernment can lead to fear sometimes and even feeling uncomfortable. Secondly, the Church has a role to play in order to confirm signs of a genuine vocation. Usually, this begins formally with the vocations director and is carried through and brought to completion by the admission process ans the subsequent years of formation. However, a vocations director also has a crucial role in accompanying individuals - helping them to clarify their call, strengthening their commitment and allaying potential fears.

The hope and prayer of all of us is that the newly ordained priest will have received all the necessary support from vocation directors and formation personnel to bring him to this important step of his journey. Irish Dominican Vocations congratulates Fr Derek and the Redemptorist congregation in Ireland on this happy event.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Irish Dominican friars feature on is a unique website which was set up almost two years ago. The purpose of the website is to "inspire devotion to Jesus Christ by sharing Catholics' personal stories on the 'digital continent' that are rooted in fidelity to the Church through contemporary communication mediums."

One of the founders of is currently in Ireland. His name is Steve Seguin and is touring Ireland on bicycle with a view to tell the world about the Catholic faith in Ireland. I had occasion to meet Steve on a couple of occasions at the beginning of his journey. He is an extraordinary man with a passion for Christ and spreading the Good News. Perhaps he should be a Dominican!

Two of our brothers, Luuk Jansen OP and David Barrins OP feature on the website as Steve travels throughout Ireland. Brother Luuk explains his journey to becoming a Catholic and eventually a Dominican friar while fr David reflects on the faith of young people and being a chaplain in an Irish university in Cork.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

'Ears to Hear' - Irish Dominican Students

'Ears to Hear' is a series of reflections prepared by the student brothers of the Irish Dominican province. The series will have two online broadcasts per week, each consisting of a short reading from a spiritual classic , itself preceded by a brief introduction.

'Ears to Hear' begins with the season of Advent and is the result of the desire of our Dominican student brothers to make some spiritual classics of the Christian tradition accessible to those willing to listen over the internet. The first four weeks of 'Ears to Hear' will contain excerpts from the Church's cycle of formal prayer - from the writings of the saints and other Christian writers rather than from the Bible.

In launching 'Ears to Hear' the student brothers explained that the series would contain writings from a great variety of spiritual greats, from the Rhineland mystics to Saint Augustine of Hippo, from Saint Gregory Nazianzen to the many anonymous poets and preachers who have witnessed to the Truth.

To learn more about 'Ears to Hear', please visit the website of the Irish Dominican students here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Questions and Answers on Discernment.....

Many people who make contact with the Dominican friars in Ireland often ask what vocational discernment is about. For most enquirers it is a completely new experience. So, in answer to those who ask what discernment of a vocation is, I will try to answer in a question and answer format. I hope readers will find it helpful.

What is a vocation?
Vocation comes from the Latin verb 'vocare' which means 'to call'. It is a calling from God who made us, loves us and has a plan for each of us. Vocational discernment then is not just about making a lifestyle choice or a career path - instead it starts in faith where God is acknowledged as the source of a vocation. Fundamentally, discernment of a vocation involves God in the decision making process in two ways: prayer and listening (to God's will).

Does God give vocations to everyone?
In brief, yes. It is important to state at the outset that God desires our happiness. Those trying to understand vocation can find this hard to believe - sometimes fearing that God will ask us to do something that we will either hate or will not be able to do. The church reminds us that we are fulfilled as human beings through self-giving. So, vocation is not just something given to us by God, but also something we freely give to God and to others.

Am I turning away from God if I do not follow my vocation?
Discernment of a vocation helps a person to understand that because a vocation is something we give to God, then we must be free to make this choice. In our lives, God gives us a multiplicity of choices - marriage, religious life and the single life. We have the freedom to pursue all sorts of career paths. If we are not in a place in life where we are free to commit to a vocation (for example because of immaturity, or fear, or addiction) then we must face up to that knowing that the Lord will help us through the process. It is important that we must not believe, as many people in discernment do, that God will reject us if we make the wrong choice. While God does really call us to vocation, God also respects our freedom and never abandons us.

How will I know that God is calling me?
Many of the great spiritual people in the history of the church, including the saints and others, remind us that spiritual growth begins in self-knowledge. God will make us holy through our vocation - in other words, God will sanctify us. Generally, the grace of our vocation will build upon this nature. When we become aware of our gifts and talents and our weaknesses - these can help us in our understanding and insight of what type of vocations are possible and those that we should not pursue. Also, through prayer and other means, it is important to listen to our hearts and to be attentive to those relationships and activities that give us both a sense of peace and joy. Our desires and motivations are also quite significant - they can sometimes be the manifestation of the Holy Spirit showing us how to respond to God's call.When we are attentive in prayer and when our hearts are open, then we will heard God calling us more clearly.

What is the best way to prepare for discernment?
 Authentic Christian vocations are always rooted in Jesus Christ. In order to know as best as we can what God's will in our life is, it is of the highest importance that we first come to know Jesus Christ and begin to model our lives on Him. Those who wish to enter more fully into discernment must also encounter Jesus in the sacramental life of the church. So, regularly participating in the Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation are two ways in which to prepare for discernment. Before we are apostles, we need to be disciples!

Will my being active in the life of the church help discernment?
Yes. Very much so. It is of great benefit if an enquirer is involved in his/her faith community or parish or chaplaincy. It is by taking part in the life of the church that will inform, support and help a discerning person to naturally respond to the call of God.

Can I undertake vocational discernment alone?
No. You should really contact a vocations director - someone who has some training in assisting people discern their vocation. Also, friends and family members will always be able to give important insights and support. In fact, the more support the better in entering such an important process. Occasionally, the help of a spiritual director can also be helpful if deemed appropriate by the vocations director. Discerners should never forget calling on the saints in their prayer for assistance either!

Am I worthy?
This is the most frequent question posed by enquirers and those who enter into the process of vocational discernment. The simple answer is that nobody is. We are all very well aware of our sinfulness. The church reminds us and scripture tells us that whatever we have done in the past, God still can use us for his purposes. When you find yourself doubting and questioning your worthiness, consider who Jesus called around him. You will find yourself in good company!

When does vocational discernment end?
It ends when after a period of prayer, practical experience, information gathering, regular meeting with the vocations director and personal reflection have led a candidate to make a mature decision on whether to pursue a religious vocation or not. The majority of those who enter into vocational discernment do not end up entering religious life or seminaries - but the process of discernment leads them to a better understanding of where God is calling them to in their lives. For those who do opt to pursue their religious vocation, they enter into a process of admission into the order and congregation. Many who enter discernment do so looking for assurances, clarity and certainty. They will not find this but will find the necessary tools to help them come to an informed decision.

What topics are covered in vocational discernment and how long does it all take?
There are five primary areas that a vocations director should help you with. (1) Personal history and background. This will help and inform candidates and the order/congregation about the one who wishes to join. (2) Motivation - this is a wide area covering the spiritual, human, emotional, intellectual and psychological spheres. (3) Faith, God and the spiritual journey - this is a vast undertaking but is at the core of vocational discernment. (4) Information - the vocations director is responsible for making the Order/congregation known to the discerner by means of dissemination of information, regular visits to the communities and getting to know individual members and groups within the Order/congregation. (5) If discerning religious life, discernment will include an understanding of the vowed life and those core principles of religious life.

The time spent in discernment varies from person to person, but ordinarily it takes on year and occassionaly longer - depending on circumstances.

There are many other topics on discernment that could be dealt with, and I hope to address them in subsequent posts on this area.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dominican Family Ireland - Calendar 2012

The vocation promoters of the four branches of the Dominican family in Ireland (friars, contemplative nuns, lay Dominicans and apostolic sisters) have for the third successive year produced a calendar. Each year a particular theme is chosen to highlight the life of the Dominicans and any other important church events during the calendar year.

Next year, Ireland and the capital city Dublin will host the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. It will be a major event in the life of the Irish church and will draw visitors from all over the world. The Dominican family calendar for 2012 therefore has a strong emphasis on the Eucharist and its important place in our lives.

The calendar is beautifully produced and we are very grateful for the immense work carried out on behalf of the Dominican family in Ireland by our contemplative nuns at Siena monastery in Drogheda who are primarily responsible for its production. Copies of the calendar, which is free, will be distributed to all Dominican centres throughout Ireland in the coming weeks. If readers would like a copy, send me an email to and I will forward one to you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic

Saint Dominic was a man of prayer, both formally and informally. We are told that his nights were given to God in deep prayer. Dominic stood in prayer with his arms extended as if he were on a cross. During the days and more informally in the evenings, Dominic lived his prayer in service for others, always keeping in mind the reason why the Order was founded the salvation of souls. In the brief explanations below to the various ways in which Dominic prayed, we might remember that our own prayer lives, as Dominicans and those who would consider following the Dominican way, must extend beyond formality and into the practice of life situations. In attempting to do this, we incorporate the Gospel into our life's work and leisure so that our whole life is prayer.

The first way of prayer of Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic's first way of prayer was to assume a humble posture before God, one that emphasised his own lowliness before the greatness of God. Here we see Saint Dominic inclining his head before the altar of God.
The second way of prayer of Saint Dominic
The second way of prayer was for Saint Dominic to life face down before the altar of God reciting the verse from Saint Luke's gospel (18:13): 'Lord be merciful to me a sinner.' It is said that Dominic taught the young friars that if they were unable to weep for their own sins that there were many in need of God's mercy
The third way of prayer of Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic's third way of prayer was to perform penance by disciplining himself with an iron chain. The practice of this type of discipline may seem odd or extreme in our modern world but clearly self-discipline is needed and vital to mature spiritual growth. 
The fourth way of prayer of Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic had this fourth way of prayer that sees him remaining before the altar looking at the Cross with frequent genuflections. He had a deep confidence in the mercy of God for himself, for sinners and also for the young friars that he sent out to teach and preach. 
The fifth way of prayer of Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic's fifth way of prayer was to stand before the altar in contemplation with the palms of his hands turned inwards. Then he would clasp his hands and raise them to his shoulders all the while in fervent prayer. Again, he taught the friars by his example of prayer. It is said of Dominic that when he was travelling on the road that he would steal away, and standing still utter a word from sacred scripture.
The sixth way of prayer of Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic often prayed with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross. He would often quote scripture appropriate to this posture: 'O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried in the day and night before you....' It is said that he practiced this method of prayer on special occasions and also this way of prayer is the one remembered when he restored the life of a young man in Rome.
The seventh way of prayer of Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic was often found standing erect stretching his whole body upwards with his hands joined and raised towards heaven. Often he would open his hands as though in receipt of something. The friars would hear him praying aloud saying: 'Hear O God, the voice of my prayer when I pray to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy temple.' (Psalm 27)
The eighth way of prayer of Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic's eighth way of prayer involved thoughtful reading of scripture or scripture commentary. He would lose himself both intellectually and emotionally in this reading, sometimes whispering questions posed in the text. When reading the Gospels, Dominic would sometimes lean forward, make the sign of the cross as if thanking God for some spiritual insight. He would often weep as if overcome with the beauty of the word of God.
The ninth way of prayer of Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic practiced his ninth and final way of prayer while travelling, losing himself in prayer, meditation and contemplation as he walked. 
This is a brief introduction to the 'Nine Ways'. They show Saint Dominic as one who was zealous in his prayer and who had a simple and ascetic lifestyle. He responded to physical discomfort by praising God and made austerity into a form of prayer. More than anything these nine ways of prayer of Saint Dominic points us to the fact that the pursuit of worldly things is futile and that the primary importance for Dominicans and all of humanity is our spiritual union with God.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vocations Ireland AGM 2011

Tomorrow, Saturday 5th November, I will attend the annual general meeting of Vocations Ireland. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that Vocations Ireland is the umbrella organisation for the religious vocation directors/promoters for the religious congregations in Ireland. The organisation also represents the missionary societies, contemplative communities and other religious institutes with a presence in Ireland. The organisation is responsible for assisting vocation directors by organising appropriate seminars and conferences during the year. It also deals with enquirers about religious life and tries to match them with appropriate orders. It promotes religious vocations at various events across the county during the year. During the past number of months it has promoted and supported the ExploreAway project. It has a wide remit.

Having attended the bulk of the annual meetings over the past decade or so, it strikes me that the religious vocations personnel in Ireland are a very optimistic group. In a sense they have to be. Despite the modest increase in enquiries across the board to male and female religious orders, it has not significantly impacted on the numbers of new members joining. It would be easy to be downcast, even fatalistic. Vocation personnel are a resilient lot, although there is a high rate of attrition among them. Clearly, an organisation like Vocations Ireland is important as a support system and network for all of us. I am aware that some, though obviously not all vocation directors do not get adequate support from their congregations. For those working full time in this ministry, they will be aware that it is a distinctly lonely job and support is crucial.

Comparing Vocations Ireland to other comparable groups in various parts of the world is a fruitless exercise. Ultimately the upkeep and running of the office is dependent on the goodwill and financial assistance of the religious in Ireland, so the organisation does not have limitless resources. In an ideal world, the religious vocations directors would be best served if Vocations Ireland could have the capacity to be more pro-active in the promotion of the religious vocation. It would benefit hugely from having serious research done as an aid and assistance to short, medium and long term planning and strategies. The membership would also be served well by having personnel who are well trained in dealing with the various media available and by extension be a clear voice for the promotion of religious vocations. But I sense that we are a long way from that.

In the meantime, keep these vocation directors in your prayers. They are in great need of them!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 3rd - feast of Saint Martin de Porres

It is the feast of Saint Martin de Porres. He is my favourite saint. He is the reason that I am a Dominican. For years in our home we received the devotional Saint Martin magazine and it was in reply to an advertisment about Dominican vocations in the magazine that I made my intial contact with the Order. I am covinced that it was no accident.

When people think of Saint Martin they often sum up his life with a few words about his healing powers and his love of animals. To sum up the life of this great saint would be to do a great dis-service.

Among other things Saint Martin is the patron saint of interracial justice. Looking at the problems of our contemporary world through the perspective of Saint Martin's life, I believe that we can find many insightful answers. Our world is littered still with many injustices - Martin modelled a response to the injustices heaped upon him because of his mixed racial background. He showed us that our most important heritage is that of children of God, a heritage in which we all share equally. He saw each person as a child of God and served each the same, from the beggar in the street to the highest church or civil leader. His humility and gentle spirit fianlly brought him not only acceptance, but also reverence from people in all walks of life. In the beginning he was condescendingly called the 'black dog' but he was later carried to his burial place by people in the highest positions in his native Lima.

For those considering a vocation in general or indeed a Dominican vocation - Saint Martin is a model of perseverance in this regard. He had to fight hard to be accepted into the Order - he was not always treated very well by his brethren either - we often make mistakes of turning away the Saint Martin's who ask to be accepted. We would do well to take another fresh look at how the great saint would interpret it all.

Saint Martin, pray for us.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

World Youth Day 2011 - A Look Back

Some of the student brothers of the Irish Dominican province accompanied over 50 young adults to the World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid, Spain during the summer. On the way to Madrid they visited some important sites of note, including places associated with Saint Dominic and the beginnings of the Dominican Order. The first video below shows some of the highlights of the trip while in the second video the student brothers reflect on a successful pilgrimage.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Publication: 'The Dominican Way'

I have just finished reading a new book 'The Dominican Way' edited by Lucette Verboven with an introduction by English Dominican Timothy Radcliffe OP. It is published by Continuum, runs to just over 200 pages and is reasonably priced in Ireland at €12.95.

The author is a Flemish writer and film producer and interviewed 17 contemporary Dominicans both male and female about their lives as members of the Order of Preachers. It is a fascinating read, because almost all who are interviewed give an account of their reasons for joining the Order. Some are well known - Timothy Radcliffe, Jean Jacques Perennes, Kim en Joong, Helen Alford - others less so. But it is the contribution of Irish Dominican nun Sr Breda Carroll of the Dominican community at Siena monastery in Drogheda that caught my attention more than most. When asked in the interview for this book what her greatest joy is, she responds 'The joy of being here (in Siena monastery, Drogheda). If I had to start over, I would choose it again. The words that come to my mind are those of Blessed Reginald, quoted by Blessed Jordan of Saxony in his book the Libellus that tells the story of the foundation of the Order. He says that he had no merit because he experienced such joy in the Order. I can identify with those words: I love liturgy, Eucharistic adoration, community life. Living in community which hasn't always been painless, has brought me a great joy because we are basically a united community. I often wonder why God chose me from an insignificant family and an insignificant background to enter a monastery. I can only marvel at God's goodness to me.'

Sr Breda's contribution above in many ways mirrors those other Dominican men and women interviewed for this excellent book. It is a timely reminder for those interested in joining our way of life that there are a thousand reasons for wanting to be a Dominican but there is only one reason why we ultimately stay.

This book will now become essential reading for all new enquirers to the Dominican way of life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Upcoming vocations documentary on BBC television

Readers of this blog, especially those in Ireland and the UK, might like to know of an interesting vocations documentary to be shown on BBC1 on Tuesday next at 22.35.

Entitled Young Nuns, the documentary follows the stories of two women in their mid-twenties who are considering becoming nuns. The producer/director of the piece, Vicky Mitchell, gave an interview recently to The Tablet in which she gives some background and insights to those she interviewed in the making of the programme. She noted that one of the reasons for undertaking the project was because of a study by the National Office for Vocation of the Church in Engalnd and Wales in 2010. That study revealed that a small but significant incresase in the number of women joining contemplative communities. Ms Mitchell states: "I am ashamed to admit that when I started the project I had all sorts of preconceptions about the type of women who would choose to enter a convent, and conversations with colleagues and friends revealed that I was not alone. Most people assumed they would be either women who had led enormously cosseted lives or (and this was by far the most common myth I encountered) that they must be suffering from a broken heart or some other such trauma and looking to somehow escape the world. Both of these stereotypes were well and truly undrmined as soon as I started to meet the women in question."

During her research, the producer spoke to approximately 15 women who were actively discerning a vocation to reigious life. Ms Mitchell says that, without exception, they were all bright, independent, sociable and had great career prospects. Their backgrounds varied significantly - some were cradle Catholics, some were converts. When she asked the women what they were looking for in a community, they explained that, rather than fulfilling a list of their own criteria, it was about working out where God wanted them to be.

Those interviewed admitted that some congregations were more attractive than others. The majority wanted to wear a habit as a sign that procalimed their commitment, and they wanted to be part of communities that had an emphasis on daily community prayer. In trying to discover why women would make this radical choice in 2011, Vicky Mitchell concludes that these women feel called by God to devote their lives to him and that in so doing they will find a deep happiness and fulfillment that transcends all that they have given up.

Vicky Mitchell's interview in the preparation and promotion of the documentary gives me some hope that it will not set out to stereotype entrants and discerners to religious life at this time. I look forward to watching it.

Incidentally, in my eleven years as vocations director, I have been approached by a number of documentary makers who wanted to do something similar to this BBC programme. Unfortunately, religious orders in Ireland found it very difficult to consent to such requests. I am not sure of the reasons but one can speculate that there is a fear in exposure, a fear that religious would be shown in a negative light and an overarching fear that religious would not be able to control the content of the outcomes of such programmes. That is such a pity. I wish a similar type of documentary could be made in Ireland if for no other reaon than to put to bed the lie that those joining religious life and priesthood today are mad!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dominican nuns in Cusco, Peru - solemn profession video

The video above is of the celebration of the solemn professions of two cloistered Dominican nuns in Cusco, Peru. I was taken by the elaborate nature of the ceremony - something that we are not quite used to in our western culture. Also, the music accompanying the video caught my attention - the 'Flower Duet' - appropriate to the video.

Solemn profession in the Dominican tradition is the giving of oneself through the vows of povery, chastity and obedience to God in the following of Saint Dominic.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Irish National Vocations Director and team

 Newly appointed National Vocations Director Fr Willie Purcell, Bishop Donal McKeown and Fr Paddy Rushe.
Fr Willie Purcell of the diocese of Ossory has been appointed head of the new 'leadership team' of the National Conference of Dioceasn Vocation Directors in Ireland. He and his team take over from Fr Paddy Rushe (Armagh diocese) who has held this post for the past five years. Fr Willie will be assisted by Fr Eamonn Bourke (Dublin), Fr Ignatius McCormack (Killaloe), Fr Muredach Tuffy (Killala) and Fr Rory Brady (Raphoe).

In wishing Fr Willie and his team all the best in the years ahead, Irish Dominican Vocations would like to pay tribute and offer thanks to Fr Paddy Rushe the outgoing national director. Fr Paddy has done an excellent job in the promotion of vocations during a very difficult period in the life of the Irish Catholic church. His enthusiasm was vital during the Year of Vocation which took place during the middle of his term and the success of that venture is in many ways due to him. He has fostered strong links and deepened the relationship between the dioceasn vocation directors and the religious vocation teams in Ireland. It is fair to say that the Irish church owes him a real debt for his sterling service.

Roscrea Cistercians celebrate solemn profession

 Br Malachy during his profession in the Cistercian monastery Roscrea
In an era when vocations to the contemplative religious orders of men in Ireland are scarce, the news that the Cistercian community at Mount Saint Joseph Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary have celebrated their first solemn profession in nine years is heartening.

On Saturday last (October 15th) Br Malachy (Paul) Thompson who is originally from Finglas in Dublin made his final (solemn) profession in the presence of the Cistercian community and his family and friends. A sales manager for twenty years, Br Malachy entered the monastery in 2006 at the age of 41. Speaking after the profession ceremony, he said that despite his good career the question of vocation never left him. 'I battled it for years, but it kept coming back. It was a slow realisation that God was calling me to the monastic life.' Br Malachy's vocation story should give some encouragement to those men in their thirties and forties who feel that they have a vocation to not give up. It is clear that the Lord calls not just the young, but at various stages in life.

Irish Dominican Vocations congratulates Br Malachy and the Cistercian community at Roscrea and prays that more vocations will flow from this commitment.

Vocations 'App' launched by Irish Diocesan Vocation Directors

A new 'vocations app' that can be downloaded to a mobile device such as an Iphone has just been launched. This 'app' which is considered to be the first of its kind was launched yesterday by Bishop Donal McKeown (chair of the Vocations commission of the Irish bishops conference). The app was designed by Fr Patrick Rushe, the outgoing national vocations director and developed by a media company in Dublin. The purpose of the 'app' is to enable access to other social networking sites, to contact details for vocations directors in all the dioceses in Ireland, to test potential candidate's knowledge on vocation, to give answers to many frequently asked questions regarding vocation and to provide a news feed to the parent site of the National Conference of Vocations Directors in Ireland. For more information, click on this link.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, Bishop McKeown said that the 'app' was '...not just a church gimmick that will try to give the impression of modernity to something that is passe, a vain attempt to market something that belongs to yesterday.......but I hope that it will help some little groups of believers to exercise a prophetic role in the footsteps of Jesus who walked in the market place.'

Well done to all concerned! I downloaded the 'app' to my own phone yesterday and it is an excellent resource.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Interview with the Master of the Order - fr Bruno Cadore OP

 Master of the Dominican Order - fr Bruno Cadore OP
Some weeks ago, the Master of the Order fr Bruno Cadore OP gave an extensive radio interview to Radio Veritas. The interview is interesting because fr Bruno gives an insight into his vocation and how he came to be a Dominican and reflects also on the Dominican vocation today. The vocational aspect of the interview is well worth listening to and might resonate with those considering Dominican life at this time. fr Bruno was elected head of the Order just over a year ago at the General Chapter in Rome and will serve a nine year term

Radio Veritas is a Catholic radio station based in South Africa with a significant Dominican influence. You can listen to the interview by clicking the 'play' button in the box below.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dominican nuns in Drogheda offer vocation weekends

Sisters Mairead, Teresa, Kathy and Breda.
The contemplative Dominican nuns at Siena Convent, Drogheda in County Louth are offering the opportunity to women to experience their life, prayer and community living at two scheduled vocation weekends in the near future. The dates are 14th to 16th October 2011 and 11th to 13th November 2011.

These weekends are designed to assist women interested in Dominican contemplative life by means of conferences, opportunities for personal prayer and communal prayer, reflection and the chance to speak about vocational discernment with some of the sisters.

The sisters at Siena convent are the only community of contemplative Dominican women in Ireland. While the main focus of the community is prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, they are also engaged in other activities to assist with the upkeep of the community. The sisters have in the past year had two solemn professions and currently have one novice. For more information on the life and work of the nuns, please visit their website and blog. If you would like to avail of a contact form for these weekends, please click here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Irish Dominican friar is honoured by the Order

 Fr Paul Murray OP
A friar of the Irish province is to be honoured by the Dominican Order with the conferring of the Master of Sacred Theology.

The international website of the Order in announcing the news states that "On September 20th, 2011, the Master of the Order, fr Bruno Cadore, with the unanimous agreement of the General Council, promoted Bro. Paul Brendan Murray OP to Master in Sacred Theology. Bro. Paul belongs to the Irish province.....and is president of the Institute of Spirituality and lecturer in Spritual Theology at the Angelicum in Rome. In his letter announcing the decision, the Master of the Order writes: 'The promotion to STM (Master in sacred Theology) is a simple, family way we have in the Order of saying to one of our brothers who has laboured hard in the theological field "well done good and faithful servant" and a way of encouraging him to continue to do so. Paul Murray is a model for the young generation of how we can make theology really responsive to the big questions arising from the spiritual searching of our contemporary world.'

Irish Dominican Vocations joins in the congratulations to fr Paul on this excellent news. The Irish Dominicans have benefited greatly from his wisdom, fraternity and good humour. In the realm of vocations, I regularly give to enquirers fr Paul's book on Dominican spirituality The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality - A Drink called Happiness (Continuum, 2006) because it is in my opinion one of the best expositions of Dominican spirituality that I have come across.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Feast of our Holy Father Saint Francis

October 4th is the feast of Saint Francis Assisi. It is believed that during the Fourth Lateran Council in Rome in 1215 that Saint Francis and Saint Dominic met. Both saints would go on to found a new form of religious life which would be both apostolic and mednicant - the friars. Traditionally members of both Orders call both saints 'Holy Father'.

For hundreds of years, there has also been a custom where the Dominicans invite a Franciscan to preach on the feast of Saint Dominic, and likewise the Franciscans invite a Dominican to preach on this feast-day.

Irish Dominican Vocations joins with the many who would like to wish all Franciscans and members of the Franciscan family every blessing on the feast of our Holy Father. With these best wishes is a prayer for an increase in vocations to the various entities of the Franciscans.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Videos of recent Dominican events

The team at Dominicans Interactive have produced  high quality videos of some of the recent events celebrated by the Irish Dominican friars. This first video shows the reception in the Order of five men in Saint Mary's Priory, Cork on September 14th last and also there is footage of the first profession of Br Paul Hughes OP.

The second video shows the ordinations of Fr Denis Murphy OP and Fr Maurice Colgan OP at Saint Saviour's Dominican church, Dublin on September 19th

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Healthy year for religious vocations in Ireland

In a time when vocations are not high on the agenda in Ireland, it is more than heartening to observe some new life when it comes to the male religious orders in Ireland. Even though the numbers may appear small to observers, the new trickle of vocations might yet signal a renewal of some kind. The old adage that 'vocations attract vocations' could well be responsible for the slight rise in new entrants this autumn. I am aware that this news item only carries news about male religious that I know of and makes no reference to female religious orders and their entrants. I would be grateful for any news about this so that balance can be maintained.

 In the meantime, our fraternal wishes go to our Franciscan brothers who recently celebrated a first profession and weclomed pre-novices to their province. They are pictured above.
Our congratulations also to our Capuchin brothers who recently received the first profession of Br Liam Quinn - pictured above. May our holy father Saint Francis guide him and the Capuchins in Ireland.
The Benedictines in Glenstal Abbey (pictured above) in the past two weeks received the first (simple) monastic profession of Br Emmaus O' Herlihy and also received Bro Jacob (James Leonard) as a novice in their community. Our best wishes to them.
Recently two Irish Pallotines, Patrick Carroll and Sean Jones renewed their Pallotine consecration during a ceremony in their Dundrum community. The Pallotines have a number of men in formation.

As has already been documented widely in the media at the end of August, 22 men joined the National seminary in Maynooth - a moderate rise on the 2010 figure.

As the new academic year begins, please keep all these men in your prayers as they try to discover where the Lord is calling them to as they follow the different paths that they have been called to.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Two New Priests

The Dominicans in Ireland celebrated in Dublin today, Sunday 18th September, with the ordination of two of our brothers as priests.

The archbishop of Dublin, Most Revd Diarmuid Martin, ordained the two Dominican friars in the celebration which was attended by many Dominican friars, family and friends of the two brothers and parishioners of Dominick Street parish.

This solemn celebration brought the number of priestly ordinations for the Irish Dominicans this month to three, following that of Brian Doyle, o.p., in Murrintown, County Wexford on 3rd September by the bishop of Ferns, Most Rev Denis Brennan.

Fr Denis Murphy is originally from Graine, near Urlingford, County Kilkenny and is a graduate of Carlow College.

Fr Maurice Colgan is from Edenmore parish, north Dublin, and worked for many years in social services before joining the Order.

Below are some images of the ordination ceremony.

Brothers Denis and Maurice lying prostrate before the altar as the Litany of the Saints is chanted.

 The archbishop lays hands on Brother Denis.

The archbishop lays hands on Brother Maurice.

The prayer of consecration: the brothers kneel before the archbishop while all the priests stretch out their hands towards those being ordained.

 Father Denis' hands are anointed with the oil of chrism.

 Father Maurice is presented with the bread and wine for the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Fathers Denis and Maurice concelebrate Mass with the archbishop - their first time celebrating Mass. 

To read the archbishop's homily, see the Dublin Diocesan website:
Media are welcome to use these images once they are credited to Irish Dominican Vocations blog. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Irish Dominicans celebrate first professions

Left to right: Fr Philip McShane OP (novice master), Bro Paul Hughes OP and Bro Alan Hopkins OP

The Irish Dominican province has reason to rejoice again today as two of its brothers have made first (or simple) profession in the past twenty four hours. Yesterday evening (September 14th) during solemn vespers in Saint Mary's Dominican church in Cork, Brother Alan Hopkins made first profession. Brother Alan who hails from Tallaght had originally joined the Order in 2002 and rejoined the province last year. We wish Alan every blessing as he begins this new phase of his Dominican life.

Then today, during the conventual Mass Brother Paul Hughes made his first profession in the hands of the prior provincial Fr Pat Lucey OP. Bro Paul has completed his novitiate year and now moves to our house of studies at Saint Saviour's, Dublin. Paul is originally from County Westmeath but has lived in the UK for the past number of years prior to joining the Order. We wish Paul every blessing also.

These are joyful days for the Irish Dominicans and we ask you to keep our brothers Paul and Alan in your prayers and we ask you to continue to pray for vocations to the friars of the province.

As always, bloggers and other media are welcome to use the images in this blog post as long as they are credited to Irish Dominican vocations blog'

Below are some images from the simple professions of our brothers:

Brother Alan Hopkins OP makes first profession

Brother Paul Hughes OP makes first profession in the hands of the prior provincial

Saint Mary's Dominican church, Cork where both professions took place

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Irish Dominicans receive five new novices

September 14th, the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, is also the feast of the Irish Dominican province. It is on this day that traditionally new novices are received into the Order. In keeping with that tradition, today the Irish Dominican friars received five novices in a ceremony of clothing during the conventual Mass in Saint Mary's Dominican church, Pope's Quay Cork.

The five novices received today are Gerard Flynn, Kevin O' Reilly, Fr Murchadh O Madagain, Christophe Cole and Sean Crepin.

Gerard Flynn is originally from Clonmel in Co Tipperary. Before joining the Order he has been lecturing in a teacher training college in Dublin. He has recently completed a doctorate in theology.

Kevin O Reilly from Dublin has been lecturing in philosophy both in Ireland and overseas for some years.

Fr Murchadh O Madagain is a priest of the Galway diocese and has held various positions in that diocese. He holds a doctorate in theology (spirituality) from the Dominican university in Rome - the 'Angelicum'.

Christophe Cole is from Trinidad where the Irish Dominicans have had a presence for over 100 years. He is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and has been working in the communications for the diocese of Port of Spain in recent years.

Sean Crepin, also from Trinidad has attended the University of the West Indies and in recent years has held a teaching post.

The Irish Dominicans anticipate receiving one further novice in the coming weeks bringing to 6 the number of novices for the province in 2011-12.

Irish Dominican Vocations wishes our new brother novices every blessing in the year ahead as they take the first steps in their Dominican formation. Please pray for them and for vocations to the friars of the Irish Dominican province.

Bloggers and other media are very welcome to use the images in this blog post, but are asked to credit Irish Dominican Vocations blog

Below are some images from the clothing ceremony today:

The five postulants prostrate themselves prior to receiving the habit of the Order
Gerard Flynn is clothed by the prior provincial
Kevin O Reilly receives the habit of the Order
Fr Murchadh O Madagain is clothed
Christophe Cole receives his habit
The prior provincial clothes Sean Crepin
The rosaries of the five new novices are blessed