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.