The Catholic chaplaincy chapel at Queens University Belfast.Question: Where on the island of Ireland would you get over 3,000 students (generally aged 18-25)attending Mass on Ash Wednesday and who would queue up for confession throughout that day?
Answer: At the Catholic chaplaincy at Queens University in Belfast!
That is where I have been these past few days at the invitation of the Catholic chaplain at QUB, Fr Gary Toman, to preach the annual Lenten retreat for the Catholic students. This is my seventh time to preach the retreat in the past ten years and it is both a humbling and edifying expereience. Dominican friars have been fortunate to have been asked to take on the task of preaching this retreat here for almost the past thirty years.
For Dominicans, universities have been important places. From the beginnings of the Order, the friars were sent to universities to receive the best education possible and with the growth of the Order, many of the friars took up key positions as professors in the disciplines of theology and philosophy throughout Europe. They made a significant contribution - in fact many vocations emerged from the university system because of the influence of the brethren.
Given that many vocations come to the Order generally, and to the Irish province of friars from men who have been through the university system, it has been an important task of this vocations director to try and promote vocations at third level colleges, institutes and universities. The new thinking generation of men (and women) of Catholics who are emerging from these institutes and colleges regularly ask for a more visible presence of religious to help them in their faith journeys but also to challenge them in discerning their vocations in life.
This is a crucial work for vocations personnel and we would be negligent if we did not respond to this need!
For more information on the Catholic chaplaincy at Queens University, Belfast, please visit www.qubcc.org