Saturday, May 26, 2007

Vocations Sunday 2007

The fourth Sunday of Easter (29 April 2007) each year is given over to the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. To lead us into prayer and reflection, we are invited to look closely at and meditate on Christ the Good Shepherd.

The image of Christ as shepherd is appropriate as we imagine Christ as our leader, but also the one who cares and calls. It is a comforting image, but one that is equally challenging.The challenge is to all followers of Christ to follow Him in whatever state of life we find ourselves - whether it is as married, single or religious people.

The very nature of our baptism into the Lord demands it. I am convinced that to live out this call of baptism we have to constantly question our own response to that call. Even more importantly is the call of each one to be leading others to Christ. This is a demanding but essential aspect of our individual vocation.

I am reminded this Vocations Sunday of a story from Timothy Radcliffe OP, former Master General of the Dominican Order when addressing a group of vocations directors in Ireland a couple of years ago. He suggested that in order for any vocation to take root or indeed to flourish one must have two things - passion, and secondly passion! By this he meant that one must have passion in one's life for something - whether it is music, or drama, or reading or sport. But secondly, and more importantly that one must have passion for Jesus Christ and his Gospel. I agree with him and am praying earnestly this weekend for those who have that same passion.And finally, pray for us vocations directors on this day - and our work!

Take a look at and if you have a little time!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The power of prayer

We had a gathering of a large number of Dominican friars of the Irish province in St. Mary's Priory, Tallaght recently to discuss (as part of our ongoing formation) the importance of prayer in our lives. It was organised by our promoter for ongoing formation in the Irish province, fr. Ronan Cusack OP. The meeting consisted of inputs on an evening before a full day of prayer and reflection for those who wished to take part - a mini-retreat of sorts!

One of the inputs was given by two Dominican nuns from Siena monastery in Drogheda, Co. Louth. In a powerful and moving presentation, both sisters gave us a rare insight into the singular importance of prayer in their daily living. In listening to them, it was so very evident that their prayer permeated every aspect of their religious life. But it was the naturalness of it all for these contemplative nuns that struck me most. I felt humbled.

I shouldn't have been surprised though. I fell the power of their prayer very profoundly in my own ministry of vocations promotion. I know I would be less well off without their prayer!

There's good news for the nuns too - one of the novice sisters makes first profession on May 31st. We could return a prayer in thanksgiving for this great event in the life of Monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena, Drogheda. May God bless them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An American Perspective on Vocation Promotion

I note with interest that Vocations Ireland (an umbrella body which promotes the vocation of religious men, women and missionary congregations in Ireland) is organising two weekends for interested vocations directors in late August and early September on the 'Ferdinand' model of promotion. These weekends will take place in the Emmaus Retreat Centre in Swords, Co. Dublin.

The 'Ferdinand' model is based on the work of the Benedictine sisters in Ferdinand, Indiana, USA who spend much energy and time in promoting vocations through prayer, direct contact, marketing, communications and other methods - with a great deal of success.

Many Irish congregations, male and female, have sent delegations to Ferdinand over the past number of years to learn how these sisters have been approaching this awakening of vocations to their form of life. The experience, I know, has been valuable, but the translation of the success of the Ferdinand sisters has not always been easy to replicate in the Western European context. I am delighted then to hear that two of the sisters from Ferdinand will be leading these weekends in Dublin. I look forward to attending them in the hope that we can learn from each others experience.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Vocations Weekend in Tallaght

The Dominican community at Saint Mary's Priory, Tallaght (pictured) hosted the latest vocations 'live-in' weekend from May 5th to 7th 2007. Four men from various parts of the country (Kerry, Donegal, Sligo and Laois) were attending. They were introduced into the life, prayer and work of this community as part of the weekend. They were joined by some of our student brothers on the Saturday morning to learn of the younger friars experiences. On the Saturday afternoon, they visited our community of friars in Drogheda and were warmly welcomed by the Prior, who gave an inspiring talk on his own life as a Dominican. After this, they joined the Dominican contemplative nuns in 'Siena' monastery for evening prayer. They departed after lunch on Sunday having had a rich experience of our life and work.

As a vocations director, these 'live-in' weekends are an invaluable resource to those who are curious about our way of life. The old adage that 'there is no substitute for experience' is appropriate here. Candidates who are seriously considering becoming Dominicans should really see a Dominican community in action, and get to know the friars. It is humbling to hear the brethren tell of their own vocation stories - and I have no doubt that it impacts hugely on those who are interested.

All in all, this was a succesful weekend. To date, 12 enquirers have attended weekends this year. Further weekends are planned in some of our communities in the coming months.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Quarter of a Million Kilometres

I returned to Dublin this evening and noticed that I have clocked up 90,000 kilometres on my two year old car - a Nissan Almera. It set me thinking about the amount of time I spend travelling. In the past seven years I have travelled about 250,000 kilometres around Ireland on vocations ministry. This doesnt include the many air miles travelled for the same purpose.

This week of travel was a typical one: On Sunday, I travelled to my hometown of Portlaoise, on Monday to Navan for a vocations meeting, Tuesday to Belfast to meet with a prospective candidate, Wednesday to Sligo to meet with a new enquirer and Thursday to Galway for a similar meeting. All in all over 1,000 kilometres. But this travel is essential - particularly to meet those who are enquiring about our way of life - whether they are new enquirers or those who I meet on a monthly basis! It is one of the most important tasks of vocation ministry - namely to get in touch as soon as a person makes contact about the Order. I realise the great effort it is for someone to make contact about vocation - the least we can do is return the courtesy immediately.

For many years I was closely associated with an association of vocations directors. From feedback from enquirers to that organisation, the greatest criticism of vocations directors was that they (vocation directors) were exceptionally slow to to respond to enquiries!! It never made sense to me - it still doesnt't! The quarter of a million kilometres so far has been worth it!