Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas

Irish Dominican Vocations wishes the many readers of this blog the joy and peace that only the Christ-child can give. My prayers are very much with the many people who support the work of vocations ministry for the Irish Dominican province. May the Lord continue to bless you and your families.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

God Bless You this Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hope in a Difficult Time

Please excuse the lack of blogging over the past few weeks. Anyone familiar with the happenings in the Irish church will appreciate how difficult it has been for people, for the church itself, for victims of abuse, for those in priesthood and religious life. There is a palpabe air of anger, hurt and disbelief shared by all concerned.

It is fair to say that Irish Catholics have endured dreadful humiliation in recent years as revelation upon revelation of sinfulness and wrong done by those entrusted by the Church has been exposed for all to see. There is an awful sense of betrayal too by those who have held leadership positions in the Church (and state).

While the church in Ireland is humiliated and has lost the confidence of many, the ongoing mission of bringing God to a broken world is needed as never before. The Good News of Jesus Christ needs to be preached 'in season and out of season'. As a priest, religious and Dominican, I share the shame and hurt that has been expressed by so many in the past number of weeks. As the director of vocations for the Irish Dominicans, I am acutely aware too of those who are considering the Dominican way of life at this time and their need for support and prayer. They, along with all the many others, need hope in this difficult time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dominican Blogs of Note

Two Dominican blogs have come to my attention in the recent past. Both are American and are worth a visit. For convenience, I will add them to my blog list.

The first blog ( is that of a group of Lay Dominicans in the USA. It is a good resource particularly for information on the saints and blesseds of the Dominican Order and it boasts an excellent link-list.

The second blog ( is one that I highlighted a long time ago. It is the blog of Br Paul Byrd OP, a Dominican brother of the Central Province in the USA. The blog gives an excellent account of the vocation of the Dominican brother and I recommend it highly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Full Time Vocation Directors Needed

For many years now I have been advocating the need for full-time vocation directors. I am fully aware of the desperate wrench that appointing such a full-time promoter or director can be for dioceses and religious orders when there are so many other needs to be met. In recent times in Ireland, I have noticed that some religious congregations have appointed lay staff in the roles of communication and of vocations ministry. This is a move forward. As far as I am aware, only two male religious congregations and one diocese in Ireland has a full time vocations director. Does this suggest that the Irish church is taking vocations promotion seriously? Hardly.

Evidence from around the world shows that when there is a concerted effort at the promotion of vocations and when a culture of vocations is fostered by a diocese or religious congregation that there follows, after a period of time, an increase in those interested in pursuing vocations and an increase in those taking the step to join.

So, instead of bemoaning the lack of vocations and suggesting that the Lord has stopped calling individuals to follow him through the path of priesthood and religious life, we would be far better off actually doing something about it. Having special committees to do more navel gazing will not solve the problem, neither will inertia, nor indeed will those who suggest that it is time for congregations to fade out (believe me I have heard this with alarming frequency). This really is the time for action. We need full-time vocation directors - otherwise we are failing in our responsibility to carry out the call of Christ to bring labourers into the harvest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Church Attendance and Religious Practice on the Rise in Ireland

A recent poll commissioned by the Iona Institute and conducted by the reputable Red C market research company confirms what many in Ireland have been experiencing - that people are returning to the church. The increase in church attendance is small but significant compared to a similar poll carried out in early 2008. An analysis of the findings can be found by clicking this link

Since the findings of the poll suggest that young people (despite the common perception) are not turning away from the church in large numbers, it begs the question as to how best the Irish church can engage with young people. The results of the poll also would lead one to believe that with the right engagement and with proper encouragement and challenge that some of these young people would consider the option of a religious and priestly vocation as a viable and real choice.

(Thanks to David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, for permission to use the links above on this blog).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Communications Problem

There is a fault on the telephone line to the Vocations Office at +353 1 8602791. The problem should be resolved within a couple of days. In the meantime, it is probably best to communicate by email to

Apologies for the inconvenience that this causes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Continuing Good News on Vocations in Ireland

Brother Kevin Mascarenhas makes final profession in Waterford

There is continuing good news on the vocations front in Ireland. Elsewhere on this blog you will have read of the 38 seminarians who began their studies for priesthood in seminaries in Ireland and abroad. 13 men also joined our novitiate in Cork in September.

Five men, one of them from Ireland, began their novitiate with the Capuchins in Oxford in England recently. A brief report on this happy event can be seen on the International Capuchin website here. The Irish Dominican friars rejoice in this good news.

I am also aware that two men began their postulancy year with the Pallotine congregation in the past number of weeks. The vocations page of their website can be seen here.

I note too that there have been final professions of some sisters of apostolic congregations in the recent past. Congratulations from Irish Dominican Vocations to Sr Siobhan O Keeffe of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary who made final profession in Cork in September. A report on this event can be seen on the website of Vocations Ireland. The Dominican sisters of the Cabra congregation recently celebrated the final profession of Sr Suzie O Rawe OP at a ceremony in Cabra in Dublin. Our best wishes and prayers to Sr Suzie. A report with some photographs of the event can be seen on the website of the Cabra Dominican sisters.

Finally, there was immense joy at the solemn profession of Presentation Brother Kevin Mascarenhas (pictured above) in Waterford recently. The Presentation Brothers in Ireland have been leading the way in vocations promotion in this country for the past few years and this event will no doubt be the springboard for better things to come.

All of this good news will hopefully inspire those involved in vocations ministry in Ireland in the months ahead.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mass for Young People at Saint Mary's Priory Church, Cork.

Our brother novices at Saint Mary's Priory, Pope's Quay in Cork are organising a number of Masses for young people in our priory church over the coming months. The dates in 2009 are November 3rd and December 1st. In 2010, the Masses will be celebrated on January 12th, February 2nd, March 2nd, April 6th, May 4th, June 1st, July 6th and August 3rd. For further information you can contact the Dominican novices at +353 21 4502267

Preaching Saint Martin de Porres

There is great devotion to Saint Martin de Porres in Ireland and many of our communities hold novenas and other days of prayer in honour of the Peruvian Dominican brother around this time of the year (his feastday is November 3rd). His life is an inspiration to many and part of the reason for the devotion to Saint Martin is because of the many human qualities that he used for the benefit of others and in the service of God. He is no ordinary saint and his life story challenges many to think about their attitude to violence, racism, justice, care of the sick and obedience - among other things.

On a personal note, I have great devotion to Martin de Porres. One of the reasons I came in contact with the Dominican Order was through the Saint Martin Magazine which is a monthly publication promoting devotion to the great saint. Twenty two years ago I replied to a vocations advertisement in that magazine - not knowing then that I would be a Dominican friar following in the footsteps of Saint Martin.

I have been priveliged to ask to preach the Saint Martin novena in our church at Saint Saviour's, Dominick Street, Dublin this year and also to preach at the triduum to Saint Martin in our priory church of Saint Eustace, Newbridge College in Co Kildare (November 2nd to 4th).

To see the list of devotional novenas and days of prayer in honour of Saint Martin in our Dominican churches throughout Ireland this year, please visit the Saint Martin Apostolate website here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Diocesan Vocations Directors AGM

Durin the next couple of days I am taking a break from the normal routine to join the Diocesan vocation directors at their annual general meeting in Kilkenny. I am very honoured by their kind invitation to attend and to speak on Practical Methodology for Discernment and Accompaniment during the conference. The diocesan vocation directors will be reflecting on the document In Verbo Tuo - this document arose of the European Continental Congress on Vocations in 1997. The authors of In Verbo Tuo set a two-fold task for vocation directors (1) to stimulate the development of a 'culture of vocation' in the Church and to establish structures that will support people in discerning God's call in their lives and (2) to actively and confidently promote the vocation to priesthood as a particular way of living and serving, to which God continues to call men today.

The diocesan vocation directors of Ireland deserve our prayer and support for the valuable ministry and work that they do on all our behalf. I am looking forward to meeting them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dominican Pilgrimage to Knock 2009

The annual Dominican pilgrimage to Knock Shrine in County Mayo took place today. In beautiful weather many thousands of people joined with large numbers of pilgrims from the various Dominican centres throughout Ireland. In his homily to a packed basilica, Fr John Harris spoke of the centrality of Christ during the apparation at Knock in 1879 and pleaded with all who visit Knock now to continue to keep Christ at the centre of our lives. Below are some images from the pilgrimage day.
Pilgrims gather before ceremonies.
The Anointing of the Sick

Fr John Harris OP preaches the homily during Mass

The statue of Our Lady of Knock is processed through the basilica during the recitation of the rosary.

Eucharistic Blessing

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dominican Sunday at Knock Shrine

The annual Dominican pilgrimage to Our Lady's shrine at Knock, Co. Mayo takes place next Sunday, October 11th, 2009. Pilgrims from all over Ireland, including many thousands of people who are associated with our churches and priories will attend.

The official ceremonies of the Dominican pilgrimage day begin at 2.30 pm with the Anointing of the Sick, Concelebrated Mass, Eucharistic Blessing and Rosary Procession. The preacher of the homily during the Mass will be Fr. John Harris OP, the Regent of Studies for the Irish Dominican Province.

We look forward to this annual and important event for the Dominican Order in Ireland. For information about the day, please see the Knock shrine website.

A New Saint For The Dominican Order

On Sunday next, October 11th, Pope Benedict will raise to sainthood Francesco Coll y Guitart OP (1812-1875), a Spanish Dominican friar who founded the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Below is a brief biographical extract of fr. Francisco:

Francisco Coll y Guitart, O.P. was born on May 18, 1812 in Gombren (Cataluna) Spain. He joined the Minor Seminary of his home Diocese of Vic in 1822. In 1830, he joined the Dominicans in the Convent of Santo Domingo de Vic. He made religious profession in 1831 and was ordained a priest on May 28, 1836. He died in Vic on April 2, 1875. He was a popular preacher of missions in various dioceses of North Eastern Spain. Those who knew him characterized his life by his fervent zeal for preaching; he prayed long hours, studied, and dedicated a great deal of time to preparing the sermons for his missions. He believed in the efficacy of collaboration in preaching missions. Hence, he collaborated with diocesan priests, Jesuits, Claretians, Augustinians, and fellow Dominicans in preaching missions, and novenas. His missions were popular with Bishops and diocesan priests. He was a friend of Saint Anthony Mary Claret with whom he founded the “apostolic fellowship” for evangelization in 1846.

Another saint of the Order through whose intercession we can pray for an increase of vocations to the various entities of the Dominican family.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thirty Years On....

On this day thirty years ago Pope John Paul II arrived in Ireland for a three day visit. It was historic for many reasons. I was twelve years old at the time and I wanted to go to Galway for the large gathering of young people. My parents didn't allow this to happen as I was too young. I remember watching the visit of the Pope on television. Much of what he said went over my head, but even as a 12 year old, I remember being so impressed with his appeal in Drogheda for an end to violence.

Who will forget the words : 'Now I wish to speak to all men and women engaged in violence.I appeal to you in language of passionate pleading. On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace. You claim to seek justice, I too, believe in justice and seek justice. But violence only delays the day of justice. Violence destroys the work of justice. Further violence in Ireland will only drag down to ruin the land you claim to love and the values you claim to cherish. In the name of God I beg you: return to Christ, who died so that men might live in forgiveness and peace. He is waiting for you, longing for each one of you to come to him so that he may say to each of you:your sins are forgiven; go in peace'?

Much of what Pope John Paul had to say was directed to specific groups of people during the pastoral visit. In looking at his speeches and homilies while he was in Ireland, he didn't specifically mention vocations, but he never let any opportunity pass to encourage people to get to know Christ better as can be evidenced by this extract to the youth gathering in Galway:

Something else is needed: something that you will find only in
Christ, for he alone is the measure and the scale that you must use to
evaluate your own life. In Christ you will discover the true greatness
of your own humanity; he will make you understand your own dignity
as human beings ‘created to the image and likeness of God’ (Gen
1:26). Christ has the answers to your questions and the key to history;
he has the power to uplift hearts. He keeps calling you, he keeps
inviting you, he who is ‘the way, and the truth and the life’ (Jn 14:6).
Yes, Christ calls you, but he calls you in truth. His call is demanding,
because he invites you to let yourselves be ‘captured’ by him
completely, so that your whole lives will be seen in a different light.
He is the Son of God, who reveals to you the loving face of the
Father. He is the Teacher, the only one whose teaching does not pass
away, the only one who teaches with authority. He is the friend who
said to his disciples, ‘No longer do I call you servants... but I have
called you friends’ (Jn 15:15). And he proved his friendship by layingdown his life for you.

These words uttered in Galway are as relevant in 2009 as they were then.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Video of Reception of Novices

Video of Reception of Novices - Saint Mary's, Pope's Quay, Cork. September 14th, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Professions at Saint Saviour's, Limerick. September 15th 2009

September 15th, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, is the traditional date when the friars of the Irish Province make profession. In keeping with that tradition, today the Irish Dominican friars celebrated the first profession of our brothers John Leigh and Joseph Brady. Family members and a large gathering of Dominicans made the celebration a memorable event. Brothers John and Joseph have just completed their novitiate year at our Limerick community and as newly professed brothers now move to the studentate of the Irish Dominican Province at Saint Saviour's, Dublin to begin their formal studies.
Brother John is from County Laois while Brother Joseph is from County Wicklow. The profession of these two brothers completes a remarkable three days for the Irish Dominicans. Prayerful good wishes to all our brothers.

Brother Joseph Brady makes profession in the hands of the Prior Provincial

Brother John Leigh makes profession in the hands of the Prior Provincial

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reception of Novices. Saint Mary's Priory, Cork. September 14, 2009

The friars of the Irish Dominican province joyfully celebrated the reception of thirteen new novices at a ceremony in the beautiful priory church of Saint Mary's, Popes Quay today. It goes without saying that this is a very happy and significant day for the Dominicans in Ireland.

The novices are Brothers Stephen Bartolome Cummins (Cork), Gary Mannes Burns (Sligo), David Joseph McGovern (Louth), Damian Pius Polly (Dublin), Ronan Bernard Connolly (Kildare), James John Cassidy (Antrim), Patrick Stephen Desmond (Cork), Stephen Jordan Jones (Trinidad), Darragh Ambrose McNally (Wicklow), Conor Benedict McDonough (Galway), Sean Augustine Oberc (Detroit, Michigan USA and Kilkenny), Stephen Johannes Hackett (Cork) and Eoin Mary Casey (Laois).

These men now begin their novitiate year - a year dedicated to living Dominican life with a special emphasis on the spirituality of the Order. Irish Dominican Vocations wishes the new novices every blessing in the year ahead and asks regular readers of this blog to pray for these men as they continue discerning their call in the Order.

Below are images from the clothing ceremony.

Thank You

During these hectic days for the Irish Dominican friars, it has been notable that because of the professions of some of our brothers and the reception of the new novices, that many people have taken the time to pray for these men and for a continuation of vocations.

Yesterday, on my way to Cork, I attended a prayer service organised by the brethren of our Newbridge community in their church. This time of prayer was for vocations and in particular for Dominican vocations. It was very heartening to see so many people gathered for this purpose. I know that a similar event is being organised by the friars of our Sligo community this evening (September 14th). Indeed, I am aware that many other people will be joining us in prayer over these days.

To all involved in organising these events and to all those who take the time to pray for the Irish Dominicans and for vocations to the Irish Province, we say a heartfelt thank you. We know that without prayer that our efforts are somewhat empty.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Professions at Saint Saviour's, Dublin - September 13th 2009

Brother David makes profession in the hands of the Prior Provincial

Brother David in entrance procession

Brother David Barrins OP

Today, September 13th 2009, the Irish Dominican friars celebrated with joy the solemn (perpetual) profession of Brother David Barrins OP. The special event took place during the celebration of the Sunday conventual Mass of the community. David was joined by a large number of his Dominican brethren, along with many friends and family.

Bro. David is originally from County Sligo and worked in the financial services sector before joining the Order. David completed his novitiate at Saint Saviour's, Limerick in 2006 and since then has been assigned to our house of studies at Saint Saviour's, Dublin and is currently studying theology at Blackfriars, Oxford. Irish Dominican Vocations wishes David every blessing in the years ahead.

Earlier today during Lauds (Morning Prayer) Brother Matthew Martinez renewed his profession in the hands of the Prior of the Saint Saviour's Community.

Brother Matthew Martinez OP renews profession

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Professions and Receptions 2009

The friars of the Irish Dominican province will celebrate some significant events in the coming days.

On Sunday, September 13th the renewal of profession of Brother Matthew Martinez OP will take place during lauds (Morning Prayer) at 9.00 a.m. in Saint Saviour's, Dominick Street, Dublin.

Also on September 13th, the solemn profession of Brother David Barrins OP will take place during the conventual Mass at 11.30 a.m. in Saint Saviour's, Dominick Street, Dublin.

On Monday, September 14th (Feast of the Triumph of the Cross) 13 men will be clothed with the Dominican habit during the 11.00 a.m. Mass in St. Mary's Priory church, Pope's Quay, Cork.

On Tuesday, September 15th (Feast of our Lady of Sorrows), Brother John Leigh OP and Brother Joseph Brady OP will make their first profession during the celebration of the Eucharist in St. Saviour's Dominican church, Glentworth Street, Limerick at 11.00 a.m.

Please pray for these 17 brothers of ours during these days and continue to pray for vocations to the Irish Dominican Province.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Like to Know the Dominicans?

Regular readers might like to know of an upcoming event organised by the promoters of vocation for the Dominican family in Ireland, The friars, sisters, nuns and the Dominican laity in Ireland are hosting an open day for those who are interested in knowing about our way of life as nuns, laity, friars and sisters. It will take place in Saint Dominic's Retreat Centre, Ennismore, Montenotte, Cork (pictured above) on Saturday, October 17th, 2009. The event will begin at 9.30 am and conclude at 5.00 pm.

It will be an opportunity for men and women who are interested in the Domincan way to meet with and socialise with the friars, nuns, laity and sisters and to know more about how we live our lives as Dominicans. As always with these events, prayer and the celebration of the eucharist will be the high points of the day.

This blog entry is to give some advance notice of the event. Details of speakers and contributors are currently being finalised and you will be kept informed on the various websites and blogs of the Dominicans in Ireland in the coming weeks. Experience shows that these are popular days and early booking is advised. To secure a place or for more information you can email me at or Sr Breda at Siena Monastery in Drogheda at

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Good News on Vocations in Ireland......38 New Seminarians

From the National Co-Ordinator of Diocesan Vocations Fr Paddy Rushe:

Fr. Paddy Rushe, National Coordinator of Diocesan Vocation Directors, said that these figures represented the highest intake of new seminarians since 1999, and were almost double the number that entered in 2003. "I want to acknowledge the hard work of vocation directors around the country who have spent time, in many cases well over a year, guiding and directing these men and preparing them for this step in their lives. Despite ongoing challenges to the Gospel values in the modern world it is encouraging to see evidence that God continues to inspire people to answer His call of service in the priesthood," he said.

Most of the new seminarians will study at St Patrick's College, Maynooth with others studying in Belfast, Rome and Spain. Welcoming the new candidates, their families and friends to Maynooth, the President of the College, Monsignor Hugh Connolly, said: "It is truly wonderful to witness the generosity of spirit of our new seminarians as, at this time, the Church in Ireland has completed a ‘Year of Vocation' and we begin, together with all the faithful throughout the world, the ‘Year for Priests'."

The new students range in age from those who have just completed their Leaving Certificate to those in their thirties and forties who are coming from a wide range of employment backgrounds.

Bishop Donal McKeown, chairperson of the Vocations Commission of the Irish Episcopal Conference, also welcomed the news saying that it was an encouragement to all those in parish communities and other organisations associated with the promotion of vocations, who continue to pray for and promote vocations in many ways. "Priests don't just appear out of mid-air," he said, "they come from families and communities; they are sons, brothers and uncles; work colleagues and friends; part of a Christian community."

A breakdown, by diocese, of the 38 first year seminarians for 2009 is as follows:

Ardagh & Clonmacnois 2; Armagh 3; Cashel & Emly 1; Clogher 1; Cloyne 2; Cork & Ross 1; Down & Connor 5; Dublin 5; Galway 2; Kildare & Leighlin 2; Killaloe 2; Kilmore 3; Meath 4; Ossory 1; Raphoe 2; Tuam 1 and Waterford & Lismore 1.

36 new seminarians will begin studies immediately, with another 2 commencing during the first term. 30 new seminarians began studies for Irish dioceses in 2008, 31 in 2007 and 30 in 2006, 27 in 2005, 28 in 2004, 19 in 2003.

The students will be spread over St. Patrick's College, Maynooth; St. Malachy's College, Belfast, The Pontifical Beda College, Rome; and The Royal English College, Valladolid, Spain;
The St Patrick's College Maynooth is the National Seminary for Ireland and has been forming men for the priesthood since 1795, see the college website here.
The website for the Diocesan Vocations Directors of Ireland is available here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

NRVC Research - A Brief Analysis

The recent publication of the survey for the National Religious Vocations Conference in the USA (see previous post) has attracted much attention in the United States and also in this part of the world. The study and survey has confirmed what many are realising and can verify - namely that those following a religious vocation are becoming more traditional - in the positive sense of the word. The survey suggests that two-thirds of the new religious (male and female) chose orders who have maintained their unique identities, have chosen to wear their religious habit and who follow a traditional communal prayer life. This along with fidelity to the Church and its teaching are cited as very important.

In contrast, the survey also finds that those religious orders who have opted not to wear their religious habits, who have abandonded their monasteries, priories and convents and in some cases have diluted their charisms and become akin to social workers are those congregations and orders that are not attracting vocations.

Evidently, more religious vocations are needed. In Ireland there are vast differences in vocation numbers between dioceses (rural and urban). Also, while the number of men following religious vocations may be increasing, the number of young women is not showing the same upward trend. These issues need to be addressed.

In Ireland, the generation of religious that is absent coupled with the generation of Catholics who do not practise their faith in any meaningful way are being replaced by a newer and, it could be argued, more committed generation. It is of the highest importance that this new generation of religious and young Catholics are not stymied by a generation that is older and has lost its way. It is also unhelpful to classify, as many do, these young people as conservative or traditional. It is evident that Catholics can not be either strictly liberal or ultra conservative but rather that Catholics must reconcile both by respecting and handing on tradition but also seeing what is needed today. Religious orders and, by extension, the Church itself must not neglect the needs of today or ignore the value of tradition - otherwise it will fail in attracting men and women who have an earnest desire to preach the Gospel for our time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Current Religious Vocations Trends in USA

The National Religious Vocations Conference (NRVC) in the United States has in the past few days released a major survey/report entitled Recent Vocations to Religious Life.

It contains the results of a professionally conducted survey of almost 600 religious institutes in the United States and a survey of 1,568 religious who have entered in the past 15 years including those who are still at various stages of formation. It also contains the findings of focus group research conducted among religious institutes which have been successful at attracting and retaining new members.

The results of such a survey will obviously have resonances for us on this side of the pond. For vocations directors and those charged with attracting new membership to orders and congregations, the following quotes from the report should prove helpful. All the quotes are from the report under the section entitled: Best Practices in Vocation Ministry.

The research also suggests, however, that good intentions, sophisticated marketing
campaigns, and the investment of resources into vocation promotion alone will not attract new
members. It is the example of members and the community life, prayer life, and/or ministries of
the institute that most attract new members."

"Many of the successful institutes are characterized by a “culture of vocations” within the
institute. In these institutes everyone – not just the vocation director – has a sense of
responsibility for vocation promotion and is involved in and supportive of vocation efforts."

"Findings from the survey of religious institutes reveal that there is a positive correlation
between having a vocation director, especially one who is full-time, and having candidates and
new members in initial formation."

"Although the relationship is not as strong, having a vocation team is also positively
correlated with having new members."
" p.118

"Several new members mentioned vocation directors who they experienced as pandering
to them or giving them a sales pitch. Examples included promises of opportunities to travel and
assurances that they could do anything they wanted in terms of ministry. These new members
suggested that this was the wrong mindset and the wrong approach for those with authentic

"Both vocation directors and new members emphasized the importance of honesty and authenticity in presenting the institute and suggested that websites
and other promotional materials will be for naught if they do not match the reality in the institute."

"In particular, those [institutes] that sponsor discernment retreats are significantly more likely than those who do not sponsor
these retreats to have new members in initial formation and to be more successful in retaining
new members. It is important to note again that many young people today have little or no direct
contact with men and women religious. Discernment retreats and “Come and See” experiences
may be the first prolonged exposure to men or women religious for some of these potential
p. 120

"Results from the survey of religious institutes indicate that institutes that sponsor
vocation promotion and discernment programs directed toward college students and young adults
are more likely to have new members than those who do not sponsor programs for these groups.
Although the relationship is not as strong statistically, targeting high school students also appears
to have an impact on attracting and retaining new members."

"Findings from the survey of new members show that 40 percent of the men and almost 50
percent of the women first considered a vocation to religious life before they were 18 years of
age. More than a quarter of the women considered it before they were 14. These findings
suggest that vocation directors might want to consider targeting some of their vocation efforts at
those in elementary and high school. Anecdotal evidence from vocation directors also suggests a
possible trend toward considering religious life at a younger age than was the case even a few
years ago."

For further information on the survey/report and to download the findings please visit

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aspects of Dominican Vocation

A video of some of the friars of the Irish Dominican Province sharing some thoughts on Dominican life and vocation.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dominican Jubilee - towards 2016

The Dominican Order worldwide is planning to celebrate the 800th anniversary of its foundation in 2016 by focussing on various aspects of the Dominican charism in the years leading up to the jubilee. The focus for this year 2009 is 'Saint Dominic, Preacher of Grace' with a parallel reflection on the first verse of the Prologue to Saint John's Gospel: 'In the beginning was the Word' (John 1:1).

As we will celebrate the feast of Saint Dominic tomorrow (August 8th), I would like to bring to your attention the web resource of the Dominican jubilee which can be found at There are some very interesting reflections by various Dominican men and women throughout the world on the theme of Dominic, the Preacher of Grace.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Attitudes towards Vocations in Ireland.

I recently picked up a hard copy of Fr Micheal MacGreil's The Challenge of Indifference : A Need for Religious Revival in Ireland. It is a comprehensive survey of religious attitudes and practices in Ireland. It is published by the Survey and Research Unit, Department of Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, County Kildare.

The chapter on 'Attitudes towards Vocations' obviously caught my attention. The data and statistics contained in the chapter are concerned primarily with the response of Roman Catholics to the question :'If you had a son or a daughter and he/she came to you and said he/she had decided to become a priest/nun, how would you respond?' The findings to this question are interesting. 64.1% would greatly welcome or welcome with reservation their son to become a priest (the corresponding figure in 1988/9 was 79%), while 60.9% would greatly welcome or welcome with reservation their daughter to become a nun/religious sister (the corresponding figure in 1988/9 was 75%).

While in both cases there is a significant nominal drop (15%) the statistic can be seen in a positive light in that alomost two thirds of Roman Catholics in Ireland would welcome the news of their son's or daughter's decision to respond positively to his or her vocation to become a priest or nun. The statistic is also to be seen in the context of recent negative stereotyping of priests and nuns in some of the popular media and in the decline of frequency of religious practice in Ireland.

There is a wealth of information available in this survey which really ought to be chewed over by vocations directors of dioceses and religious congregations and orders. The substantial survey is available in Catholic bookshops now priced at around €15.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Good News on the Vocations scene in Dublin

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have great admiration for the Redemptoristine nuns (pictured above) who live nearby at Saint Alphonsus Road, Dublin 9. You will also know that this cloistered and contemplative community have been very successful in the past few years in attracting new members to their community. Last week, another significant event in terms of vocation and new membership took place in their community chapel, when Sr Maria received the habit and the veil of the Redemptoristine Order. Sr Maria is from Slovakia and she brings to five the number in formation in this community of thirteen. This is a remarkable achievement for these prayerful and joyful women. Sr Gabrielle (the sister in charge) tells me that there is a steady number of enquiries about their life and work.

To know more about the Redemptoristine nuns in Dublin, please visit their website here, and for more pictures of the reception of the habit of Sr Maria, please see their blog entry here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The continuing need to pray for vocations

I am always heartened to hear of groups of people who take on the responsibility to pray specifically for vocations to religious life and priesthood. Both evidence and experience point to the fact that the numbers of people, parishs, groups and communities engaged in vocational prayer are growing all over Ireland at a great rate. It is worth noting that the prayers of these people are not being left unheard. Although statistics and figures are not yet readily available to hand, it appears that in Ireland this year there will be a significant increase in new members to religious life (male and female) and to seminary.

I suspect that many will find this to be somewhat strange considering the very difficult situation in which the Irish church finds itself. However, it is the continuance of the prayers of ordinary people along with the inspiration of God that continually prompts people to respond in a generous way to follow the Good Shepherd. I have heard people question why young people would, in this current climate, test their vocation in the church in Ireland. I have also heard their motivation being called into question. It is evident to me and others in vocation ministry that those now testing their vocation are a much more mature, reflective and prayerful generation than in the past. A final, but very important point to stress is this: the new generation of candidates have never known the Irish church to be any other way than the way it is now: a broken church and a church beset by scandal. But they are acutely aware that the mission to spread the good news of the Gospel is needed now more than ever. That's the ultimate reason that they are making this radical choice at this time - and it is the reason why we need to continually pray for vocations.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is Ireland Losing Vocations?

There has been some coverage recently in the Catholic media in Ireland and Britain about the transferring of some candidates for priesthood (seminarians) and priests to a 'conservative' French (religious) community. The community in question appears to be the Missionaries of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Toulon.

It has been reported that many of the Irish bishops are concerned about this and that there is a broad agreement among the hirearchy in Ireland that Irishmen interested in the priesthood should be encouraged to join Irish based dioceses and congregations. It is estimated that 'a few dozen' Irishmen have joined congregations outside the Irish church in recent years.

While I agree that, as far as possible, men from Ireland should be encouraged to join Irish dioceses and religious orders in Ireland I am left with some questions. What is it that the dioseses, seminaries and religious orders and congregations are not offering to these men who undoubtedly have vocations? Is is tradition, authenticity, identity - or the lack thereof? And who can blame men (young and old) who seek to follow the Lord elsewhere when there is a distinct lack of interest in promoting vocations to priesthood and religious life in Ireland?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An anniversary...

Today I celebrated the 13th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. It was good to mark the occasion this evening with some of my Dominican brethren and others. I have much to thank God for!

Youth Festivals and Vocations

Vocations in Ireland, as one might expect, come from many different sources. It is something of a rarity to find vocations coming from the 'traditional' Catholic family. My experience is that young people who are curious about their faith and have a desire to express their Catholic faith often have to seek out other young Catholics and organisations in order for this to happen. It is for this reason that the new evangelisation movements such as Youth 2000, Pure in Heart and many others are a significant resource for young people. It is from involvement with these groups that the question of vocation will arise. Indeed, over the past number of years, these young Catholic organisations have been the foundation and inspiration for many vocations to religious congregations, both male and female.

The summer season sees many of these Catholic groups organise summer youth festivals. It is worth mentioning some of the upcoming events. You may be interested in attending one or all of them.

Firstly, there is a festival in Galway, which will last for two weeks (july 4-19) and is open to people of all ages. Several parishes in the city will be hosting a variety of faith based events - concerts, discussion groups, parish missions and joyful celebrations of the Eucharist. Full details are available at

Secondly, a festival open to those aged 18-35 years takes place at Knock Shrine from July 23rd to 26th. The theme is 'You are the Light of the World'. This event was hugely succesful last year and is expected to be even bigger this year. The various dioceses around the country are promoting this event and more information can be had by visiting

Thirdly, the Youth 2000 summer festival takes place at Clonmacnois, Co. Offaly from August 13th to 16th. Over 1,000 participants are expected to attend the event which will have a particular emphasis on the celebration of the Eucharist, prayer, concerts, a series of talks and witnesses and healing services. To find out more, please visit

Best wishes to all the organisers and participants of these events this summer!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Vocation Promotion DVD

One of the initiatives of the Year of Vocation organisers was to produce a DVD to promote the vocation to priesthood and religious life in Ireland. The DVD was launched in Armagh Cathedral on Sunday 3rd May 2009 (the final day of the Year of Vocation). The project is a joint initiative of the Diocesan Vocation Directors and Vocations Ireland (Association of the Vocation Directors of the Religious Orders in Ireland). The DVD, which will be a very useful resource for those working in the area of Vocations ministry and can also be used in parishes, schools, etc, is a series of interviews with diocesan clergy and religous men and women on their life, ministry and call. The disc is available from both associations of vocations directors (click their links above) and I have copies available. Feel free to contact me for a copy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Interviews for Novitiate 2009 : Completed

As mentioned in an earlier posting, interviews for admission to our novitiate took place in St Mary's Priory, Tallaght, Dublin 24, from June 12th to 18th. A special commission of the brothers of our province carried out the interviews. Thorough psychological assessments also formed part of the process.

The week of interviews marks, in a significant way, the end of the year for this vocations director. However, that is not to say that there is nothing to do until September! There are many men who continue to discern their vocation with a keen eye on us Dominicans, along with a number of new enquirers every month. This will keep me busy for the summer.

I would like to thank all those people who prayed for the successful outcome of the admissions process for this year. Secondly, I am indebted to the many people involved in the week of interviews and beyond. Finally, I would like to wish all who were interviewed last week every blessing for the future.

The novitiate year 2009-2010 begins on the feast of the Irish Dominican province, the Triumph of the Cross, Monday 14th September.


Lord Jesus, as once you called saint Dominic to preach the Gospel, so now send new preachers into your harvest.

Give them courage, wisdom and grace to make them witnesses of your death, resurrection and return in glory.

Through the intercession of Mary, patroness of the Order, may they bring true faith and light to brighten the darkness.

You who live for ever. Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Year for Priests

As readers will be aware, Pope Benedict has inaugurated a 'Year for Priests'. The year began on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 19th 2009) and will conclude one year later. In promoting this special year of prayer for priests, Pope Benedict has used the words and the witness of Saint John Vianney as a backdrop to a letter he has written to all priests. The letter opens up the depth and th beauty of the priesthood and below are two excerpts from that letter. The original can be found here.

"...In today's world, as in the troubled times of the Cure of Ars, the lives and activity of priests need to be distinguished by a forceful witness to the Gospel. As Pope Paul VI rightly noted, "modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses". Lest we experience existential emptiness and the effectiveness of our ministry be compromised, we need to ask ourselves ever anew: "Are we truly pervaded by the Word of God? Is that Word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that Word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this Word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking?". Just as Jesus called the Twelve to be with Him, and only later sent them forth to preach, so too in our days priests are called to assimilate that "new style of life" which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and taken up by the Apostles....

To the Most Holy Virgin I entrust this Year for Priests. I ask her to awaken in the heart of every priest a generous and renewed commitment to the ideal of complete self-oblation to Christ and the Church which inspired the thoughts and actions of the saintly Cure of Ars. It was his fervent prayer life and his impassioned love of Christ Crucified that enabled John Mary Vianney to grow daily in his total self-oblation to God and the Church. May his example lead all priests to offer that witness of unity with their bishop, with one another and with the lay faithful, which today, as ever, is so necessary. Despite all the evil present in our world, the words which Christ spoke to His Apostles in the Upper Room continue to inspire us: "In the world you have tribulation; but take courage, I have overcome the world". Our faith in the Divine Master gives us the strength to look to the future with confidence. Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Cure of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by Him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!...."

Friday, May 29, 2009

New website for Vocations Ireland.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with Vocations Ireland, the umbrella body for the male and female religious vocations directors in Ireland. The organisation has a two-fold purpose: (1) to support and animate the various vocation directors and their congregations and (2) to help discerners who feel called to religious life to find an appropriate congregation or order that suits their talents and gifts. Vocations Ireland has been very active in recent years in promoting the call to religious life and has been particularly successful in its mission to supporting the vocations directors by means of renewal courses, seminars, organised local meetings and liturgical events.

The organisation has recently launched their new website and is worth visiting. Congratulations to all concerned and I hope that it will continue to help those who are considering a call to religious life in Ireland.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vocations Weekend 22-24 May 2009

Apologies to the regular readers of this blog. I realise that it has been quite some time since the last entry. It has been exceptionally busy of late.

Vocations weekends are an invaluable part of the process of discernment for many of our enquirers and to that end we try to organise many such weekends over the course of the year. The next scheduled weekend takes place in our formation community at Saint Saviour's Priory, Dominick Street, Dublin 1. It begins on Friday evening 22 May and concludes on Sunday 24 May in the afternoon.

The weekend is fully subscribed. If you wish to be considered for such a weekend in the coming weeks and months, please email me at

Monday, April 27, 2009

Vocations Sunday 2009 - May 3rd. End of Year of Vocation.

Next Sunday, May 3rd is Vocations Sunday. It also marks the final day of the Irish church's Year of Vocation. The Irish Dominicans will mark Vocations Sunday and the end of the Year of Vocation by celebrating Mass at 11.30 am on that day at Saint Saviour's Dominican church, Dominick Street, Dublin 1. You are very welcome to attend.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Web Nuns

In Ireland, it is an accepted fact that vocations and entrants to female monastic/contemplative orders far outnumber new entrants to apostolic female religious congregations. This is a telling fact from which you can draw many conclusions. One obvious such conclusion is that young women who are discerning a vocation want to join an order or congregation that has a strong identity and a clear mission. Identity and mission are more readily and easily found in the monastic and contemplative tradition than with apostolic congregations. There aren't that many contmplative female orders in ireland - while there are a plethora of congregations of apostolic religious sisters. The serious decline in vocations to female apostolic religious congregations is alarming. Perhaps they could learn something from their contemplative and monastic counterparts?

Brought to my attention recently were three upgraded websites of contemplative female communities in various parts of Ireland. Thankfully, I have a connection with all three and would ask you to take a look and let them know that you visited! Firstly, the Poor Clare community in Nuns Island, Galway have given a makeover to their website Secondly, the Redemptoristine community in Drumcondra in Dublin have a new website at and finally our own Dominican nuns at Siena Convent in Drogheda have made some changes to their website

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

A very happy Easter to all readers of this blog. 1600 years ago, St John Chrysostom wrote the following as a rather beautiful summary of the resurrection:

Hell took a body, and discovered God.

It took earth, and encountered heaven.

It toook what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.

O death, where is your sting?

O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are destroyed!

Christ is Risen, and evil is cast down!

Christ is Risen, and angels rejoice!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of the dead;

for Christ, having risen from the dead,

becomes the first-fruit of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever. Amen!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Important Dates - Prayers Requested

The Irish Dominican Province have set aside June 12th to June 18th 2009 as the time for the admission process for those who wish to join the novitiate programme in September this year. These next few weeks are very important for candidates who are completing applications for this process and it is also a crucial time for our province as it prepares to accept new members. Your prayers for everyone involved are earnestly requested over the next few weeks.