armaghpriest
"It's God who has brought me here..."
by armaghpriest.com on August 8th, 2017

​Ireland’s youngest priest takes up his new position as a curate in Portlaoise this week – the first time he will lived on his own as he makes his transition into his new surroundings.

Fr David Vard (25) was ordained in his hometown of Newbridge by Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin last month surrounded by his proud family and friends.

He is hoping to use his age and love of social media to appeal to a younger generation.
The Newbridge native who takes up his new post as a curate in Portlaoise Parish today, says that while he was not a regular Mass-goer as a teenager, a trip to Lourdes changed this and ultimately put him on his spiritual path.

“What I discovered in Lourdes was a real love, not just for the church and going to Mass, but for each other. I quickly realised that the source of this love for each other was the same thing, God,” Fr Vard told The Irish Times.

Fr Vard entered St Patrick’s College in Maynooth after his Leaving Certificate, in 2010 at Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge.

“I was 16 when I went to Lourdes and was one of the first times that I was away from home. I had a very honest conversation with our old parish priest, while I was there. I asked him questions like had he ever wanted a family, or did he regret being a priest. He answered honestly and a very small seed of thought entered my head.”

That seed of thought festered for more than a year but never left the young priest, and it was at 17 that he knew he had a calling.“Lourdes was the point in my life that changed; a lot of things in my life have pointed me in this direction, subtly. My favourite quote from the bible is ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.’ That’s from Jeremiah.

​“Some people say it’s a young life I have led and I don’t know anything but it is God that has brought me here. It’s taught me a lot of hard but good lessons.”

Fr Vard is one of three children. “I’m smack bang in the middle and I have two sisters. Rebecca is my older sister and Charlotte is my younger sister,” says Fr Vard. “I first told my mother Liz on April Fool’s day when I was 17 and she cried so I told her it was a joke, but a few weeks later I told her it wasn’t a joke. I never remember telling my father David, it just kind of came out.
“My mother could see the change in me when I came back from Lourdes but she later told me it was the same cry she would have had if I was going to be married. They were tears for me growing up.”

Telling his friends in school was also an easy thing for the young priest, as he told them during a night out and they were accepting. “This was 2010, and all my close friends were happy for me. We were all going off on our own journey. They were more surprised that it took seven years for me to become a priest,” smiles Fr Vard.

Moving to Portlaoise is an exciting move for the young curate who has never lived on his own before.“I’ve never had to do stuff like pay a bill and I’m not a great cook but it’s going to be interesting. There are a lot of challenges ahead but this is my path. I feel more pressure to be a priest rather than that I’m 25.

“I like music and hanging out, I play tennis and I golf and enjoy social media. Maybe I’ll become the Snapchat priest of Ireland where I can reach more people,” adds Fr Vard.

The new curate says that he has great admiration for Pope Francis and the fact that he has taken his message to social media.“The pope is a great inspiration of how to reach out to a new generation. I hope that people will be able to come to me to seek advice and guidance and not see my age as a deterrent. “The fact that the pope is on Twitter and Instagram is something new and refreshing about the Catholic Church. It’s not something that we have seen in the past, the pontiff speaks from the mind.”

Fr Vard recalls his time training at Maynooth and the seven-year journey it has taken him to become a priest. “I made some very good friends very quickly in Maynooth but I suppose it was a little strange. I was 18 and the oldest in my class was 65, so there was a bit of a difference.

“There was only 15 of us so you’re very close, there was one time when I was doing my pastoral placement and ours was in a nursing home. There was me in my early 20s, the 65-year-old and a 30-something trainee priest. We looked like a family coming in to visit, the dad, son and grandson,” laughs Fr Vard.

Carrying on the family name was something that may have been a little difficult for his family.
“I guess carrying on the family name is something all parents want their children to do. The fact that I have two sisters means that my family namesake ends with me, but I have a firm belief that this is my path in life.”

Fr Vard says he looks forward to the moments that lie ahead for him in his new parish in Portlaoise and welcomes the challenges ahead.

(Originally published here: ​https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/state-s-youngest-priest-looking-forward-to-challenge-ahead-1.3172517)



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