by on June 22nd, 2016

A speech given by our newest deacon, Rev. Barry Matthews, at our recent seminar on the vocation to the priesthood:

Friends, I come from a family where my siblings are not what we might call ‘Gospel Greedy’ – this of course is more common now, I think this represents the fact that it is from a sense of individual faith and calling that men are answering the call to priesthood – one thing I will say is that in terms of family and friends – I have received unquestionable support – I have realised that while, I was ordained - it was indeed  my family and friends – some might say my first formators who were chosen and called. Indeed the entire faith community plays a role in the formation of a priest – Since arriving in Dungannon following the Ordination last week, I baptised 4 children and presided at Benediction all with the aid of the lay community who had more experience than I had.
Early on in my formation when people would ask about my journey I used to tell them I had a ‘very unusual’ route toward Maynooth. While this may be true at one level it is also true that nobody has an ‘ordinary’ journey – each person is unique – each person is called by God from a different place and each priest with his unique style has 100 parishes where the people of God will relate to him.

​Well to tell you a little about how I came to enter formation for the Diocese – well it happened in 2011 – of course a long story but I will try to shorten it. I had been discerning with the Jesuits – I had met many Jesuits and felt that their spirituality appealed to me (seeing God in all things) – the notion that God is everywhere and in everyone was something that I connected with – unfortunately I am ashamed to say that sometimes this truth is not always evident in the Church at large however through prayer and reflection I realised that indeed this is a spirituality for all not just for those called to the Jesuits – my discernment with the Jesuits was God’s way of letting me know He had other plans.

There was two moments that stand out in my discernment with the Jesuits – firstly was one evening speaking with a few student Jesuits – they referred to diocesan priest’s as ‘Sacrament Dispensers’ - this stunned me – stunned me enough to reflect at length on it – I think what I realised was that priesthood is simply about the imitation of Christ – ultimately it is about mirroring His actions – and Jesus administered sacraments – Jesus was close to those whom He ministered to.

Secondly many of you will have heard of Fr Michael Paul Gallagher – a Jesuit, he directed me on retreat for 8 days early in the summer 2011 – he told me to listen closely to my heart – my heart he said must be still and remain still – no-one else really knows whether it is or not but he said it is through this stillness that God communicates to us....

A lot of the discernment was completed by the time I plucked up the courage to speak to Fr Peter, our diocesan vocations director here in Armagh. Entering Maynooth was daunting – I had never even seen the place before I ‘moved in’ however this was a blessing as I was unaware of much of the politics that inevitably surrounds such a place. More recently then I was appointed onto the Bishops’ Council for Vocations while in seminary and during this time we spoke at large about the struggle to get young men to even discern priesthood.

My own view is that there needs to be a relational aspect – individuals are called – to be individual priests working collectively – people relate to simply being asked. Archbishop Eamon recalled on our first meeting how an Italian Archbishop told him that he makes a point to ask someone every day if they ever considered priesthood. – We can all do that – if not daily then weekly?

We need perspective – Seminary sounds daunting in an age where for example in DKIT (Dundalk Institute of Technology) in the academic year 2014/15 there was a huge 24% drop-out rate of first-years. Indeed in seminary too I joined with a class of 19 guys – 5 years later, 5 of those 19 are ordained deacons with 2 discerning religious life.... how do we make it less daunting – I think we need to emphasise that God calls us for life !! We are called to live the 6 years of formation as part of our life’s journey – some lads are put off by the academics, others because of very real personal commitments – such as mortgages etc. and are anxious about leaving jobs. As an accountant, I was aware of these issues too - however it is important for each of us to hand over such issues to God – who, if calling a man to priesthood will show a way forward.

Prayer – we all know the power of prayer, I believe there is only one thing more powerful than prayer and that is focused prayer. I know that people are praying for me by name – I can almost feel the support of individuals carrying me in prayer on my journey. For parish communities to focus on praying for ‘A priest’ and for ‘A vocation to the priesthood’ from their parish - this will give people ownership – it will allow them the opportunity to share the responsibility of the work of Vocations promotion

Finally – I think this is a good opportunity to thank everyone here for your prayers – I appreciate your support and hope that my ministry as a deacon and please God a priest will be fruitful – and I am sure with your continued prayers it will be.
Thank you.
(Pope Francis image from AFP / Getty)

by on June 20th, 2016

​On Tuesday June 7th 2016 the Armagh Diocesan Vocations Commission hosted a “Vocations Seminar” in the Synod Hall on the Cathedral grounds. Attended by over 70 people representative of organisations such as St Joseph’s Young Priests’ Society, the Knights of Columbanus, The Office for Adult Faith Development, our seminarians and many parishes throughout the diocese, the evening was an opportunity to review the programme for vocation discernment with a particular emphasis on discernment for priesthood. 

The evening was facilitated by Ms Dymphna Mallon and following an opening prayer an input was delivered by recently ordained Rev. Barry Matthews (deacon). Ms Mallon introduced the evening as being an opportunity to reflect on the role of the Vocations Commission and an opportunity to assess the best way forward in facilitating those called by God to respond with the generosity of heart required to enter fully the process of discernment/formation for priesthood.

Those gathered were invited to split into discussion groups where they were asked to reflect on a series of questions and representatives responded to the wider group in what was a robust, frank and honest assessment of the current situation and what those present could see as the pitfalls and opportunities going forward.

The evening was widely regarded by those present as an important event to begin a new approach to the promotion of vocations and a valuable exercise highlighting the support of people from every parish towards those discerning God’s call and a reminder of the level of support and prayer that seminarians receive.  


by on June 19th, 2016

​June 19th 2016 Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Following Jesus demands carrying the cross and waking in his steps.  Do you have the courage to be a follower?  Trust that Jesus will give you what you need. (Luke 9:18-24)

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr.Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email  
Prayer of Intercession: That we might recognise Jesus as the Messiah and choose to follow him more closely, Lord hear us…

by on June 12th, 2016

​Love abounds when forgiveness is experienced. Forgiveness frees one to follow Jesus.  Rededicate your life to Jesus. (Luke 7:36-8:3)  

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email

Prayer of Intercession: For Church ministers that they may offer and seek forgiveness, Lord hear us……….

(Image from

by on June 6th, 2016

​On the Feast of Corpus Christi this year (May 29th), 9 men from various dioceses throughout Ireland were ordained to the diaconate in St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, home of the national seminary for Ireland.

Among them was a native of the Archdiocese of Armagh, Rev. Barry Matthews, who hails from St Joseph's Parish, Dundalk.

Barry, the son of Noel and Joan entered seminary in Maynooth at the age of 29 having previously qualified as an accountant.  Barry was joined on the day of Ordination by his parents, siblings and friends in the College Chapel in Maynooth.

Bishop William Crean, bishop of Cloyne,  presided at the Mass and was the ordaining prelate. In his homily Bishop Crean reminded the new deacons that the eventual call to priesthood “is a privileged calling; to help people open their hearts and minds to accept the Lord Jesus, as the way and the path to living with purpose and meaning, through all the events of life.”

Monsignor Hugh Connolly, speaking after the Ordination, offered his encouragement, hoping that “each of them may experience God’s grace anew in their lives so that they will courageously proclaim the Gospel in word and deed, and go out to serve the people of God in their various dioceses with care and compassion.”

Om behalf of the archdiocese of Armagh, we extend our warmest congratulations to Rev. Barry and wish him every blessing in his ministry and in his ongoing formation for priesthood. We ask you to continue to keep Barry and all our seminarians in your prayers as they continue to discern God’s call in their lives. We also encourage you to continue to promote the vocation to priesthood in your families and communities and pray that those called will have the courage to respond generously. 

Ad multos annos Rev. Barry!

For more on the Ordination to the Diaconate in Maynooth this year, visit ​

The Nine New Deacons
After the Ordination Mass

Our Very Own Rev. Barry
and Members of His Family

Rev. Barry with Priests
& Seminarians from our Archdiocese

Rev. Barry, deacon

by on June 5th, 2016

​Jesus raises from the dead the son of a widow.  All are amazed.  God could be asking you to raise his people from the death of sin and despair as you minister to them as a priest. 

If you think God is calling you to serve Him in a very special way through the priesthood,
call Fr. Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email

by on May 29th, 2016

​Jesus asked, “Why do you not give them something to eat yourselves?” 

What do you have to offer to the hungry world? (Luke 9:11-17)

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email  

Prayer of Intercession: That we may live as the Body of Christ.  Lord hear us…

by on May 22nd, 2016

​The love of God is being poured forth into our hearts.  Open yourself to receive and share that love.  Is God calling you to spread love through a Church vocation?  (Romans 5:1-5) 

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr. Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email

Prayer of Intercession: For those discerning a call to priesthood or religious life, may they seek the wisdom of God, Lord hear us…

by on May 15th, 2016

​The disciples of Jesus made bold proclamations through the promptings of the Spirit.  What is the Spirit prompting you to do?  Be courageous and act on it! (Acts 2:1-11)

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr. Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email 

Prayer of Intercession: That through us the Spirit will renew the face of the earth, Lord hear us………..
(Image from ​

by on May 7th, 2016

Jesus promised his disciples that they would be clothed in power from God. 

As a follower of Jesus, you are also given that same promise. 

Pray for the grace to be a faithful witness. (Luke 24:46-53) 

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email
Prayer of Intercession: That through us the Spirit will renew the face of the earth, Lord hear us…….

(Image from ​

by on May 1st, 2016

​If we love, we know the presence of God. 

Take time to be aware of God’s loving presence. 

Are you open to the Holy Spirit?  (John 14:23-29)

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email  

Prayer of Intercession: For our church, may we reach out in love, trusting the Spirit’s lead, Lord hear us…


by on April 30th, 2016

  • Archbishop Eamon Martin announces Year of Mercy Rosary Relay in the Archdiocese of Armagh
  •  Join our #RosaryRelay - say a decade yourself and pass on the idea to others! 
  • To assist schools new rosary resources, including an engaging video of the Mysteries of the Rosary aimed at children, are available on

The Archdiocese of Armagh is holding a Rosary Relay during the month of May in schools and across the archdiocese as part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Announcing the prayer initiative, Archbishop Eamon Martin said “In my Pastoral Message for the Year of Mercy, I indicated my wish for schools throughout the diocese to participate in a Rosary initiative and this has become our Rosary Relay.  My vision is firstly to unite the pupils of the Archdiocese of Armagh in prayer during the month of May and then, through their example, to pass on the good news about the Rosary to families and others in the community.

“My intention is that across the Archdiocese as many young people as possible will learn to pray together a decade of the Rosary at 12 noon each day during the month of May.  Then, as if in a relay, they will pass on the story of the rosary to their families and friends.  The aim of this Rosary Relay is to engage the pupils and staff in the mysteries of our faith and to be part of what Pope Francis has described as an 'extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal' in this Year of Mercy”. 

Why not offer a rosary for the priests, deacons and seminarians of the archdiocese, and especially for those discerning the call to the priesthood?


by on April 24th, 2016

God has chosen to dwell with us. 

How can you best share your gifts to reveal his presence? (Revelations 21:1-5)

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director on 028 37522802 or email

Prayer of Intercession: That our love for one another may be evident in our world, Lord hear us...

(Image via ​

by on April 19th, 2016

Some scenes below from the Mass for Vocations in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh on Saturday 16th April 2016. The principal celebrant was Archbishop Eamon Martin.

by on April 17th, 2016

​Pictures taken at St Joseph’s Young Priests Society Provincial celebrations in Armagh on Saturday 16th March.

The principal celebrant at the Mass was Archbishop Eamon Martin assisted by Rev Peter McAnenly and Rev Thomas McHugh. The Deacons were Rev Damien Quigley and Rev David Durrigan. The keynote speaker at the afternoon gathering was Sr Martina Purdy, Sister of Adoration, Belfast.

​St. Joseph's Young Priests Society is a Catholic lay organisation which exists to help student clerics on their journey to priesthood. The Society fosters vocations to the priesthood and religous life. It assists students for the priesthood both financially and by prayer. It promotes the vocation of the laity and fosters a greater understanding and love of the Mass.

More on the Society here: ​


by on April 17th, 2016

Who will shepherd God’s people? 

Pray that good leaders, filled with joy and the Holy Spirit, will serve our Church
(Acts 13:14, 43-52)

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director at 028 37522802 or email

by on April 12th, 2016

​An excerpt from Amoris Laetitia on formation for priesthood:

#203: Seminarians should receive a more extensive interdisciplinary, and not merely doctrinal, formation in the areas of engagement and marriage.

Their training does not always allow them to explore their own psychological and affective background and experiences.

Some come from troubled families, with absent parents and a lack of emotional stability. There is a need to ensure that the formation process can enable them to attain the maturity and psychological balance needed for their future ministry. Family bonds are essential for reinforcing healthy self-esteem.

It is important for families to be part of the seminary process and priestly life, since they help to reaffirm these and to keep them well grounded in reality. It is helpful for seminarians to combine time in the seminary with time spent in parishes. There they can have greater contact with the concrete realities of family life, since in their future ministry they will largely be dealing with families.

“The presence of lay people, families and especially the presence of women in priestly formation, promotes an appreciation of the diversity and complementarity of the different vocations in the Church” 

Source: ​

by on April 10th, 2016

​Jesus asks us, “Do you love me?” 

How do you show your love for Jesus in the way you live?  (John 21:1-19)

If you think God is calling you to priesthood,
contact Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director: 

028 37522802 or email

by on April 3rd, 2016

​Are you like Thomas?  Do you need to see to believe?  Pray for faith and trust.

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email  

Prayer of Intercession: For those discerning a religious vocation, May the grace of faith and trust guide them, Lord hear us…

(Image from

by on March 27th, 2016

​What stones are being moved away so you can be a minister of the Gospel? 

Who would you invite to consider being a sister, brother, priest, or deacon?  Spread the good news:
“Jesus is risen!”  (John 20: 1-9)

If you think God is calling you to priesthood, call Fr Peter McAnenly Armagh Vocations Director. 028 37522802 or email  
Prayer of Intercession: For all the deceased priests, brothers, sisters, and deacons, may their lives continue to bless our Church with life, Lord hear us…

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