What's Your Story? - How Straightforward It Was!

It comes as something of a surprise to people today when I tell them that I always wanted to be a priest. I was convinced from a very early age, perhaps from about five or six, that joining the priesthood was my future destiny. The ordination of a neighbour when I was nine helped to solidify that calling and I never really thought of doing anything else throughout my primary and secondary school years.

Reflecting now on my own call to become a priest I am struck by how straightforward it was and how it was very much of its time. When I was going to school during the 1970’s and the early 1980’s the support for people in Ireland with such a calling was assured. No one questioned it or thought it odd. There were plenty of role models and examples of others in every locality who were ordained priests, or who were professed as religious, to work in the home or foreign missions.

The priests who worked in my own parish throughout my childhood and teenage years were kind and thoughtful men who did tremendous work within the community. The Christian Brothers I encountered in secondary school were of the same ilk. They were devoted to education and Christian formation. Fortunately, I never had any negative experiences of the Church or Church personnel, and I can only look back with gratitude for what they contributed to my life and the life of my family. Such a positive experience also contributed strongly to my own personal sense of vocation.

I went to secondary school in the Christian Brothers School in Kells, Co. Meath. By the time I got to 5th year there were about 50 students left in the Leaving Cert class. When the time came to decide on our future direction five of us in the class entered the priesthood and religious life. Three of us are still working as priests today. Two of us in Ireland and one in the USA. All of us knew that our parents would be supportive because they had nurtured our vocation and welcomed it. I was fortunate to also have an aunt who was my godmother and who was particularly supportive and encouraging. She gave me the confidence to follow my vocation and to realise that I could one day be a priest. These factors more than any contributed to my vocational choice.

There are many deep and complex reasons for the poor response to becoming a priest or religious in the modern world, but one of the main ones is a lack of support from the families and from the community around the person considering their calling or religious vocation. I thank God that I grew up in the community and time that I did. It was a time when the environment was much more positive and nourishing for young people and not filled with the challenges and distractions that they have to face today. I pray that, despite all the obstacles placed in their way, more young people will trust in God’s call to serve in the priesthood and religious life. Just as important, however, is that those who are closest to the young person, family, and friends, will see the importance of their God given role to support and encourage them on their vocational journey.  




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