Year of Prayer for Vocations

Published on May 2, 2023

The Irish Bishop’s conference has initiated a year of prayer for vocations to the diocesan priesthood. Prayer and priesthood are closely connected. Priesthood ultimately is about service fuelled from God’s Amazing Grace. A service that connects often in vulnerable moments of life, offering hope, comfort and consolation that God continues to be close to us. We live in dramatic times. The secularization of Irish culture has been both dramatic and swift. In a culture which prides itself on choice and freedom of the individual faith and faith practice has dramatically reduced. It is no longer possible to equivocate our community with parish. For the majority have made their choice not to engage in the faith life of local parish. Praying for vocations in such challenging environment is indeed a mighty act of faith. However, though our future as church will be dramatically different we must not be overburdened by anxiety of its eventuality.

Recently in Athlone and Clonmel, the Franciscan Friars after 788 years of faithful service to the people, have left their friary. They survived dungeon, fire and sword but not the vocations crisis. This reality is now felt in almost every parish on our island. The old structures and services supplied by clergy are no longer viable, simply because our model of church, as we know it, is dying rapidly. This is not a personal negativity, but rather a pragmatic observation by one who serves three parishes, trying to maintain similar services where 20 years previous, seven priests shared this responsibility.

Somehow, we are failing even in our maintenance to safeguard the health and well-being of tired, elderly, worn out clergy. The average age of clergy in Ireland is now well past 66, an age that’s deemed vulnerable by H.S.E. and where in all walks of life retirement takes place. There are 26 Dioceses on our island, all facing similar realities and yet failing to offer a cohesive, All Island, response to this vocation crisis.