This weekend is a time for prayers for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Every year on Good Shepherd Sunday, in the middle of the Easter Season, we pray that the seed of vocation will awaken a call in those the Lord is inviting to dedicate their lives to ordained ministry in the Church. Traditionally we don’t speak so much about the priesthood of all the baptised, but rather focus on the ordained and the consecrated on this particular Sunday.
In the Ireland, in times past, this call to serve the Church found a response in every town and village and most families, so we not only had an abundance of men and women in clerical and religious garb walking among us, on the streets, in our schools, hospitals and institutions but we had such a surplus that many went on the missions and ministered far from home.
All that is changed utterly. Clonliffe College closed 21 years ago as our diocesan seminary and next Tuesday the chairs we sat on, the plates we ate off, the church benches we prayed on, will all be auctioned off. The building, sold for development, will soon become a refuge for people arriving from Ukraine and the former seminary will be bursting at the seams once again, but this time women and children will be part of the community!
Our way of being church was too dependent on priests, but now we are coming to a crisis, the model is still reliant on the priesthood, for sacraments and leadership, and we simply have no vocations at all to this way of serving God and the Church. The remaining men in ministry cannot carry on without radical change and undoubtedly this will require a new level of participation, involvement and responsibility of men and women, rooted in that same priesthood of the baptised. Our Building Hope reflection may awaken new ways of being church together. Please don’t sit back and watch, step up and get involved, that’s our vocation today.