Message From The Assistant Priest
Sunday 6th May 2007
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTERTIDE + 6TH MAY 2007. MONTH OF MARY
Last week I forgot to preach about vocations. In fact, for some reason of which I haven't yet got to the bottom, I do not think that I realised that it was both 'Good Shepherd' and 'Vocations' Sunday. On that Sunday, apparently, you are supposed to preach about your vocation. As I have been given the airtime now, then I am able to do it now, in this weekend's bulletin.
Most of you know that I was ordained a priest last summer, in fact on 22nd July 2006, Feast of St Mary Magdalene. It was the crowning event, you might say, of eight years' preparation. I never wanted to be a priest. Even when I entered the seminary, I did not want it. In fact, I was hoping that once interviewed, the Bishop would say to me, 'OK, thanks very much, but no thanks'. That would have suited me. But he did not say that, and so I found myself packed off to Spain.
I say 'eight years' preparation. By that I mean the eight years that I spent in seminary (place of formation of priests). But my family have been an influence on my calling. So that is 24 years of preparation before entering the seminary. I come from a large family by today's standards (two parents, four sisters and two brothers; those at St Edward's and some at St Kentigern's will know Elizabeth who also, for reasons that I shall let her explain to you if you want to ask her, finds herself within a stone's throw of her elder brother most days (she hasn't yet thrown any, thank goodness)). Anyway, my family has been a great influence on me. All of us still 'practice' the faith, which is testimony to the upbringing given by my parents. Both parents have always been very active in our home parish. My two brothers served at the altar for a very long time. I never did.
After completing a History degree at Manchester University in 1997, I began asking myself, what on earth should I do now? And like every procrastinator, I said, 'I know, I shall take another year to think about it, and do more study'. So I entered continued studies, doing a Masters in Medieval History. But in the summer of 1997, things changed. I went to the World Youth Day in Paris. There, with 1.5 million other young people, I had a week of celebration of the Catholic faith, culminating in the Vigil and Mass with John Paul II. That, if anything, was the turning-point. To see so many others of about my age investigating their faith, their relationship with Christ, even if (I dare say) most did not have much idea, was an experience that gave me the encouragement to start investigating for myself. I also went to Lourdes that summer and took myself to a monastery in the north of Scotland to think about things. Back in Manchester, the Masters happened, certainly, but the year was really all about investigating the question further. I sought out a priest. To this day, the most difficult thing that I had to do was actually admit to myself that I might have a vocation. Picking up the phone and speaking to a priest to say this was chilling. From there, a weekly session with a long-suffering parish priest of Salford diocese really set me on the road. I was interviewed by the Bishop, and went away to Spain for the next year, to the English College at Valladolid.
In Spain, I was introduced to the nuts and bolts of Christianity: the Bible, the Catechism, prayer, study, pastoral work, spiritual direction and so on. We had sessions on obedience, friendships, celibacy, finances, working in schools and things like that. I also learned pidgin Spanish.
Then I went to Rome, where I spent the next seven years. Study took up a lot of the time (I went to the Gregorian University), but there was also focus on personal formation, including the life of prayer (daily Mass and meditation plus the prayer of the Church), spiritual reading, pastoral work and the like. I completed a Masters in Philosophy in June 2006 and was ordained five days after my arrival back in England.
I say that I never wanted to be a priest. I just had the sense that God was calling me and needed to respond. It was only about four years into being in Rome that the penny dropped. There was no point struggling anymore. Jesus had of course been working since my baptism in my life already. But now He showed me that He wanted me to be a priest and that with Him all things are possible. I had a great peace, if you can call it that, and I was then able to focus more on the life ahead.
If you think that you might have a vocation, but simply do not know what to say or do, feel free to come and speak to me about it. We certainly need priests, very much. We are also gasping for nuns and other people in consecrated life. Fair enough, most people are called to marriage, but that is not the point here. There will definitely be someone reading this who has got a religious vocation. Do not get put off. As Jesus says, 'put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch ...do not be afraid'.
Have a very happy week.
Ged Mannion, Elaine Farrelly, Madge Mahoney, Peter McDonagh, Sylvia Cummings, Ester White, Brendan Foran, Bridget Mooney, Stephen Tivnan, Mary Boylan
Sarah Lindley (reception Tues. 7pm, Requiem Wed. 9.30), Mary Kerrigan (reception Thurs. 7pm, Requiem Fri. 9.30), John Tobin, Amanda Kelly, Bridget Connolly, Brendan Forkan
Carol Silk, James Silk, Edward John Fadian, Liz Coughlan, Marjorie Griffin (Sun. 6.30pm), Anna Mwasha (Sat 5th), Seamus McKeown (9am)
Thank you to anyone who bought tickets, donated prizes or who attended the HCPT dance. It was a great success and raised over £8600.
Vocations promotion The new commandment of love is required of everyone who follows the risen Lord. How do you fulfil the command? If God is calling you, call the Vocations Director, Fr David Featherstone (0161 681 1410).