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Sermon for 17 April 2016




My Dear People,

Today is Vocations Sunday when we pray for vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated life.

It is obvious why this Sunday is chosen for it always has the Gospel read where our Lord is depicted as the Shepherd of the flock - the Good Shepherd. He is the one who lays down his life for his sheep and we are the sheep of his flock and the work of his hand.

So, it provides us with a moment in the joyful season of Easter to focus our attention on the need for vocations to be responded to in Christ's church.

The People of the Lord's Flock cannot develop properly without the priestly ministry for it is the ministry of Christ Himself in time. No amount of lay substitution can do this priestly office of Christ - the priesthood is indispensable and I know that you are convinced of this. Lay folk can be great and do all kinds of service in the diocese but the priesthood serves the flock like no other work. When those who hate us come to destroy us they like Henry VIII and Stalin, they focus on the priesthood and try to remove us from the face of the earth. The Tudors and the Freemasons and the Communists and the National Socialists all tried to jail as many clergy as they could and even murdered them by the thousand. 5000 Polish priests died in the Nazi camps you know. The world forgets these things at its peril. The greatest enemies of humanity usually are the enemies of the Priesthood as well.

So - today you will be glad to know that there are more priests than ever before in the world - it is only in the West that we have a shortage. The vast parts of the church are still short of priests because of the speed of the growth of the Church. In Korea for example the baptisms break new records every year. In many of the ex-communist nations the vocations are flourishing after years of suppression such as the Ukraine where Stalin murdered all but one of the Bishops. It is reckoned that a lot of the Politburo of China are secretly baptised.

So what is our problem? In my understanding it is a question of the renewal of Faith in Jesus Christ.

Where there is a renewed Catholic faith in Christ and his Church many young men and women who share this new faith give themselves wholeheartedly to the vocation God gives - be that marriage or priesthood or consecrated life.

I say Marriage first because without Christian Marriage there are no Christian children to grow and be nurtured at Christ's altar is there? Without Catholic families the seed ground is barren.

There are exceptions I know but the normal way of hearing the call of God is within the context of family life and the love for the Church that religious practise engenders.

Now an awful lot of our children are not from married parents so the faith cannot take true root and they are prevented from hearing God calling them. Too few babies too makes it difficult for God to give vocations when those children he intended to give them to are not being allowed to be born through the Contraceptive Pill or termination or whatever. So - we have a problem. Vocations are our responsibility. Our Lord says: "pray that the Lord of the Harvest sends labourers into his harvest" - our Lord specifically tells us we must pray for them so we do today and always.

Parents make sure that you nurture the idea of a vocation for your children. Don't discourage them. Pray to God for one of them to have the gift of a vocation whatever it is.

Times are hard and we have a greying priesthood in the West which reflects the population but it is serious and in 10 years time many parishes will be closed and amalgamated. Some people think that married clergy would solve all the shortage but it is not true. It would bring greater problems and the non Catholic clergy are very short too you know and they marry (and divorce!). In any case, as I've said before - you could not afford to keep a married priest and kids on the Collection you give each Sunday - see last Sundays collection – down by more than half!! They’d be very poor eh?

I can say as your parish priest that I have never for a moment regretted being His priest and have been given far more than I have ever given. The Master will not be outdone in generosity. Being a Priest (and Father George will agree with me) is one of the most fulfilling and joyful vocations one could ever have.

Be kind to our Seminary Fund. It costs a lot to keep a student in full time studies and board and lodging and everything else for at least 6 years - so give that bit Extra in the Special Collection will you? 2014/15 expenditure exceeded Income by £165.000 and money has to found. Wills and Legacies are down. Catholic folk used to always leave a sum for the Ecclesiastical Education Fund in their Last Will and Testament but rarely do so now.

God Bless you all,

Father Tom Connolly

WE WELCOME THE CATENIANS are holding their annual Mass for Vocations this Sunday night AT 6.30PM and would like to invite the parish to attend a reception in the Club after the Mass for some refreshments and to learn more about this Catholic Mens Association.

Bidding Prayers

Bidding Prayers 4th of Easter C

Priest: Christ is the true Shepherd who provides us with green pastures of pure water. Let us turn to him in our every need.

For our nation as it faces the dryness of spirit which comes through having no faith in the Living God - that our nation may re-discover its roots in the Christian faith and so find life and joy. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

For all those who are discerning a vocation to the priestly ministry, the consecrated life or the life of Christian Marriage - that each will find their true vocation in life, and so play their part in the work of bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We commend to God our economic situation - that the people left with redundancies or lack of a job opportunity may not despair but find hope in the gift of life itself. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

For all our clergy who have been given the Office of Pastor and Shepherd and Priest - that they may truly sanctify, order and guide God’s faithful flock as true imitators of the Supreme Pastor our Lord Jesus the Good Shepherd. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

For the sick that they may find the loving care of their pastors a help in their pains: Mary Connolly, Licy Myla-dore, Ann Brady, Christine Booth, Irene Farrelly, Eileen Ramsbottom, Pat Snype, Michael Nolan, Mary Fitzpatrick. Lord in your mercy.

For all those who have been called by God in this last week that they may gaze upon the Supreme Shepherd: Frances Howarth, Margaret Keegan, Patrick Grimes, Margaret O'Neill, Sue McMullan, William Sice. AND for those souls whose anniversaries fall about this time: Eileen Brady (VIGIL), Judy George 9am, Mrs Josephine Blake, Thomas Connolly, Jim Hannah.

May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen .

O Mary, you are the Mother of all the living and Jesus gave your mothering to us, from the Cross - pray for us now for we are your children. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Hail Holy Queen.

Priest. O Lord and heavenly Father listen to our heartfelt prayer on this Sunday dedicated to vocations in your church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.