22 new seminarians begin studies for the priesthood for Irish dioceses
22 men begin their studies for priesthood today at Ireland’s national seminary, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. This group includes a chartered surveyor, a pub manager, several mature students and at least one school leaver. The average age of the new entrants is 25 years old, and they come from 14 of the 26 dioceses of Ireland – see list of dioceses below. After an introductory month, 18 students will commence their academic formation in Maynooth and the remaining four will undertake their studies at Saint Malachy’s College, Belfast.
This afternoon Monsignor Hugh Connolly, the President of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, welcomed the students and their families to Maynooth saying,
“This is always an exciting time for the Seminary, when we prepare to receive the new students among us. Once again you come from a wide range of backgrounds, previous experiences, and the four corners of the country, but with one common factor – you are responding to an invitation given in and through faith, to become priests who will spread the Gospel in the years to come. I thank the families and friends of the new candidates for their strength and generosity in supporting the men thus far, and I invited you to continue to provide this vital encouragement. The road ahead has many challenges.”
Bishop Donal McKeown, chairperson of the Council for Vocations of the Irish Episcopal Conference, highlighted the reality that the new seminarians have a long period of formation ahead, which will include human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral development.
Bishop McKeown said,
“The Catholic Church in which you will serve will be a much changed institution. Yet, despite the uncertainties of the future, all new seminarians are responding with hope to God’s never ceasing call to proclaim his kingdom. God still has faith in people. With grace and the vision of the Gospel, it is possible to build community, to promote healing and to build supportive relationships. God has asked you to accept His call to go out to the rich harvest where the labourers are few.”
The National Co-ordinator for Diocesan Vocation Directors, Father Paddy Rushe, also welcomed the 2011 figure of new seminarians for the Catholic Church. Father Rushe commended the Vocation Directors from the various dioceses whose critical work over the year has accompanied these men in their discernment and preparation for seminarian life.
Monsignor Connolly asked the new seminarians to draw sustenance and hope from what the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, said in his letter to seminarians of October 2010:
“You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the Universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity”.
Facts and Figures
- Today’s 22 new entrants will bring the number of seminarians for Irish dioceses to over 90. There are 72 studying in Maynooth with the remainder in Saint Malachy’s Belfast, the Irish College Rome and in the Beda College which is also in Rome.
- Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth is the National Seminary for Ireland and has been forming men for the priesthood since 1795.
- In the last five years the total annual number of new seminarians beginning their studies in Maynooth has been:
16 in 2010;
36 in 2009;
30 in 2008;
31 in 2007;
30 in 2006.
- The College comprises the seminary and the Pontifical University, offering degrees in theology, philosophy and theology and arts. An electronic map of the 26 dioceses of Ireland is available on www.catholicbishops.ie. A breakdown, by diocese, of the 22 first year seminarians for 2011 is as follows:
Cork & Ross 2
Down & Connor 3
Waterford & Lismore 1
Welcome address to new seminarians by President Monsignor Hugh Connolly
Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth – 28 August 2011
I want to begin by reiterating a very special word of welcome to you our 22 new first years and your families. Tá fáilte róimh go leir. We are delighted to see you here and we are privileged to be a part of your formation journey. Today is a day of new beginnings for all of you. Coming to seminary may seem to you to be the end of a process of decision and discernment. In some sense at least it certainly is that. In another sense though it is just the end of the prologue and a first chapter in your formation journey is about to begin.
I know that each of you has reflected long and hard on where precisely God is calling you. The truth of course is that God calls every single person here from the oldest to the youngest but He calls each of us in different ways.
‘To be created in a sense is to be called by God. The mystery of a vocation or a call is part of God’s love for all of us. At the core of each follower of Christ is a call, or vocation. It is a call to holiness, to becoming a living response to God’s love. In this sense ministry is not just for a chosen few but is mandated to everyone by Baptism. Every ministry, lay or ordained, involves service. Priests are ordained for a ministry, which at its heart is a call to lead the members of the Church to holiness by loving and serving the people of a parish or diocesan community. They have a unique call to lead parish communities by bringing them the sacraments and other means to holiness offered through the Church. Additionally by placing their lives at the service of the Gospel they have the responsibility and the privilege of proclaiming the gospel in ways that inspire and challenge the faithful.
At a time when some of you have just returned from World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid it is truly wonderful to witness your generosity of spirit in coming here as new seminarians. Last weekend the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, reminded young people that the world “needs the witness of your faith, it certainly needs God,” He exhorted you and indeed all of us to be “disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries where there is a multitude of youth who aspire to great things and, glimpsing in their hearts the possibility of the most authentic values, do not wish to let themselves be seduced by the false promises of a lifestyle without God.”
Last year Pope Benedict wrote to seminarians saying:
“You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity”.
Celebrating Mass just a few days ago with nearly a thousand seminarians from all over the world, Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of discernment in preparation for the priesthood: “Under the guidance of your formators, open your hearts to the light of the Lord, to see if this path which demands courage and authenticity is for you,” the Holy Father told them. “Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.”
Pope Benedict also encouraged you and them to spend these seminary years in interior silence, unceasing prayer, constant study and “gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church; a Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ through his Holy Spirit, as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins.” That my dear friends is, I believe, very sound advice as you take the first steps of discernment of your chosen vocation.
Of course we also know that vocations don’t emerge from thin air. They tend to emerge out of life contexts, family contexts, work contexts where people already experience in a very real way Christ’s good news at work in their midst. That is why I am especially happy to welcome family and friends of our new seminarians here today. Please do not feel for one moment that this is the end of your involvement with your friend or family member. Every human being needs support, friendship and encouragement from those who love him – and this is especially true of those in ministry and preparing for ministry. One of the best ways you can support our new Maynooth men is simply by continuing to be yourselves with them and not altering how you relate to them. They will continue to value your support and solidarity as much as you will value theirs.
So today our thoughts, prayers and good wishes are with you our 22 newcomers who have taken the first step along the road to ordained ministry and to placing your lives at the service of Christ and of his people. This is a very happy day for all concerned.
As you commence your training I want you to remember that you are embarking on a journey of faith, discovery, leadership, both as a group and in unison with the entire community of the seminary of Saint Patrick’s College. Our common goal is the education and formation of leaders: for our church, our country, and our communities. Go neiri an bother linn. May the road rise before us and let us make the most of this piece of the path that we will share together!
V – Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
R – And kindle in them the fire of your love.
V – Send forth your spirit, Lord, and they shall be created.
R – And thou shalt renew the face of the earth.