David Vard was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin on Sunday 25th June 2017 at 3pm. Following his ordination David will take up the position of curate in the Parish of Portlaoise.
In his introduction Bishop Denis welcomed David’s family, friends and clergy “It is a great joy for us to gather in St. Conleth’s Church this Sunday afternoon for the Ordination of David Vard. This is a great day of celebration for David’s family, his friends, Newbridge Parish and the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin. Shortly David will become the youngest priest not only in our Diocese, but in the country and on these islands.
I greet very warmly David’s parents David and Liz; his sisters: Rebecca and Charlotte; his grandmother Sheila; his niece Lily and his nephew Ryan. David’s mum hails from Limerick, so I welcome the Limerick contingent; while his dad is from Dublin, an equally warm welcome to the Dublin delegation! In addition to family it’s great to be joined by Bishop Jim Moriarty and a great number of Kildare & Leighlin priests and indeed priests from around the country. I welcome David’s classmates and friends from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and the Irish College, Rome. They are a very fine group of young men who will make a profound effect on our church landscape. Like David they have pursued their vocation calling, in many aspects going against the grain of society and their peers, and for that we are all most grateful”.
In the aftermath of the horrific tragedy that continues to unfold, the inferno at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington; the day after the news broke there was an arresting picture, gaining traction, in social media circles. It was of exhausted fire-fighters, completely worn out after a number of hours fighting a fire that was by then completely out of control. It brought me back to a photograph of Fr. Mychal Judge, the Franciscan friar, being carried out of the rubble of 9/11.
These are piercing pictures that paint a counter-cultural message. Why would firefighters climb a twenty-four tower in Kensington, knowing that their apparatus and devices were only effective up until the twelfth floor, when they started encountering smoke filled corridors and staircases? Why would Mychal Judge and his colleagues remain rescuing people out of the burning twin towers? Everything done by the rescue teams at Kensington and in Ground Zero went against the individualistic culture that prevails in today’s society. I think of the social media caption over that picture of the jaded firefighters after a day’s work in Kensington, it was a caption for Father’s Day, relating to the fees paid for professional soccer players with a bold message ‘these fire-fighters are your real hero’s’.
A young man who pursues a vocation calling is very much stepping out of kilter with peers and friends, so much so not everyone will understand or appreciate such a vocation calling. Matthew’s gospel offers us some parameters to understand the counter-cultural dimension of today’s calling. It was an instruction by Jesus to the Twelve disciples, set in the context of a chapter that sees the actual naming of the disciples, the mission mandate of their calling and the reminder that persecution is part of the deal. Tough stuff, but necessary for anyone brave enough to be an alter Christus in today’s world. The promise that permeates Matthew’s gospel is that in the toughest times where we witness to Christ, He will never leave us.
David is being ordained into a Diocese that will welcome him, support him and accompany him as he witnesses to Christ in tough moments and tight situations. It is easy to a priest when you don’t have to deal with the tough challenging calls; it’s much tougher when there are choices to be made and stands to be taken. David’s vocation was nurtured very much in his family and parish setting. I especially pay tribute to David’s mother Liz whose faith and example will offer him sterling example in his priesthood.
A word about his schools here in the parish – Scoil Mhuire Senior School up beside Cill Mhuire Church and the Patrician Secondary School across the road. Both schools have a unique record in Ireland, as having seen three ordinations of past pupils in the past three years: Shane Daly SJ in November 2015; Ronan Connolly OP in July 2016 and today David Vard! Newbridge Parish has a very good record on vocations; it sets the bar very high for other parishes, not only in Kildare and Leighlin but indeed around the country.
My recent Pastoral Letter released last Vocations Sunday entitled ‘Facing the Changes and Challenges Together’, was very much a challenge for all the baptised to understand and appreciate the full meaning of their baptismal calling. Alongside the many committees at parish level, I suggest every parish in our Diocese and in Ireland should have a Vocations Committee. This would be a group of people who would see their role as being the key promoters of the baptismal calling of all the lay faithful and in a particular way to nourish and nurture the particular calling that priesthood involves. It is simply not true to say there are no vocations, they have to be asked, invited, prompted, cajoled.
Fr. Thomas Richter, in his book ‘Helping Priests Become Inviters’ he reminds us of three facts:
- The main reason many young people do not consider the priesthood is because they have never been personally asked.
- Many men first consider the priesthood precisely because a priest encouraged them to consider it. 80% of newly ordained priests report that it was a priest who first invited them to consider the priesthood.
- The great majority of priests do not encourage men to consider a vocation, 30% at most do the inviting.
Richter writes out of the American experience, I suggest it’s no different in Ireland. We, all of us priests, people who love their priests and parishes, parents, grand-parents have got to encourage vocations. I continue to invite young men to consider the priesthood, I did in my days in Meath Diocese as a priest and I do even more so now as Bishop in Kildare & Leighlin. I simply don’t buy it that vocations aren’t there, they are!
Matthews gospel once again, “what you hear in the whispers, proclaim from the housetops”, all the good that can flow from one young man, like David today, giving his yes to ordination. We can be consumed by looking at numbers and statistics, average ages and parish sizes. Today is a day for huge rejoicing that a man whose vocation was nourished very much in a parish setting, on a parish pilgrimage to Lourdes back eight years ago. The experience of seeing people live out their Christian calling in Lourdes with the sick, at the baths, around the grotto has a profound effect on those watching from the sides. David was one of those watching from the sides. I pray that our first ever Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes that leaves this day three weeks will reap even more vocations and that many more of us will have the confidence to invite someone we know and admire to seriously consider priesthood.
Photographs from the ordination taken by Kieran Galvin, and kindly given to the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin can be seen here.