On midsummers day, June 21st, I jumped in the car and headed down to Waterford with 3 priest friends for a few days away. It was the first proper break for all of us since last summer and the long winter coping with Covid. It was a time to rest and relax, to chat through the ups and downs of the recent past and to sleep, eat and chill out.
As this is the month of ordination anniversaries we spent time reminiscing about all the guys who started out with us, some left during seminary days, others since ordination and a couple have gone before us to God. Most thank God, are working away in the parishes of the Diocese, doing good work. One of our former seminary professors had died at the weekend and while we couldn’t be at his funeral we made time to pray for him and share memories. It’s been 35 years since we were ordained, and we’ve all turned 60 in the past year, and to say the least much has changed in that time!
Of course, we talked too about all that lies ahead, expressing hope that Archbishop Dermot and his Task Force will find ways to stimulate the faith life of God’s people in the Diocese in a way that will create new beginnings, build hope and help us reform our way of being church. We talked about the controversies of our recent past and present and wondered what the place of religion, faith and God is in the Ireland of tomorrow. Each of us enjoys life and ministry, love the people and parishes we work in and so want that the next generations of Catholics get to know and love the Lord and His church and get involved in building up their local parishes.
We have been formed and trained to play a part in the mission of the church, to live and minister as priests and to share responsibility for parish life with the people we serve. We are aware that with 35 years of service lived and 15 more before retirement at 76, that we won’t be followed by a new generation of priests, at least not from Ireland. So we hope and pray and search for ways to share our experience, give of our best and yet live without exhaustion and burnout. We hope and pray for evermore involvement of laity, women, young people in leadership of parishes.
One afternoon I went for a walk in the gardens and watched the bees. Just with the phone I captured this image of a bee, deep inside a flower, legs, body, back and wings laden with pollen, moving from plant to plant, sustaining life. He looked drowsy, not at all threatening and was doing something so simple, yet vital, in the chain of life. In nature when each of God’s creatures plays their part, the ecosystem generates such amazing beauty. In our parishes, in the church, for the world when each of the baptised plays even a tiny role in living and sharing faith the ecosystem of God’s kingdom flourishes too. So even when we priests feel drowsy, weighted down by our ministry, hopefully, God is harnessing our efforts to stimulate and support the faith of others. Thank you for all your prayers, affection and support which means so much to all those who minister in the church, we will continue to share this adventure together.