Welcoming comments by Monsignor Hugh Connolly, President of St Patrick’s College Maynooth, to new seminarians
22 August 2010
Welcoming comments by Monsignor Hugh Connolly, President of Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth, to new seminarians
Dear Class of 2010,
I wish to extend a very warm welcome to you and to your families and friends who have accompanied you here to St Patrick’s College Maynooth this afternoon. For people of faith this past year has been a difficult one as more and more details have rightly and justly come to light of the abuses and calamitous failures of the Church in our country. In some respects the fact that you are here at all today is remarkable and is a tribute to your courage and generosity of spirit.
Of course this might well be your first day in seminary but it is certainly not the first step in your journey. Indeed that journey began some time ago when you first discerned Our Lord calling you to reflect on how you might live your life in his service. Neither is today a point of no return, it may be that this time in seminary is a prelude to ordained ministry and service of the Gospel as a diocesan priest , it may also be that it is a time which allows you to discern with greater clarity that your calling lies elsewhere. Either way you are most welcome.
Your friends and family are also welcome; these are the people who are a part of your life and who love and support you. Dear friends and family please don’t think of today as a definitive leave-taking. These men will continue to need your love and support throughout their time in Maynooth. The best way you can support them is to continue to make a space in your lives for them and to remember that for a diocesan priest or student priest ties of friendship and family are especially important.
Ironically, despite the difficult backdrop of the past year and the sombre mood that has ensued, the last two years in the life of the national seminary have been very positive ones. A considerable number of men drawn from all walks of life have had the generosity, the faith and the enthusiasm to come to seminary to explore and discern a vocation to priesthood together.
I hope you like they will flourish here and make new friendships and form bonds of solidarity and shared values which will serve you well for the rest of your lives. It is precisely during challenging times such as the present that people wish to express their profound appreciation for the extraordinary work that today’s priests do.
Earlier this week a DVD entitled In Praise of Priests was launched which admirably makes this point. Its contains five brief testimonies from a cross section of lay people paying tribute to the contribution of a particular priest to their lives.
It takes courage and great commitment to embark on a religious way of life today and we in St Patrick’s College Maynooth are very firmly of the view that our very best advertisements today are our wonderful students both lay and cleric as well as a high calibre staff across the four principal areas of formation namely human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. But seminary is never easy. It requires hard-work, commitment and trust. I ask you today not to forget that generosity of spirit that brought you here in the days and months and years ahead. And to give of yourselves generously as you undertake your priestly training.
Forming priests and seminarians of prayer, solid faith, pastoral sensitivity and wholesome lifestyles has always and will always be Maynooth’s mission. The people of God need good priests, holy priests, priests who are faithful to Church teaching and especially priests who in the words of the late Pope John Paul II are prepared to ‘mould their human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ’. We should resist therefore making a false juxtaposition between holiness and human wholesomeness. The age old wisdom of the Church reminds us that ‘grace builds on nature‘. In human formation you will be asked to openly and honestly work toward ensuring that your lives are truly bridges and not obstacles to building up the faith of God’s people.
In seminary the call to priestly holiness is always to the fore but so too is the realisation that holiness today must always takes account of the welfare and safety of the most vulnerable people whom a future priest is called to minister. Our late Holy Father and his successor Benedict XVI are equally insistent that priestly holiness is not just about external piety but also about a host of other human pastoral and intellectual and spiritual qualities which must all be present in sufficient measure in order for a person to be called to diocesan priesthood.
Here at St Patrick’s College we are resolutely committed to assisting you and providing a favourable and appropriate formation environment where you can develop those qualities to the full. I cannot promise the class of 2010 that the way ahead will be smooth that all the problems of the Church in Ireland have been resolved nor that your life as a seminarian and God willing, a priest will be trouble free – but then again I suspect you already know this. You are here because despite all that is wrong, despite all that is a source of anger, alienation, hurt, disappointment, and dismay in our Church today you have each in your own way heard what the prophet calls that still small voice, a voice saying: “come follow me, feed my lambs, feed my sheep and proclaim the good news to all nations.”
May God bless you and support you as you seek to follow his voice and his will at work in your hearts and in your lives from this day forward.
Cead mile failte romhaibh go leir!
Notes for Editors
– By the end of September the number of seminarians training in St Patrick’s College Maynooth will be 66.
– St Patrick’s College Maynooth is the National Seminary for Ireland and has been forming men for the priesthood since 1795, see www.maynoothcollege.ie. The College is also a major provider of formation in theology and in pastoral ministry for 350 lay students.
– The Trustees of the College are the Governing Body of the College.
– The membership is defined by successive Acts of Parliament. The current Trustees are the four Archbishops of Ireland together with 13 other senior Bishops. The College comprises the seminary and the Pontifical University, which offers degrees in theology, philosophy and theology and arts.
President’s Office, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Tel: 01 708 3958, Fax: 01 708 3959, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fr Patrick Rushe, National Coordinator of Diocesan Vocations Directors on 086 8807470 and email@example.com.
Martin Long, Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth, 086-1727678.