Seventeen students begin their studies for the priesthood in Ireland

04 Oct 2018

  • Bishops mark first anniversary of the National Vocations Office

“I pray that many will hear God’s call and be courageous in following whatever path God puts before them” – Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan

Seventeen students for the priesthood have begun their formation and academic programme for 2018 – 2019.  The new students currently in formation are in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth (five); Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Dundalk (four); and eight have begun their propaedeutic year in other locations in Ireland and abroad.  

Last year, the Congregation for Clergy, in Rome – which has overall responsibility for seminary formation – issued a new document (Ratio), The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, which is the revised programme for seminary formation.  The Ratio strongly recommends to bishops around the world the introduction of a pre-seminary (propaedeutic) year for new candidates who wish to discern their priestly vocation.

The National Vocations Office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference (see photograph below) was established last year and is based in Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  The mandate of the office is to oversee and coordinate the work of training diocesan vocation directors and the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. 

Commenting on the first anniversary of the establishment of the National Vocations Office of the Bishops’ Conference, its coordinator Father Willie Purcell said, “The National Vocations Office is a timely initiative of the bishops as it supports and affirms those who are thinking of diocesan priesthood to discern God’s call in their lives.  It is also timely as it is the 10th anniversary of the National Year of Vocations and this month the Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment meets in Rome.  Its purpose is to encourage young people to look deeper into their relationship with God and follow the direction in which He is calling them.  As National Vocations Coordinator I look forward to the office being a resource for initiatives and formation for our vocations directors and those discerning God’s call to diocesan priesthood.”

Building on the momentum of the very successful World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit by Pope Francis, the National Office is organising a national ‘Come and See’ vocations exploration retreat on 23 and 24 November and will be supporting all of the diocesan vocation directors by sending promotion material for this event to every parish priest in the country, encouraging them to find at least one young man (18 to 40) who would like to explore what is involved in becoming a diocesan priest and how to discern whether they have a vocation.  To find out more about this overnight event, please contact Rev Eric Cooney on [email protected] or (01) 5053118.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, chair of the bishops’ Council for Vocations said, “I am delighted with this initiative of the National Vocations Office.  While we are all aware of the great challenges facing the Church and society at this time, we know also that God the All-powerful is always with us.  This ‘Come and See’ event in November invites men who sense that they may have a call to the priesthood to explore this possibility.  Pope Francis, writing in his 2018 message for the World Day of Vocations, encourages us, “to learn how to view things with the eyes of faith and to keep ourselves open to the surprises of the Spirit”.  I pray that many will hear God’s call and be courageous in following whatever path God puts before them.”


Notes to Editors:

  • The National Vocations Office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference opened on 1 July 2017.  The Reverend Eric Cooney, a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Dublin, is the administrator of this office which is based in the Columba Centre, Maynooth.  Since opening, the office arranged a series of regional meetings enabling diocesan vocation directors to come together to review their ministry, share concerns and experience of vocations ministry.  The office organised a very successful Formation Course for the diocesan vocation directors.  Thirty Four Vocation Directors from twenty three dioceses attended a five day course which was held in Knock in June 2018.  The course was led by three very experienced priests from the NCDVD (National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors) in the United States, who are themselves Vocation Directors.  In addition to the training work, the National Office revised the vocation’s website ( and established a new quarterly newsletter entitled Vocation Matters.

Members of the National Vocations Council: Front row L-R Rev Eric Cooney, Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, Father Willie Purcell

Back row L-R Barney Byrnes, Ciarán Hickey, Anthony Hartnett, Margaret Cartwright

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Katie Crosby 00353 (0) 86 862 3298