John, I greet your mother and sisters and brother in law and your extended family and friends.
I greet Monsignor Nicholas O’Mahony, Father Shane, Father Tadeusz and Father Paul. I greet all those participating on line following this ceremony. You are part of our ceremony today.
Today’s event is a manifestation of God’s goodness. Is it not wonderful to think John that you were an altar server here in this very church and now you are being ordained deacon today on the way, please God, to priesthood? This is a day of joy for us all – for your family, friends, neighbours whom I greet very warmly now watching in from their homes. It is a day of joy for the priests of this parish (and we remember too all those priests who ministered here over the years) and a day of joy for whole Diocese.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday we think about the role of Jesus as the shepherd. A shepherd leads and serves at the same time – a delicate balance of both. We think of the Good Shepherd who leads us and who also laid down His life for His followers and for all. He is the one who has called you today John. Thank you for writing out your vocation story.
Over the years John, as we read in the account of your vocation, we see the call of the Lord Jesus in your life. You heard that call first in the context of your family. Faith is caught not taught. We imitate what we see. That is so often how a vocation begins. So we praise God for all your family this day and remember your dad and grandmother in a special way. As you grew up you felt the chill of influences around you in society which were not positive. Sometimes the world is a hostile place, especially for people who desire to be good and follow God’s will. I was struck also in your story how one Lent you decided to do some extra. It was a decisive moment in many ways. Indeed the practice of living Lent in a special way has often been a cause of change in people’s lives.
Thankfully you met other people of faith outside of your family as well. We think of that good friend who invited you to a Youth 2000 retreat – where you found a group with whom you could be yourself and share faith and do ordinary things. Thank God also that you found another Community of faith-filled people in the Foyer of Charity especially Father Killian Byrne and Helen Williams. The Foyer was for you a place where you could grow in faith, hope and love – developing a prayer life and deepening your knowledge of the faith and the tradition of the Church.
We thank God for them. As we thank God for the staff and seminarians of Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth who taught you and journeyed with you and to staff and students of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome as well as your colleagues in University Hospital Cork where you are following the Clinical Pastoral Programme. We thank God also for the faith community in this parish which helped nurture your path to this day.
And so today you are going to be ordained deacon.
As a deacon you are called to exercise the diaconate with charity and humility, as collaborators of the bishop and priests, in the service of the Christian people. You show desire to follow in the footsteps of Christ, God the Son, who willed to make Himself the servant of all. May you always fix your gaze upon Him, John, as the supreme model of availability in your ministry.
You will influence on countless people more than you will ever know. The Church asks a lot of you. You are called to serve and to lead. Like the Good Shepherd. The strength of God is what you rely on, not your own strength.
We follow Him because he died for us. This ceremony takes place in the middle of the Holy Eucharist; our Lord’s Pasch, which sums up and brings about the mercies of God among men.
And we ask Mother Mary to intercede.
Faith, our religion is not just about words and ceremonies, but a Divine reality, by presenting to mankind the testimony of an ordinary life made holy by God’s grace, through meditating on the Word of God, availing of the Sacraments, listening to God in prayer, and living that faith each day in service of others, being available to others through the grace, which is always available from the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is Bishop of Waterford & Lismore. This homily was preached at Holy Cross Church Tramore, Co. Waterford, on Good Shepherd Sunday – also known as Vocations Sunday, 25 April.
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