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Reflections: 22nd April 2018

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter and A Day of Prayer for Vocations

JN 10:11-18 ( http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042218.cfm )

This Sunday we celebrate a day of special prayer for vocations to the work of service in the Church.  In the community where I live, one confrère recalls being one of a group of 72 who joined our congregation in 1943.  I reflect on my own journey of service to the Church; I joined the Spiritans in 1988, one of nine that year; we were a curious mix of youthful innocence, naïveté and profound decency. We didn’t know each other but we understood that we were part of something greater than ourselves. Joining a missionary congregation at that time might have been against the tide of societal expectations but it was not against the grain of mainstream Irish culture. There was a lot of support for a young person thinking of a life of service in the Church. Formation for us was about moving towards the goal of being a missionary, learning in the classroom but also from the stories of retired missionaries and from others home on leave or assigned to work in Ireland. As a group of strangers, we learned to make ourselves a community. We saw some of our friends leave to go on other paths, and we grew –  or, at least, are growing – into the life that we have chosen. 

Fast-forward to 2018. I am back from serving in the Spiritan mission in Ethiopia. I am a Vocations Director for the Irish Spiritan Province, serving in a Church that is radically challenged in so many ways. The newest member of our Irish province is about to be ordained having taken his final profession last year. Nobody else in the Irish Province who was finally professed in the period since I took my vows is still a Spiritan while all the others who joined our formation programme in the intervening years have left and, other than the one being ordained this summer, we have nobody in formation now in Ireland.  Anyone who would join us now would most likely he in a peerless society, asked to give his youth to a group for the most part in the twilight of their lives. It is a lot to ask of a young person.  And yet there is something more that needs to be said. The goal of being a missionary is still noble. I would not swap the experiences I had in Ethiopia for the world. It was an extraordinary opportunity to share my life with a wonderful people.  In Ethiopia and in Ireland, the Spiritans offer me a life of service in the Church and I thank God for that. 

I once volunteered in a Simon Community shelter. The writings of Anton-Wallich Clifford, its founder, have greatly inspired me. In “Caring on Skid Row” he offered these pearls of wisdom: Having once descended into skidrow, having lived and worked in that submerged world, one is left with the burning conviction: this work of ours must go on growing, expanding and developing. And as some of grow old or leave the field, others must come in so that the loving never stops.

Today the Church gives us the Image of the Good Shepherd, the one who lays down his life for his friends. As I write these words, I am thinking of missionaries who, by their loving kindness, are laying down their lives in difficult and challenging missions all over the world. They are the most generous-hearted and decent people I know. Every day I thank God that I am a missionary with the opportunity to play my part in a congregation that is making sure that all over the world the loving never stops. Missionary life is a life worth living – and dying – for. To consider joining a missionary group today takes a greater commitment than when I joined. Still, God is not finished with the Irish Spiritans yet and we trust that He is still calling those who would hear His Voice.  


Paddy Moran C.S.Sp. – Fr. Paddy is the Vocations Director for the Spiritans in Ireland. For more information on becoming a Spiritan missionary, please contact youth@spiritan.ie.