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Homily of Bishop Crean – Good Shepherd Sunday & Vocation Sunday – 30th April 2023

Good Shepherd Sunday

Vocation Sunday

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

30th April 2023

My friends,

Cardinal Taglia who is head of the Vatican Congregation for Evangelisation of Peoples / Propagation of the Faith / Missions was speaking recently to a group of bishops from all over the world by Zoom on the theme of Mission and how faith is shared and spread.

Though he is in his 60’s his parents are still alive and in the course of a family celebration in recent years marking 65 years of marriage his mother left him in no doubt that it was she who taught him to pray as a child. He told the story by way of emphasising that the family is the primary teacher and place where faith and prayer are taught and experienced. Anything the parish and school will do for a child’s faith and experience of prayer will rest on that foundation.

It is an important point to make as we mark Good Shepherd Sunday as a time to reflect on the place of religious life and priesthood in the life of the Church. We do so in a week in which a year long focus will concentrate on invitation to young people to consider such a life call. We make this effort and invitation against the backdrop of declining vocations. Humanly speaking the picture is very stark. Those responding to a call to service in a religious vocation have diminished greatly.

While seminaries have closed and been repurposed. The same has happened with convents and religious homes. So much that was accomplished by religious men and women by way of education and healthcare is now organised by the State. Sadly, so much of this enormous service to the people in need has been tarnished by a minority with a distorted sense of ministry. It probably will take a generation or two hence to have a more balanced recall of their work.

The reality of Irish culture and society we know has changed and the Church has to adjust and seek to play its part in the future. Families as well as priests and religious together are an important part of that future. A people without a spiritual heart will become a cold people. Priests and religious have always been a witness by their lives of those deeper invisible values and virtues to seek to keep alive in our midst the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the portrait of the Father Creator.

The state is committed to many duties of care for its citizens. Spiritual care is not among them – indeed there are currently elements of the State by way of health care and education who actively seek to eliminate any Christian spirituality from our communal daily experience.

Religious life and priesthood are essential components in the life of the Church precisely because of its radical personal commitment to living a life of total service for us. All are and have been earthen vessels flawed and frail in many ways yet always carriers of an eternal treasure both for themselves and countless others in their care. May we be blessed with a new outpouring of that generosity and commitment.

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