This Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, parishes and people across the diocese will be praying for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life. It marks the 55th Anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The theme this year is ‘It’s Your Call’ and resources and guidance are available on the website of the National Office for Vocation (http://www.ukvocation.org). You can also find details of the new God Calls App, designed for young people.
In our diocese a number of seminarians are in training and we celebrated the ordination of Fr David Pearce in December 2017 at Lexden parish. Fr David trained at Wonersh and Oscott before being ordained in the parish where he had grown up. He says: “I was quite nervous on the day but the support from so many people that I knew was overwhelming. Two things really helped to break the tension for me during the ordination itself – Fr John Armitage, who was helping me vest, said ‘Chin up, that’ll do until the copper sees you!’, an East London saying which really brought my dad to mind; and Mgr Kevin Hale at the altar said ‘Come higher my friend’, and it really hit me that I had joined a brotherhood.”
He added: “It was wonderful giving first blessings and making a speech afterwards – there were so many people that I wanted to thank. So much had happened in that parish – from my first communion to the burial of my parents.”
Fr David had first briefly considered the idea of priesthood back in university days before going on to be an accountant. “When my dad died in 2003, I realised how much I had been doing the accountancy for him.” After he took redundancy in 2007, David accompanied his mother to Lourdes because she was nervous about travelling alone. The sheer joy in service of the BCYS young people struck him then. “And it was while standing at the Rose Basilica when the Salve Regina began that I felt the call to do something about my vocation.” The path to priesthood wasn’t always easy – he took a year out before his final year at Oscott – but he was supported by a very good spiritual director and others along the way. Now a parish priest in Halsted, he has received a very warm reception and is settling in well.
The diocese has a number of other seminarians: Gary Dench, Adrian Lowe, Tony Grant, Paschal Uche, Michael Barwick, Damien Wade, Alexander Johnson, Jonathan Burden and Deacon Rick Fernandez, who is to be ordained on 30 June at Holy Family, Dagenham.
Fr Stephen Myers, who is parish priest at Dagenham, is celebrating his silver jubilee of priesthood this year. He says: “Priesthood has allowed me the freedom to be me. I have been very lucky to be involved with youth ministry. It has been an immense privilege to help mould the next generation. And it has been an honour to be able to walk with people through their lives, from baptism, through the sacraments, to the end of life.”
Mgr Bill Nix, former Vicar General and past Dean of the Cathedral, is to celebrate 50 years’ of priesthood this year. He endorses Fr Stephen’s view. “You journey with people, through the happy times and the sad times. I have never, never regretted being a priest. I was ordained shortly after the Second Vatican Council, a time of great hope in the Church – and a realisation that every parish is so enriched by the laity.”
You can hear from other priests about their vocations stories at https://soundcloud.com/user-837815870 and at forthcoming Holy Hour evenings around the diocese. Each one will have a guest speaker, who will talk about their journey to priesthood:
Our Lady Immaculate, Chelmsford, Wed 30 May 7:30pm. Speaker: Abbot Hugh Allan
Holy Family, Dagenham, Wed 27 June 7:30pm. Speaker: Fr. Paul Keane
St Edward the Confessor, Romford. Wed 18 July, 7.30pm. Speaker: Fr. Tom Jordan
St. Antony of Padua, Forest Gate. Thurs 22 August, 7 pm. Mass and vocations story from Adrian Lowe, student for the Priesthood
Our Lady of Lourdes and St Joseph, Leigh-on-Sea. Wed 12 Sept, 7.30pm. Speaker: Mgr. Canon Kevin Hale
St. James the Less, Colchester. Wed 24 Oct 7.30pm. Speaker: Mgr. John Armitage
The Most Holy Trinity, Basildon. Wed 28 Nov, 7.30pm. Speaker: Fr. Daniel Kelly
Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead. Wed 19 Dec, 7.30pm. Speaker: Fr. Dominic Howarth
If you are interested in exploring a vocation to the priesthood or religious life then contact Fr Graham Smith on 01702 465720. There are regular enquirers evenings at Allen Hall seminary but the next evening for those exploring their vocation will be at Tyburn Covent at 8-9 Hyde Park Pl, London W2 2LJ. The Reverend Mother will speak about the martyred priests of England and Wales on Tuesday 24th April at 6pm. All are welcome, no need to book.
Pope Francis has written a letter for Vocations Sunday MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS Vocations
Prayer for Vocations
God our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as priests, deacons, religious, and consecrated persons. Send your Holy Spirit to help us respond generously and courageously to your call. May our community of faith support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.