At this time of year, most priests celebrate the anniversaries of their ordinations. Last Sunday, 31st May 2020, Bishop Denis celebrated the golden jubilee of his – marking 50 years of service as priest and bishop. We congratulate him and all the jubilarians in our diocese: SILVER (25 years) – Frs. Odhran Furlong, ADM St Aidan’s Cathedral; Dermot Gahan, current serving in Indiana, United States; Ken Quinn, Chaplain, Wexford General Hospital; RUBY (40 years) – Frs. Brendan Nolan, PP Blackwater and Jim Cogley, PP Our Lady’s Island; GOLDEN (50 years) – Bishop Denis Brennan; DIAMOND (60 years) Frs. Jim Byrne, Tom Eustace, John French, Seamus Larkin; PLATINUM (70 years) Fr Seamus de Val.
The combined number of years of priestly service that these men have given is a wonderful 645 years. We thank them and thank God for all the good they did in those years.
For us priests, the anniversary of our ordinations is a time to pause, to look back and give thanks. It brings us back to the day we were ordained – the excitement, the arrival of our families, the liturgy, the singing of the Veni Creator, the vesting, our first blessings, first Mass and the memory of all those who were with us on those precious days who have now gone home to God.
Our anniversaries are also moments when we start again, give our ‘Yes’ once more and hear the call again to go out on mission as good shepherds and fishers of people.
They are moments when, in prayer, we are reminded to ‘fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time’ (2 Timothy 1:6-9).
When I worked in seminary formation, I used to attend many ordinations here in Ireland and abroad at this time of year. Every one of them moved me for I saw and heard something the Lord wanted me to hear and see with fresh urgency that applied to my ministry as a priest today. They were occasions that ‘fanned into a flame’ the gift of God that is our share in his priesthood.
We know of course that remembering our ordination will be marked by contrasts. That was then, this is now. But life is not a series of unconnected chapters. All the chapters of our lives make up a single volume, a single book and a single story in which the day we were ordained was a defining moment. As St Gregory the Great prayed: ‘O Lord give me the grace to see life whole’.
As we celebrate our anniversaries, we pray for each other and ask our people to pray for us. Above all we pray for a renewal of our priesthood and the Spirit’s gift of missionary zeal that possessed us on the day we were ordained. In the words of Diarmuid Martin:
‘We priests became priests because in our youth we were fascinated by the person and the message of Jesus. That joyful and challenging experience changed our hearts. We have to become passionate again every new day, and restless in finding ways in which we can lead young people today to experience in their lives what the fascination with the message of Jesus meant to us in our youth’. +Diarmuid Martin, Chrism Mass 2016.
May our fascination with Christ and love for him be renewed in all priests at this time and express itself in loving service to the people the Lord has entrusted to our care.