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Fr Denis Browne

In the Gospel today Jesus calls a number of his disciples to come and follow him and became fishers of men and women. Two of these disciples were James and John sons of Zebedee.

I wonder what did Zebedee say to his wife when he arrived home? Something like this maybe? “Hello dear, sorry we didn’t catch any fish today because we didn’t get the nets fixed, the lads up and left me. Oh and by the way, we lost two of our sons to a wandering preacher!” I wonder what Zebedee’s Wife said? We know that afterwards she was to meet Jesus and ask him to let her sons sit on his right and left in His kingdom (Matthew 20:20ff).

So we can take from this that she was approving of their new vocation in life.

I wonder would the fall in vocations today be a sign of the lack of encouragement and even faith in our families?

One could say that it would be hard for a teacher to come from of a family where education is not important or a Garda to come from a family where law and order is not important.

Faith and encouragement are the seeds needed to encourage our young people to listen to the call of Jesus and to find the courage to leave their nets and follow Him. Fishes of men and women are still needed in the world today.

An interesting note from the Canon John Gahan’s book “The Secular Priests of the Diocese of Ferns.” (Editions du Signe 2000).

In 1612 the diocese of Ferns had 16 priests; 1641 – 30 priests; 1704 (Register of Popish Clergy) – 35 priests. 1739 – 29 priests. In 1991 we invited 104 Ferns priests to our Ordination. Today (January 2020) there are approximately 63 working priests, 28 retired and 4 on loan. So maybe we are coming out of a glut of vocations into an OLD normal.

But unless we are blessed with more fishers of men and women we will have to do the job ourselves. But this is happening all over the world this very day. In my former Brazilian parish I was the only priest with 28 church communities. Each community was run by a Coordinating Committee and I as the priest arrived once a month to celebrate the Mass and the Sacraments. I celebrated one Funeral Mass every Monday night for all parishioners who had died during the previous week. The co-ordinator celebrated the Graveside Prayers and even the Sunday Gatherings. Of the 28 communities, 24 of these co-ordinators were women. I used to say I had 24 women curates!

How did the Faith in Ireland survive during Penal Law times with a few priests on the run? It was the faith of the people and they themselves took up the call to be the Fishers of Men and Women.

I used to think, in my innocence, that I was heading out on the Ferns Mission to Brazil, to bring the Gospel to people who did not know Jesus, only to find out that the people already had brought Jesus with them into our Amazon Parish. All I did was to encourage and support the faith already in their hearts and actions.

Today the Lord calls us all to be Fishers of People! Have we the courage to leave our nets and follow him?


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