What does a snowball fight between young Dominican friars have to do with my ordination anniversary? The video was made recently in my native Dublin during the unseasonably wintry weather in late November and early December at St Saviour's, in the heart of Dublin. These young Dominicans studying for the priesthood are living there. The church attached to the priory is one of the best known in the city. My late father, John, used to take me to High Mass there on occasion when I was young. The white habit of the Dominicans was what first stirred my interest in being a priest, when I was six or seven, though I never considered being a Dominican when I began to think seriously about the priesthood when I was 13-14.
The video is from the excellent Irish Dominican Vocations of Fr Gerard Dunne OP, a blog that gives me hope for the Church in Ireland.
The Venerable Matt Talbot died just behind the church, in Granby Lane, on 7 June 1925 on his way to Mass in St Saviour's. Sometimes my mother would go into town, as she called the city centre, through Granby Lane and we would stop and say a prayer at the shrine on the spot where Matt collapsed. Today there is a plaque on the wall of a new building in the same place but it lacks something of the expression of faith that the simple shrine was. Matt was an alcoholic who, after giving up drink, lived an extremely ascetic life, similar to that of the monks of ancient Ireland, under spiritual direction, for many years while working as a labourer.
Ordination day 20 December 1967, St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin
With my father, John (+1987), my mother, Mary (+1970) and my brother Paddy.
Two of us are still here in the Philippines. Fr Michael Mohally from Cork city, is in charge of our seminarians from the Philippines and Fiji doing their spiritual formation year, the equivalent of a novitiate in religious orders and congregations, in Manila. We Columbans are not religious. We are secular priests belonging to a 'society of apostolic life'.
Fr Tom O' Reilly from Port Laoise, is now the Regional Director of the Columbans in Britain. He has taught Scripture and worked for some years in Pakistan where Fr Joe Joyce from Tullamore is still serving. He also has been in charge of our spiritual formation year in Chile and once, if my memory is correct, in Manila.
Fr Kieran Moloney from Coleraine is in Fiji while Frs Liam O'Keeffe from Ennistymon, County Clare, and Fr Pádraig Murphy from County Kerry are in Korea.
Fr Pat Raleigh from Limerick city, who worked in the Philippines before being sent to Pakistan in 1979 as one of the pioneers of our mission there, is now the Vice Director of the Columbans in Ireland.
Fr John Brannigan from Dundrum, County Down, is at the Filipino Center, St Columban's Parish, Los Angeles, while Fr John Hickey from County Tipperary, a veterinarian before he became a priest, is now in the Diocese of Clonfert, Ireland, after many years in Mindanao here in the Philippines. Fr Gerard Dunn, a doctor by profession, is in his native Glasgow.
A number of our class have gone to their reward: Fr Jim Doherty and Fr Joe Ruth from Donegal and Fr Morty Kelly from Gort, County Galway. Another died during the summer of 1966 while trying to rescue some cousins from drowning, Jack Walshe from County Sligo.
This year we Columbans, especially his classmates, were all shocked by the sudden death on 18 May of Fr Pat McCaffrey from Tempo, County Fermanagh, in Murree, Pakistan. May they all rest in peace.
Fr Pat McCaffrey