Ferns has a very proud history in the service of its people and in the service of the wider Church. It was founded in 600ad by its first bishop, St. Aidan, but it is believed that Christians lived in this area even before the time of St. Patrick. Since its foundation, the diocese has survived through good times, like the building of monasteries in the 13 century, and bad times, like the Cromwellian persecution. It can boast of several martyrs and saints, both ancient like St. Ibar, and modern, like St. Columba Marmion. Until recently it also had its own diocesan seminary, St. Peters, from where priests went out into all parts of the world. In fact Ferns diocese has been a rich soil for vocations to many parts of the Church and can boast of a great legacy in bishops, priests and religious.
Currently, like all the dioceses in Ireland, Ferns is beginning to feel a shortage of priests but it still has one of the youngest age profiles of any of the dioceses in Ireland. What’s more, it still has priests on mission in Brazil and the USA as well as in the Irish College in Rome, and as a chaplain in the Irish Army. From this you might notice that even though the primary work of a diocesan priest is in his own diocese, opportunities do exist for mission and studies outside of the diocese in accordance with the wishes of the bishop.
Bishop Denis writes:
If you are reading these lines you may be thinking of priesthood. I wish you well. Choosing a path in life is a big decision.
A vocation or a call to the priesthood is a mysterious thing, it is an affair of the heart, don’t expect it to always make sense, don’t expect to always understand or control it.
Vocation is all about choosing and being chosen. That is why it is such an adventure, it is not all about us, it is also about what Pope Benedict has called an intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the free human response.
The late German theologian Fr Karl Rahner put the challenge of discerning vocation very well when he said everything beautiful and noble, everything that is or would be possible in itself cannot be crammed into one life simultaneously. We cannot try all the alternatives. We cannot explore each and then start over in order to live the right one.
We can never be sure if the choice we make is the right one. No decision is perfect. It is simply a fact that at a certain time in ones life a decision must be made and then life changes from moving towards that decision to living it out.
If you feel called to priesthood, pray about it, talk about it with a priest you know, and don’t be afraid!
Ultimately, the only way you will know for sure if the call you are hearing is real is to test it by following it. I wish you well.