I began my ministry as Vocations Director for our Order – Franciscans OFM here in Killarney 15 years ago last September.   I spent the first three years here before moving to the Franciscan Abbey in Galway for six years and from there I moved to the Friary in Athlone for four years.   My last two years in that ministry was spent in the Franciscan Friary, Merchant’s Quay, Dublin 8.   It was such a change for me arriving here in 2005 after spending many years teaching in our then boarding school, Franciscan College, Gormanston, Co Meath.   Recently I was appointed Guardian of the Franciscan Friary, Killarney, also the Novitiate for the Northern European Franciscan Provinces.  So, in a way I’m still very involved with Vocations.   Since coming here I was present at the Diaconate Ordination of Damian Casey OFM in Merchant’s Quay and on Saturday 12th September we had two Solemn Professions in Killarney Friary, Ronan Sharpley OFM, Co Leitrim and Denis Aherne OFM, Co Kerry.     

I can safely say and without exaggeration that my years as Vocations Director were challenging, rewarding but extremely happy years.   I grew into the ministry and just loved it.   In the past fifteen years I met and interviewed hundreds of men discerning their vocation to the ‘Franciscan Way of Life’.   For many it was a once off meeting, for some it was fairly regular meetings over a period of six months or a year and for a few it was a bit longer.   Needless to say, not all entered and of course a few of those who did apply or display an interest weren’t accepted.   Also, some of those who were accepted, indeed some very fine young men, decided after some months or even after a number of years that this WAY wasn’t for them.   However, we’ve been blessed with those very fine men who have stayed and made Solemn Profession, with some going for Ordination within the Fraternity.  

For those starting out I’d recommend that you see it as much more than recruiting vocations – it’s much wider than that and of course one never knows the impact for good one has even in a once off meeting.   Perhaps it’s the first personal encounter that a young man or woman may have with a Religious, Sister, Brother or Priest.   

I’d suggest that you get out into the ‘MARKETPLACE’.   I went everywhere to Shopping Centres, Ploughing Championships, Universities, Third Level Colleges and   major and minor events in the RDS.   I contacted Chaplains in Universities and Colleges and was invited in to Career Days etc.   I even put on ‘Twilight Retreats’ and was also involved with ‘Samuel – Discernment groups’  I was occasionally invited into Secondary Schools, but normally that was to talk about St. Francis and the Franciscan Charism.    The ‘MARKETPLACE’ ministry was the most challenging.   Initially I was very nervous wondering how people would react but in all my outings I never had one bad experience.   I often ministered with other Religious Priests, Sisters and Brothers and of course sometimes with Vocations Ireland.  Advertising is extremely important and of course a good Website, changed regularly is a must.   I don’t believe in booklets or materials with a lot of information about an order because they’re very expensive and are normally just dumped.   What I found people picking up and liking are prayer cards for various occasions.    Good and catchy banners are important too particularly if you are setting up a stand.   

Finally, I’d suggest that you keep closely involved with ‘Vocations Ireland’.   There you’ll find great support from many other Religious.   If ever I can be of a help or support please don’t hesitate to contact me at brpatofm@hotmail.com or by telephone at 0871346267

May the Lord give you peace and joy as you continue this challenging but very rewarding ministry.   If you’ve just been appointed please see it as a real blessing.