Ireland: three young Redemptorists ordained

Brian Nolan, Tony Rice,  Seán Duggan

Brian Nolan, Tony Rice, Seán Duggan

Despite the fallout from the Dublin Report and the repercussions for the Irish Catholic Church – some young men are still saying “Yes!” to priesthood. This Sunday,  6 December, three young men from Belfast, Limerick and Galway will be ordained as Redemptorist priests at St Joseph’s Church in Dundalk. This is the largest number to be ordained by the Congregation in more than a decade. Cardinal Seán Brady, Primate of All Ireland, will officiate at the ordination ceremony of Brian Nolan,  Tony Rice, and Seán Duggan.

According to Fr Dan Baragry, CSsR, Director of Formation: “The ordinations of Tony, Brian and Sean come at an extremely difficult time for the Irish Church. It is a very courageous decision and choice on their part and is for all of us a sign of hope that the message of the Gospels and the call of Christ remains relevant in our day, despite our obvious failures as a Church to adequately witness and respond to that message and call.”

Brian Nolan, 31,  from Limerick believes that in light of the recent scandals one of the roles for priests today “is to offer healing”. As the three prepare to say “Yes!” to priesthood, he believes some young men still step forward “because that ‘yes’ comes out of a positive experience of Church” and he cites the positive experience he had as a young lad growing up near the Redemptorists in Limerick.

In the opinion of 31-year-old Tony Rice from Belfast, the current difficulties in the Church are symptomatic of a general lack of leadership in a number of areas in our society. “People have reason to be disappointed with several institutions right now: banks, politicians, the Church and so many others. Courageous and selfless leadership has been seriously lacking up to now. However, the mistakes and sins of some do not mean everyone else is the same or that things will always be this way. We need strong, just and accountable leadership to renew our vision and our hope in humanity”.

He believes the circumstances the Church finds itself in currently are bringing about change that is necessary. “The old model of the priest doing everything is slowly disappearing. Everyone is realising they have a role to play. The new model of respect, shared responsibility and community is taking root and I long for it to flourish!”

According to Tony Rice it is important to recognise that “the Church, in most places, still remains true to itself in how it cares for the poor and lonely and stands up for those who are forgotten – always aware that more can be done, always praying for others.”

“I am always amazed at the dedication of so many people to easing the burdens of others and making life more joyful. Week in and week out there are parishioners, sisters, brothers and priests visiting their sick neighbours, caring for the elderly, spending time with young people, volunteering at homeless shelters, bringing clothes and food to people who haven’t enough money, listening to someone who just needs to talk. This is the Church alive; how can I not be inspired by this?” he asks.

Galwayman, Sean Duggan, 30, agrees. “The best thing about the Church in Ireland is how it continues to be in solidarity with the marginalised in society. Up and down this island in places where most people wouldn’t want to live, there are priests, brothers and sisters living and working away quietly; they are given little or no recognition and not looking for any. Along with these, there are many lay people who as individuals or with groups, such as St Vincent de Paul, give untold service to the poor and marginalised.”

Brian Nolan admits that when he tells people that he is in religious life, “it can be a conversation stopper”, but he doesn’t “feel the need to hold back from telling people what I’m doing.” Priesthood, in his view, is a “life of service to others.” He says what has kept him on this journey is “the encouragement of so many good men and women who have spent their lives in ministry both in Ireland and abroad.”

Sean Duggan gave up a potential career in corporate law to join the Redemptorists. He says, “When I tell people what I do, they are usually intrigued. Some people feel lifted and inspired. It gives them a sense of hope that religious life is still a valid and life-giving path to choose.” He adds, “The choices I have made are not knee-jerk reactions. They have been thought about and talked about over a period of eight years training. What is clear to me is that it’s a life worth living!”

The Redemptorists in Ireland currently have four other students at different stages of formation. Recently, the Congregation held two vocations live-in weekends and they were followed by interviews for those applying to join the Congregation.

Before joining the Redemptorists Brian Nolan studied Electronics and Computing in LIT for two years and worked in an electronics company, Flextronics. During his training for religious life and the priesthood he did voluntary work in Brazil and India over the summer months with SERVE. He is now based in the Redemptorist parish of Cherry Orchard in Dublin and works on the Dundalk Parish Mission Team. He will be joined by his parents and two bothers, two sisters and one nephew at the ceremony.

Tony Rice has one sister and a brother as well as a nephew and two nieces. After completing his studies at Belfast Royal Academy, a co-ed Christian ethos school, he worked full-time for a supermarket and then a bank for more than four years. During that time he spent a lot of his free time volunteering in his parish youth club and doing some cross-community faith development.  He currently lives in the Dundalk Redemptorist community, working as a Vocations Director and on the Parish Mission team.

One of Sean Duggan's big passions is music, especially traditional Irish music. From a family of nine children, all of whom are musical, he himself plays a number of instruments including the violin and piano.  Before joining the Redemptorists he studied law in NUI, Galway and completed a degree in Corporate Law followed by an LLB. During his summers as a law student he worked in a drugs project in Dublin, studied in Paris and worked in Haiti and from those years he realised that whatever he chose to do with his life it would have to be working with people. During his training with the Redemptorists, in addition to the study of philosophy and theology, he worked in Haiti and in Nigeria. He is now based in Mount St Alphonsus in Limerick.

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