Reflection on the life of a priest: Pat Seaver
As an ex-Christian Brother, I would like to share some of my memories of a meeting of the Brothers, held in Carriglea Park, Dunleary, Co. Dublin 36 years ago (it is now the College of Art and Design). During this gathering we were shown graphs of the
The aim of the meeting was to give us some sense of the reality of our situation. As Br. Anthony McDonnell, the provincial told us: ‘We are a dying breed’. The sad truth was that most of us at that time couldn’t believe or didn’t want to believe that in a relatively short time there would be fewer than five Brothers teaching in the Province. However, bit by bit the reality became more clear. After a few such meetings, plans for the future of the Brothers and the schools were formulated. Provision for the instalment of lay-principals was made; a trust was set up to manage the schools; monasteries, some of which were embedded in the history of the congregation, such as the North Mon and Sexton St. were targeted for closure. It was all very painful. Of the ten monasteries in which I lived, only Mount Sion, the Founder’s first foundation, remains as a religious house. As it turned out, the graph was incorrect. At a certain
critical point, the graph, instead of continuing on its gradual downward movement, began a dramatic fall. Extra pressure, caused by having fewer Brothers took its toll. There was now less support and extra duties, with consequent health problems, forcing members to retire earlier. Br. Anthony’s words have certainly come to pass.
Having gone through this process once, I am puzzled that in a similar situation, we the priests of the Diocese seem to have little awareness that a similar fate awaits us. And I gather it is the same in every diocese. We are ‘a dying breed’. Personally, I enjoy our regular meetings where we are trained in ‘child protection’, have retreats, or get lectures from outside experts on ‘The Sacramental Life of the Church’ etc. But when are we going to meet and discuss the dying Church in our Diocese? We can delude ourselves by thinking that we are in a healthy partnership with parents and schools when it comes to the Sacraments of Initiation, and spend hours justifying our practice of baptising children, whom we know will never become members of the Parish Christian Community. We do not recognise their parents when they come to make the arrangements: how could we, since they never come to church? Our practice is a charade; and to think of these parents as partners is an insult to our intelligence. And if anyone thinks the primary schools are in partnership with us when it comes to the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, they should talk to a certain priest in our Diocese who is attempting to highlight the parish aspect of the occasion rather than allowing the school to use it as a show-case (cf. Limerick Leader of four weeks ago!).
Incidentally, I found it amazing that on reading the ‘Liturgical Guidelines for the Celebration of First Eucharist’ – all three and a half pages – that there was no mention of the fact that First Eucharist is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. Is there some ulterior motive in this omission? Would it be too painful for us to address the fact, that for the most part, our First Holy Communion and Confirmation liturgies are a sham – or to use the old-fashioned terminology, ‘invalid’.
I appreciate the fact that in many of the rural parishes, some teenagers and young adults may still ‘go to Mass’. In the city parishes this is not so. I would very much like us to initiate some form of discussion about the Church’s future in the Diocese. A full open session some time in the future – as opposed to small-group discussion, or a five minute opportunity to ask questions before lunch – would I am sure, bring good results.
Pat Seaver CC