The issue of vocations to religious and priestly life has been one of concern to the Irish Church for over 20 years with a huge challenge presented to many diocese with an aging and retiring clergy and no vocations coming through although it is arguable we have seen a lot of talk and "re-positioning of chairs on the Titanic" approach to the issue around the country.
One of the few bright lights in what is other wise a desperate situation is the Dominican Order in Ireland who have had men joining the Order for the last number of years and seen a resurgence in the ministry of the Order in Ireland. This has been put down to the fact that the "Dom's" have made vocations and vocations promotion a priority of the whole Dominican family in Ireland and have dedicated a friar - Fr Gerard Dunne OP - to working full time in this area in promotion, answering questions and accompanying men seeking to test their vocation with the Dominicans.
However, not resting on their laurels and cognisant of the fact that all vocations to religious life are a call (and a response) to God, the Dominicans began a Prayer Initiative for Vocations in January 2012 and this month it comes to St Saviour's Church on Glentworth Street in Limerick.
The initiative of prayer is for all Dominican vocations (friars, nuns, sisters and third order Dominicans) and the formal launch took place in the monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena, Drogheda, Co Louth and has since been to various Dominican communities around the country including Belfast, Newry and Cork.
The icon is being brought to the various Dominican priory churches located throughout Ireland. It is envisaged that the icon will remain in each location for approximately a month at a time to allow those who attend Mass and worship in the communities churches an opportunity to take time to pray for Dominican vocations.
This initiative comes at a time when there is a renewed interest in the various vocations to the Dominicans in Ireland, but it is also in the context of a culture that is often hostile to vibrant Catholicism and hostile to the notion of commitment to God through a vocation. The Irish Dominican friars hope that this effort will help towards building a culture where we regularly pray for all vocations and help foster an environment where vocations are actively encouraged.
The icon will remain in Limerick for the month of June before proceeding to the Dominican church in the Claddagh, Galway on the weekend of the 6th and 7th of July.