Mary rolls out the red carpet for priests
"RELAX, make yourselves at home, talk amongst yourselves," President Mary McAleese cheerfully urged a group of young priests, who were given a warm welcome at Aras an Uachtarain yesterday.
"Young priests -- even that phrase is wonderful," Mrs McAleese said, adding that people would not have remarked on it years ago, but because of the dearth of vocations, we now do.
The priests, who came from throughout Ireland, were from St Joseph's Young Priests' Society -- a Catholic lay organisation with 100,000 members that fosters vocations and helps student priests financially and spiritually to prepare for the priesthood.
Altogether, there were 15 young priests, and six seminarians from Maynooth there, as well as some from the Dominican order and members of St Joseph's Society.
Marie Hogan, national president of the organisation, made a presentation of a crystal crucifix to the President and thanked her for her warm and generous welcome, as well as her work at home and abroad in reaching out to those on the missions.
She said they were seeking to raise the profile of the priesthood, saying priests were important and were "a gift of love from God" and that we depended on them. "We give thanks for the present, we live in the present and we go forward in confidence," Ms Hogan said.
Mrs McAleese told the young priests that she hoped they would find "great passion and fulfilment" that would sustain them throughout their lives and that they would "help a lot of people along the way".
Joseph Merrick, communications director of St Joseph's Society, said the purpose of the visit was to highlight the "very positive role" played by so many priests in society.