Priests return to alma mater for reunion
MORE than 100 priests working globally are gathering at their alma mater in Ireland for a week of reunion and renewal.
The priests started arriving at St Patrick's College in Thurles, Co Tipperary, last night for a reunion which takes place every five years.
"I would hope the emphasis will be on encouraging and building morale among clergy because it has been a difficult time for the church and for priests," Fr Tom Fogarty of St Patrick's said yesterday.
Highlight of the week will be a special Mass tomorrow at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles, which will be celebrated by Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly along with former St Patrick's student Bishop Tom Flanagan, recently retired at the San Antonio diocese in Texas.
Because of the decline in vocations, St Patrick's is no longer a seminary and is instead used as a college of education, with up to 230 students expected next term for training as second-level teachers. "Since the seminary closed there has been a remarkable rebirth in the college," Fr Fogarty said.
The priests turning up for the reunion are now working as far afield as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Argentina and Zimbabwe as well as the UK and Ireland.
According to Fr Fogarty numbers attending this week's events are holding up from previous occasions. "We haven't ordained anyone in the last five years, it's all taking place in Maynooth now, but we have very similar numbers judging by the response."
The age profile "has increased" in the interim because of the fall-off in vocations, he said, "but who knows what the future will bring".