A FEW WORDS FROM FR. JOE

I made a retreat recently at Dromantine, near Newry. The retreat centre is lovely old house in beautiful grounds with some gentle walks around the lakes and woods, a perfect place to pray. The centre was once the seminary of the Society of the African Missions, SMA’s. Each day walking down the long corridor to the chapel I would stop and look at the pictures on the walls, one for every year. These pictures are called “Class Pieces” and show the newly ordained priests, gathered on the steps in front of the house, all dressed up in their brand new priestly soutanes. These young men, having completed their formation and education were ready and waiting for the assignments to the various missions in Africa where the SMA’s had schools, parishes, training centres and many other pastoral assignments. They looked so young, so eager, so generous and ready for the service of God among the world’s poorest people. You would have to read the history of the Order to know how it worked out for them, no doubt some had long and happy lives there, others will have found the climate too hard and no doubt some died in Africa and are buried there. Looking at the pictures you can see that from 1970 the numbers decline, in the 1980’s there are very few and by the 1990’s the house has ceased to be a seminary. I wonder why so many were called and gave their lives to the missions and why that changed so radically, so quickly. There is a new mission now, to Ireland and I guess we are all called to play our part in renewing the Church here at home, we might need a bit of help from Africa!