Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, has published a pastoral letter on Priesthood and Vocational Discernment entitled To Follow Jesus Closely. The letter was published  on Holy Thursday morning in Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast, where priests and people from across the diocese gathered for the annual Chrism Mass celebrated by Bishop Treanor.

The pastoral letter is one of a number of initiatives within the Diocese of Down and Connor to support vocational accompaniment for young people. It is hoped it will help promote an increase in vocations to priesthood and religious life.

In this letter, Bishop Treanor reflects on the role of the priest in contemporary society.  He encourages committed Catholics to build a culture of ‘vocational discernment’ which enables young people to respond to their calling ‘with open minds and big hearts.’

The bishop acknowledges that there are fewer priests and religious and a decline in the numbers presenting to study for ministry. He remains confident however that Jesus continues to call men and women to follow him closely.

Echoing Pope Francis, Bishop Treanor reflects that ‘to be a priest is always something beautiful, capable of fulfilling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties.’

Bishop Treanor’s pastoral letter is the first in a series of events to be held in Down and Connor diocese to promote vocations to priesthood and religious life.

Prayer vigils will take place in parishes and pastoral communities throughout the diocese on Thursday 2 May. A special nine-day novena will be launched at these vigils, inviting individuals and families to pray for an increase in vocations. This will lead into Good Shepherd Sunday (Vocations Sunday) which is to be a joyful celebration of thanksgiving for the gift of priesthood and religious life.

Bishop Treanor’s pastoral letter will be distributed throughout the Diocese of Down and Connor at all Easter Masses and can also be downloaded from the Diocese of Down and Connor website: www.downandconnor.org.

For more information on Vocations to the Priesthood, visit www.vocationsdownandconnor.org

ENDS