Bishop Willie Walsh of Killaloe said this in a pastoral letter released ahead of Priesthood Sunday, which will be celebrated Sunday in the country.
The bishop noted that the Church in Ireland is observing the Year of Vocation through May 3. "A vocation," he said, "is the life God calls us to live."
Although he acknowledged that the Year of Vocation "is an invitation to each one of us to reflect on our own vocation," he proposed placing an emphasis on the vocation to the priesthood and religious life, which has seen a "significant decrease" in the last 20 years.
"The reasons for this are manifold," he explained. "Among them are: a weakening of faith, smaller families, Church scandals, emphasis on material goods. The reality is that the call to priesthood and religious life is very challenging for our young people today."
"Priesthood is one of God’s unique gifts to the world," he affirmed.
Pain and joy
"I look back on almost 50 years of priesthood as a very fulfilling time for me," he wrote. "Yes, there have been times of pain and struggle, but what life is spared pain or struggle? I can honestly say that I have experienced great joy as well and thankfully joy is also something common to all lives."
Bishop Walsh said that the considers his own vocation "in the light of privilege and responsibility."
He explained that he has the privilege to celebrate Mass, and the "responsibility to celebrate the Mass in a prayerful manner."
Other privileges and responsibilities include baptizing children and accompanying them on their path in faith; listening to the problems of others and helping them toward healing; sharing with the dying their last few hours and conducting funerals with respect.
He also added, "The privilege of being a priest and bishop, which has given me insight into the lives of many people, and the responsibility that goes with such pastoral leadership."
"I have no hesitation in recommending this way of life -- as a religious sister, as a religious brother or as a priest -- to anyone who is discerning their life’s direction," the bishop said. "I invite parents to encourage such generosity. I ask all of you to pray that more will respond to God’s call."
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On the Net:
Full text of pastoral letter: http://www.zenit.org/article-23770?l=english