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Dear friends. On Tuesday this week, Jean Vanier died, aged 90. He was the founder of the L’Arche community which began in Paris in 1964 when he decided to live with two mentally challenged men in fraternity and support. Today, there are 154 L’Arche communities in 38 countries around the world. Before he died, many considered him to be a living saint who God raised up as a prophetic voice that insisted on the equal dignity of mentally challenged people and their vocation to love.

Today, we hear much on the importance of social services, opportunities, mental health and well-being. These issues and many more are centre stage in the forthcoming local elections. All of these issues are very important and necessary. However, imagine we had a world where everyone had a good job, where the best services of physical and mental health were available, where the best roads and facilities were in place. Life might be good but would we all be happier? Would this guarantee that the levels of crime would fall? Would less people take their own lives and would less people be addicted to drugs and alcohol? The answer of course is no because the human heart longs for more than money, jobs, facilities and opportunities. The human heart longs for love, for meaning, for family and to know that we matter to someone. Every human life longs to directly experience the love of God which keeps it alive. This was the message of Jean Vanier and the reason why God raised him up in the Church and made his work so successful.

On this vocation Sunday, I can think of no higher vocation that we as Church have, than to insist on the dignity of every human being and their vocation from God to love and be loved. And when we read the Gospel on this Sunday, this is precisely Jesus’ message to us. He says: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I know them’. We belong to a God who knows us and loves us. We are not the result of a chance but are willed by the God who made us human. He says: ‘They listen to my voice’. Deep in our hearts we recognise the voice of God’s truth who has placed his Spirit in us. We know what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false. We know that we have a vocation, a calling. We know that we are made for more than this world, for eternal life and we are on that journey together. Therefore, every life is precious, sacred and unique.

On this Vocations Sunday, we are asked to pray for priests and religious in a special way. Our vocation as priests is to remind you of your vocation. If the Church is to be a voice that defends the dignity and vocation of all, then the leadership and presence of priests and religious is crucial. We ask you to please pray for us in our vocations and to pray for and encourage vocations in our parishes and diocese – that those who sense the voice of the Good Shepherd calling them to serve as priests and religious may listen to that voice and respond with faith and generosity.

‘God our Father we trust in your loving kindness. Bless our diocese of Ferns with many priestly and religious vocations. Give the men and women you call the light to understand your gift and the love to follow always in the footsteps of your Son. Amen’.