Fr Ryan McAleer
Ryan McAleer is from the Archdiocese of Armagh and will be ordained to the priesthood by His Eminence Seán Cardinal Brady, Archbishop of Armagh on Sunday 1 July, 2012 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. Ryan was a student of St. Patrick's College, Maynooth which is the National Seminary of Ireland.
People often ask me, "Why would you ever want to become a priest?" For as long as I can remember, ever since the age of five, my parents told me I have had aspirations for the priesthood. I suppose as a child it was the novelty of the priesthood that attracted me, but over the years during primary school and certainly throughout my time at secondary school, I have come to realize the implications that such a vocation would have. Yet my enthusiasm and zeal for the priesthood remains.
I began studying as a clerical student for the Archdiocese of Armagh at St. Patrick's College in Maynooth, Ireland back in August 2005. Formation for the diocesan priesthood is an average of six to seven years. Following studies in philosophy for three years, one studies theology for a further three years and then a year of pastoral work in their diocese before ordination.
The number of young men following a vocation to the priesthood in Ireland, and indeed much of the western world, has plummeted in recent years; fewer than ten men were ordained to the priesthood for the whole of Ireland in 2005. The priesthood is no longer the well-respected and popular choice that it was in the past. In today's society the priesthood is under fire, and priests are under suspicion in the light of recent scandals within the Church. Many priests would no longer walk down the main streets in Ireland's cities wearing their collar, for fear of being hurled abuse at or insulted by people. Even in my own experience, with my aspirations for the priesthood, I have been called unpleasant names and been prejudged by people. So why do I want to become a priest?
I want to become a priest because I want to follow Christ and serve His Church, and I want to bring others, especially the young, closer to Him. It is the mission of every Christian to save souls! The Church needs priests, and not only priests, but holy priests! Who would celebrate the Eucharist and bring Jesus Christ to people if there were no priests? Who would forgive sins, or preach the Gospel?
Dante remarked that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in a time of great moral crisis, which is exactly what the world is facing at the moment. There is so much confusion and uncertainty in these times, both within and outside the Church. A priest is alter Christus (another Christ). And as I have heard it said, what greater joy could there be in life than to be another Christ?
A total of twenty men began studying for the priesthood this year, making the number of seminarians for the diocesan priesthood in Ireland the highest it has been in ten years. The men range from all different ages and backgrounds, and there is a great atmosphere of enthusiasm and companionship within the seminary.
As Cathal Cardinal Daly, former Archbishop of my diocese once said, It's a great time to be a priest! I find the prospect of ministering as a priest in this secular society not only a great challenge, but exciting. The insult and opposition I get to my vocation in no way disheartens me, rather it confirms my resolution to serve God, and work to change the negative image that the Church seems to have in the world today.
So I say, why wouldn't you want to be a priest?