TWO young Mid-Ulster men will this weekend fulfil a ‘lifelong’ clerical dream when they are ordained in the Archdiocese of Armagh.
26 year-old Thomas McHugh from Castledawson and Ryan McAleer, 25, from the Rock will take part in a special ceremony at St Patrick’s Cathedral this Sunday, July 1, the feast day of Saint Oliver Plunkett, a former Archbishop of Armagh.
Both Thomas and Ryan have studied philosophy and theology for the past seven years and attended St Patrick’s College Maynooth with Ryan spending four years at Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.
On the day the Rite of Ordination will be conferred in a prestigious ceremony which includes the laying of hands, by Cardinal Sean Brady on both deacons.
Both oridnants will be fulfilling a lifelong ambition to become clerics, drawing inspiration from priests in their parishes and the support of family and friends.
Speaking to the Mid-Ulster Mail before the ceremony Rev. McAleer said: “From a very early age I have had a deep desire to become a priest. I guess it was the example of the local curate in my parish, as well as the influence of my family that allowed me to hear and discern the calling I believe God has for me to be a priest.”
Ryan, whose interests include history, politics and current affairs is an avid cinema follower and cites ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as one of his favourite movies. The former lifeguard, who has spent the last four years living and studying in Rome, entered the seminary at 18, straight after leaving Saint Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon.
“As I got older, of course I came to realise the full implications of what such a vocation in life would involve, but nothing could deter me from following this desire in my heart to be a priest because the thought of doing anything else just didn’t match up to the joy and peace I felt at the thought of being a priest.
“Quite simply, I have chosen to be a priest so that I can spend my life bringing people closer to God.”
Fellow seminarian, Rev. Thomas McHugh entered Maynooth on leaving St Patrick’s School, Maghera and a short spell working in a computer shop. His technological experience has allowed him to design and set up a number of parish websites.
Fresh from participating last week at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, an event he felt encouraging, he sees priesthood not just as a job but something he has been called to.
He said: “I am becoming a priest because I feel deep within my heart that God has called me. As a new young priest in Ireland, I hope to bring the hope and joy that comes with knowing Jesus to as many people as possible.
“My prayer and ambition is that I will be the best possible priest I can be. I pray that I will be a holy priest.”
He added: “I really enjoy working with young people and helping them to celebrate and know their Catholic faith. As I have come to experience the joy that comes with knowing Jesus personally; I want to share this with as many people as possible.”
Thomas and Ryan have been supported through their study and forthcoming ordination by the Diocesan liaison, Fr Joseph McKeever and Director of Vocations Fr Peter McAnenly who confirmed that there are currently 62 seminarians in St Patrick’s College Maynooth and 16 Irish seminarians in Rome at present with 11 students being ordained in Ireland this summer.
Fr McAnenly said: “As Director of Vocations, I’m delighted that we have two young men to be ordained priests for our diocese this year.
“There are others whom I am continuing to meet with on a regular basis and who are continuing to discern their call in life and who are reflecting on the call to priesthood.”
He added: “Next Sunday will undoubtedly be a wonderful day for Ryan and Thomas and for their families but it will also be a great day for their respective parishes and indeed for the whole Church of Armagh.”
Mindful of the struggles and sufferings in Ireland at present, Rev. McAleer said that only through God will followers find true meaning, happiness and salvation.
“As a young priest I hope to play my small part in bringing new enthusiasm and energy to what is often perceived today as a weary, old institution. The Church is alive! The Church is young!”
Following their ordination, Ryan and Thomas will celebrate their first mass on Monday 2nd July at 7.30 p.m. in their home parishes at the Holy Trinity Church, Cookstown and Church of our Lady of the Assumption, Magherafelt.
Live streaming of the ordination from Armagh Cathedral will carried on the internet at 3.00 p.m on Sunday 1st July from www.churchservices.tv/armagh.