Vocation Story

By David Donaghue

Recently I handed in my final papers, asking my bishop to ordain me to be a deacon, on the path to priesthood. I had to express in my own words that I desire to live a life of obedience, celibacy and prayer. When I was a younger, I imagined by my early thirties I would be married, with several children and a good job. God had other plans.

Having lived a party lifestyle, playing in a band in my early twenties, I began to feel the emptiness of hedonism. As my band fizzled out, I fell into a job in mental healthcare and surprisingly enjoyed it. It was a privilege to work with talented colleagues and great characters in the patients under my care. Experiencing deep suffering began to cut through my shallow materialistic attitude.

I began to ask questions and picked up the children’s bible one day. I always found the bible difficult to engage with, but the simplicity of the children’s version began to move my heart. I recognised Jesus in the stories from my childhood and felt a pull towards him, an attraction, a relief. That began my quest for answers about this Catholic Faith I had been brought up in. I found good answers, answers that made sense. Especially what the Church has to say about authentic love. For the first time I heard the message (or was able to receive the message) that love is a decision not just a feeling, love is for the good of the other, not just what I can gain. Finally, I realised that love is true when so much of my previous life had been empty.

One day seeing the priest set up for a quiet Tuesday evening Mass, I thought, how amazing must it be to give your whole life to loving completely. This was the start of my journey to the Catholic Priesthood and after five years of training, I am due to be ordained a deacon. I give all credit to my family who prayed perseveringly for me and to Mary Immaculate for her loving hand in my life. All glory be to Jesus for his goodness to me, that I may serve his people with his love.

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To help me discover what it was that God was asking of me an opportunity arose for me to go to Lourdes with HCPT to help serve disabled and disadvantaged children and young adults. Not knowing at the time, but this was to be the moment of a truly beautiful encounter of God. After a week full of joy and love for others, the boy I was looking after simply smiled at me and then in sign language made the sign for love and pointed at me. My heart sank, I felt as if the clouds opened and God pointed at me saying “you”. Within that and sitting at the blessed Grotto, I made a promise that whatever I did, I would do something to help others and make that the priority in my life. This week in Lourdes set my heart on fire with the love of God and I decided to do a gap year at Walsingham House, the same place that I had once visited.

To cut a very long story short I ended up working at Walsingham House for 7 years. During this time I prayed with young people, shared my faith story and taught the faith to those who I met. I loved it. It was during this time that priesthood came back into my thoughts, my prayer and young people were the ones who kept saying to me, “you’d be a well good priest, you should do it!” I kept battering it away thinking, “I couldn’t do that” but after discussion with priests and spending time in Lourdes at the Grotto I started to realise that it was something that I was being called to do.

As I returned to Lourdes in 2014 at Easter I was going through a difficult time in my life and I was angry with a God. I remember sitting at the Grotto and shouting at Mary “how dare you do this to me, you fix it!” As I left I put everything into the Blessed Mother’s hands and gave it over. As I came home, things resolved and I was back that summer in Lourdes once again. After discerning for a few years the moment of realisation finally came. During communion the choir were singing “Do not be afraid I am with you, I have called you each by name. Come and follow Me, I will bring you home. I love you and you are mine.” As I looked up at the statue of Mary I remember feeling so happy and I said in my heart “ok, I will do it”. I said my “yes” and I couldn’t quite believe it. I spoke to a priest and told him that I was going to apply for the Brentwood Diocese and I burst into tears. It was such a huge moment for me but one that I never look back on. Since that moment of letting go of my worries and allowing God to guide me, I have felt such joy and each day I ask the Lord to guide me as I continue to discern my vocation and what God is asking of me.