The sun shone brightly this afternoon at St Eugene’s Cathedral as a Donegal man was ordained to the priesthood.
Crowds packed the church as the former school bus driver and manager at Derry’s bowling alley made his final vows and was ordained a priest by Bishop Donal McKeown.
During the service which included the tradition of the newly ordained priest prostrating on the altar floor, Bishop McKeown told Father O’Donnell he was being ordained to sow the seed in hope.
“For you are stepping out in a time when many will say that the ground is not very receptive for word of God,” said Bishop McKeown.
“Jesus tells us elsewhere that some seed will fall on rocks or among briars or in shallow soil. Your ministry may be one where the immediate fruit can seem scarce. Of course that has been the norm for the missionary Church over the last 2000 years. Your trustful sowing will itself be a witness to the power of God, even in the depths of winter when the soil is hard and frozen.”
The Derry bishop warned that unless our generation finds new way to sow in hope then there will be “no-one to speak to the next generation about the love, forgiveness and healing that Jesus wishes to announce to every age.”
“You are not being ordained today merely to do a job or to fill a post,” he added. “You have answered a divine call. Seán, pray every day so that you will keep hearing the voice of the Master who says to all of us each day, “No, I’m not talking about Twitter. I literally want you to follow me!” Remember that ‘a lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing!’
“This is a day of blessing for Sean and his family. It is also a blessing for the Church that is in the diocese of Derry. But it is a day of good news for the world. When someone – whether in ordination, consecrated life or in marriage – takes the step of a lifelong commitment to the service of the Lord, that courage speaks a counter-cultural voice into a world of many fickle relationships where people are told that they should worship and find salvation at the altar of the great god of ‘feeling good’.
“Seán, let the seed of God’s word and grace grow in your heart. Believe that God is in all the seasons of the Church’s life. Pray with your people and for your people – and they will hold you up in love and prayer. Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith Know that God can use your faults as well as your talents.”
The newly ordained Father O’Donnell thanked all those who who had helped him on his journey to the priesthood including his parents Joe and Rosemary, his siblings, former work colleagues and parishioners.
But his final thought went to his late twin brother James, and those who have gone before us.
“I am blessed with wonderful memories of the example, friendship, love and help and the prayers of many people whom we pray for and entrust back to share eternal life with God.