The Dunmore Pope John Paul II award participants chose to interview a local deacon on his vocation choice as part of their papal project. Paul Glennon, a deacon from the parish of Dunmore was ordained in Dublin on June 3rd 2015. He kindly agreed to share with this wonderful youth group about his relationship with God and the Church. Take a look below at how the interview went and all that was shared.
Are you from a religious Family?
Well my mother was strong in faith and she brought me to Mass when I was growing up. I used to pray and say my prayers at night but in college I drifted away from that.
So there was a good 8 or 9 year period when I drifted away from my faith and I didn’t go to Mass, at the end of that period I could see that something was missing in my life, a lack of fulfilment in life. I was working as an engineer, a mechanical engineer. It was through a girl actually, we were going out together and she began talking about her faith and she brought me along to a big gathering of people praying, enjoying themselves, talks, I really felt God come to me in that one moment. I felt loved and that he existed.
I ended up in Rome for a year studying my faith. I started visiting different countries to do with the faith.
When did you realise that you would like to be a Priest?
That year when I went to Rome the question of the priesthood came up but I wasn’t ready it wasn’t the right time for me. It was when I working in Boston Scientific in Galway this lady came in to speak to employees to see if you were happy. The woman said to me ‘well, are you really happy her?’ I said ‘no’ that I was thinking of the priesthood and she said to me ‘well, what do you need to do this?’ so then I started making steps in that direction. I had a mortgage so there was no way I could stop working. I was being made redundant. I got a lump sum so I could pay the mortgage and take time out, you know, everything fell into place that was one big thing. So I just started from there.
Was there any particular event that made you change the course of your life?
I suppose it was that prayer weekend where my girlfriend brought me in 2004. World youth day in Cologne in 2005 was a big moment for me. There were a million young people there and even around the city for a week, they call it world youth day but it lasts for a week it was just powerful, such a great atmosphere. People from different countries were speaking to each other, swapping mementos such as hats and flags and everything. That was a very powerful experience for me, so they were the main two.
What do you see as the role of a Catholic Priest in Ireland today?
I think a lot of people are struggling whether it’s financial, a lot of people are sad this is my experience from being in Parishes, there’s a lot going on in Society that argues against God and faith.
For Priests it’s important to witness the joy of faith, that’s what Pope Francis says. God really exists, that he has a plan for each of us. That’s what gives me fulfilment and Joy.
It was a difficult thing to say in front of people that I wanted to be a Priest and leave my job but the love of God has shown me that he is there for me, that’s what I want to do as a Priest, bring that joy, that faith, the inner strength it gives me.
What challenges do you think that you personally will have to face in the future?
Good Question, I think that there’s a whole lot of apathy to do with the church and the church has had its problems especially it’s great to see young people here engaging with your faith. I’ve spoken to Priests who have said that young people aren’t there, aren’t in the church. But even a lot of the people who are there aren’t really engaged with their faith, it’s just routine once a week so the challenges are there- how to break through that or just to engage and try to share the joy of the faith I suppose.
Did you have any romantic relationships before you decided to join the priesthood?
Yes, the girl I mentioned earlier.
Are you worried about being lonely in the future?
I think there’s loneliness and there’s solitude and the two things are different. Solitude is a thing where you live with the lord and loneliness is a negative thing where you wish you could be enjoying your time with someone.
Solitude is a thing you get to experience a lot in Maynooth where you’re studying, there’s times when you’re alone and you discover your relationship with God.
So, Loneliness is an issue say on a Sunday when you’re finished your two or three Masses and everybody is gone to their families. You go to your family maybe but it is an issue. Priests have to establish friendships as well and have to have that outlet it’s something that has to be worked on. But there is solitude too it’s not loneliness it’s time with God as well.
Will you have to live alone or with fellow Priests?
So, I’ve actually asked to live with other priests So, I’m in a group called the Emmanuel Community and that’s why I’m not in the Tuam Archdiocese I’m in Dublin because of that reason.
Most likely I’ll be in a Parish on my own but I hope to be sharing with other Priests It’s important that we work together, it’s important to share the ups and downs of the ministry. It’s important not to be alone as we said.
Why did you choose your particular order?
I just, after my initial journey of faith, I went to Cologne with them and I felt that the Lord was working through them, through the guys themselves. They were down to earth, they liked to have a drink at the weekend, you know ordinary things yet they liked to share their faith. We’d go to a shopping centre once a month in Tallaght to share our faith. We’d give out candles and invite people into the oratory. That’s why I chose them.
Are you nervous before you say your first Mass?
Yes, very nervous because I’ll have all neighbours, friends and family and there’s a huge spiritual- the lord himself is there through the ordinary weak man of a Priest, that through a Priest he makes his body and blood present on the altar and I’ve had a lot of spiritual experiences through the Eucharist and I’ve had very moving experiences so, I don’t know what it will feel like when I’m actually doing the consecration for the first time but the lord is so humble that he uses a man, a weak individual to do that it’s just so inspiring that God does that, so yes, I am nervous.
What did you have to do/Study /Work at to become a Priest?
Well, for the first two years I had to study Philosophy which is the study of thinkers. They have to think about life and ask questions. Would you have heard of guy called Descartes? They just ask these questions, philosophy is human reason so they go around in circles a lot and then another philosopher comes along and tears down their ideas.
So theology then is the study of God and God revealed himself to us through Christ and the Gospels, so you’re studying this for four years learning about scripture and different aspects of faith, you study about Heaven, the Church, Scripture, The Saints. We study the documents of the Church, the Vatican, Catechism, loads of stuff. I haven’t even got through half of it yet.
What will your typical day as a Priest be like?
I amn’t a Priest yet but it’ll revolve around the Mass. Mass is at 10 in the morning so you’re busy around that, so prayer time would usually be in the morning, a breavery, is the book of prayer that is recommended for everybody especially Priests, we promise to say it. So do consecrated brothers and sisters, so that’s prayed 5 times a day.
So we start the morning with that and time for personal prayer that gives me great peace, ask the lord for spiritual guidance to guide me through the day so whatever comes you can face it. So you start with prayer and maybe a bit of breakfast, then the Mass and after Mass you have people coming to you or you might go to the schools.
In Dublin you’d have Hospital visits or home visits. You’d have outreach maybe youth group, retirement groups. There’s loads.
What part of being a Priest are you looking forward to most?
Well, I suppose saying the Mass will be such an honour, yeah that’ll be up there.
One thing other Priests have told me is to be with the dying that you really bring the comfort of faith and Christ in that difficult situation, Priests have told me that that’s really touching and moving.
Also, I did a wedding with Fr. Fergal; I was the chief witness you can do that as a deacon watching the man and woman exchanging their vows, promising their love and fidelity for the rest of their lives is a huge commitment. It’s a very moving and powerful thing, so they’re the kind of things I’m looking forward to.
If Priests could get married, would you marry?
Well that’s a big part of my discernment; do I feel called to Priesthood and celibacy? There’s a few good documents written on it, Pope Paul VI wrote some beautiful things on it and some of them touched me, one of them was that Christ kept himself utterly to serve others and love God.
What struck me about it is that you are free to devote your full heart and I’ve experienced it in the seminary where people have asked me to pray for them or asked me to go to a prayer group.
In a marriage a lot of energy goes to each other and goes to the children. Your sexuality is an energy that you can channel in different ways healthily or unhealthily and so for a Priest it is an energy you can use to go to others, to spend time with others, to love others. If you have a wife that takes a lot of that energy away.
Is the commitment and sacrifice worth it for me? I felt the lord say ‘yes, I’m giving you the gift’ It’s a gift it’s not something I’m doing by my own strength. It’s a gift of ordination I’m being given so there’s a lot of fruit, a lot of spiritual children and a lot of people will tell you how much they’ve been touched by Priests ministries. So that’s the long answer.
Would you like to have children if you could marry?
It’s a wonderful thing to have children, I like children, in the Emmanuel community there are lots of families with children and they’re lovely but I know deep down it’s not my call I just want what’s Gods plan for me because that’s when I’m happiest and other people will benefit more around me so the answer is no I suppose. I don’t feel called to have a family.
What advice would you teenagers?
When I was a teenager we didn’t have half of what teenagers have now facebook, phones and all that.
I guess what’s most important is to have God in your life. Confirmation very often that’s the last sacrament. I ask the Holy Spirit very often, I asked the holy spirit before I came in here to help me and to have God in your life, there’s a deep joy and contentment in life when you have.
You have phones, facebook, videogames, you have sport on the telly and eventually you have going drinking and boyfriend- girlfriend stuff, none of that gives you fulfilment,it’s all important but when it’s in the right place the proper place, when it’s following the will of God for your life but all these things can be a distraction and can become the centre of your life.
Nothing on earth fulfils you like God, no created thing that does it. So that’s my advice to teenagers have God at the Centre of your life.
What advice would you give your 17 year old self?
Are ye 17? I suppose I was very conscious of what other people thought of me, I had low self-esteem and was always conscious of what people thought of me. I was always trying to make other people happy rather than being happy myself and what I did and not to be so caring about others because if your peace and joy is on the outside- It has to be on the inside in your own heart. So that’s my advice be really confident in yourself and ask God to give you that confidence.
How would you describe your personal relationship with Jesus?
I guess I spend about an hour if possible in front of the tabernacle or if it’s out in adoration and that’s a lot that’s a big part of the day but when you have Eucharistic adoration that is one of the charisms of this community it’s just to spend time, Jesus is really present and that changes your heart.
You know the story of John at the last supper he was close to Jesus and that’s what we are trying to do.
That’s my relationship with Jesus, he’s really real, he’s a friend, he’s God, he’s close to me in difficulties, he’s not going to stop me from suffering though I would like if he did that. He takes me through the suffering, the hurts, the joys and everything else. He suffered for me and he has a plan for me.
I hear him in different ways like I pick up the Gospel and one line strikes me and I know that’s the lord saying that to me.
So it’s a relationship, it’s a two way thing. It’s a relationship with someone you love. It’s not easy to hear like you’re hearing me, you have to take time away from music and phones and take time in prayer and I’d encourage you and your 17 year old selves to do that as well maybe before bed time, a little short time in prayer.