Former Salthill teacher ordained a Dominican priest

A former teacher from Salthill, who first felt a “calling” to the religious life as a child while attending the Solemn Novena at Galway Cathedral, was ordained a Dominican priest at the weekend.

Father Conor McDonough, one of a family of six, four brothers and one sister, was one of eight members of the Dominican Order in Ireland to have been ordained on Saturday by Archbishop Robert Rivas OP. A native of Trinidad, he joined the Irish Province of the Dominican Order in 1964 and is currently Archbishop of Castries (St Lucia ).

The ordinations took place in the year when the Dominican Order worldwide is celebrating the eighth centenary of being granted papal approval.

During his homily the Archbishop praised the late Damian Byrne OP, a Claddagh man who became the 83rd Master General of the Dominican Order and said he inspired him greatly during his formative years in the Carribean.

After the ordination at St Saviour’s priory in Limerick, the archbishop got a tremendous response when he sang a calypso song,??? a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago during the early to mid-20th century, in honour of St Dominic.

Fr Mc Donough, who was educated at Scoil Iognaid and St Mary’s College in Galway, celebrated his first Mass at St Mary’s Dominican Church in the Claddagh on the Sunday.

A keen sportsman - he played football and hurling for Salthill/Knocknacarra, took part in athletics with Galway City Harriers, as well as a number of sports at St Mary’s College - he experienced his first calling to the priesthood many years ago,

“Even as a child, attending the Novena in Galway Cathedral, I felt that God might be calling me to be a priest. Naturally, such thoughts get put on the back burner during teenage years, but they came back strongly when I was at university in Cambridge, studying science. There, I was struck by the lack of faith of so many around me and in the Catholic chaplaincy I made wonderful friends, studied the faith in greater depth, and grew in prayer. It was then that I really started considering what God wanted me to do with my life.”

He felt drawn to the Dominican Order from the start. “When I investigated various religious orders, the Dominicans instantly jumped out to me. Their official title is the Order of Preachers: their whole mission is the clear and attractive communication of the gospel, and this is something I was passionate about.

“The whole Dominican way of life is entirely geared towards this preaching: we take study seriously, so we can respond effectively to contemporary questions; we live in communities, not on our own, so that we can be supported and grounded in our preaching work; and we pray regularly together, keeping us rooted always in Christ.”

He was impressed by the Dominican priests he met, all who shared a passion and enthusiasm for their mission.

“When I got to meet the Dominicans, I met young guys like myself who were enthusiastically throwing themselves into the mission and older men who had abundant wisdom and hadn’t lost the enthusiasm of their youth.

“After a few ‘live-in’ experiences, I decided I had to try it out. This involved leaving my job as a teacher, which I loved, and beginning a one-year trial period, known as a novitiate. Since then I’ve loved life as a Dominican, above all because I’m convinced that Ireland has a great need for what the Dominicans are all about. Many Irish people have, for various understandable reasons, left behind Christ and the Church, and the role of the Dominicans is to propose a return, and to do this in a way that is intelligent, passionate, sympathetic and attractive.”

The newly ordained Dominican priest has spent the last year in Fribourg in Switzerland, doing further studies in the theology faculty there.

“My first assignation is back there for two more years to continue in-depth study with the aim of returning to Ireland and getting to work!”

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