By Brother Patrick Corrigan, Third Order Regular Franciscan
I grew up in Ireland, in a predominantly Catholic county in a rural part of the country called Virginia, Co. Cavan. Daily prayer was an important part of my upbringing. I remember saying our morning prayers as a family as we traveled to school. I would take time out for personal prayer, time with God. Those were the first promptings of a start of a more personal relationship with God.
The idea of priesthood started to come into my heart and into my mind as I completed secondary school, but I put them aside and went to the University of Galway. But God’s promptings were still in my heart, and in 1988, at the age of 18, at the age of 18, I went to the National Seminary St Patrick’s college, Maynooth to study for diocesan priesthood. I was content.
The bishop decided to send me to Rome to study theology. During my third year there, I began to ask if I was ready to make this decision. Am I mature enough? In 1994, I decided I wanted to take some time off and consider what God was calling me to do and returned to Ireland. There I found a job teaching in a school where some of the children came from difficult socio-economic backgrounds. They didn’t have much interest in religion, and of course, I was an idealistic seminarian just out of theology school. I thought I knew everything, but these kids taught me humility.
I took a break from teaching in 2003 and sold real estate for a number of years. In 2009, I returned to the seminary. There was a program all seminarians had to complete called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). It was training seminary students in terms of pastoral care, mostly in hospital settings. Because all of the spots in the hospitals in Ireland were filled, I came to the United States and found a place at Florida Hospital Orlando.
This was a life-changing experience for me. People are their most vulnerable in a hospital setting. One day I was sitting with a patient for what was to be a quick visit. When I was about to leave, I asked the gentleman if he would like me to pray with him.
As we prayed, he started to cry. It moved me, and we ended up getting in a long, deeper conversation. I was moved by the fact that God was using me again in terms of ministering. I felt God was using me again to extend healing to others and reminding me that ‘I am still with you, and I am calling you.’
At the end of the summer I returned to the seminary but felt drawn back to Florida Hospital to continue my Chaplaincy training and ministry. I felt that this was the ministry God was calling me to do.
One Saturday evening I was at Mass at St. Margaret Mary, when I saw a card advertising Franciscan vocations. For some reason, that night I sent an email to the address listed on the card. It was very spontaneous, yet very natural. Two days later I was having coffee with the vocations director.
The Franciscan way of life is a call to service, especially to those most marginalized. Our charism calls us to serve the sick, the underprivileged, and the marginalized. I felt a great connection to this Franciscan way of life and to living the gospel life in Community. I completed my canonical novitiate on June 13 of this year, the Feast of St. Anthony, and took my first vows on June 21.
Looking back on the journey, I recognize that God was gently prompting and calling me to daily conversion, as is our charism, and to live this out in service to the gospel. I have a great love of people and I love living in community with my brothers. Sharing prayer life, the Eucharist and fellowship is very enriching and sustaining for me personally as is being able to share my own gifts and talents with others.