By: Father Donal O'Hanlon SSC
My First Holy Communion at the age of seven was one of the most important experiences of my life. After coming home from the church that day, my mother sent me out to the farm to call the workmen for lunch. I felt Jesus physically present to me. I stopped and told him that I would always do his will. My father noticed my prayerlife and encouraged me to be a priest. I responded negatively. He died when I was 11 years old. His death had a profound influence on me. The most traumatic experience of my life was the sudden death of my mother five years later. At that time the call to priesthood was so insistent that I made a decision to be a priest and never questioned it. My first three years as a seminarian for my home Diocese of Cloyne were spent in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland’s national seminary. Then I decided to join the Columbans and spent the next five years at their seminary in Dalgan Park where I was ordained a priest by Bishop Patrick Cleary on 21 December 1959. Bishop Cleary had been a professor in Maynooth but joined the Columbans in 1918, the year the Society was formally established. He later became Bishop of Nancheng, China, but was expelled in 1952.