A POPULAR REDEMPTORIST who celebrated the 60th anniversary of his profession of vows yesterday says he has lived a “wonderful life” since that special day.
Father Peter Burns, who has been rector of Clonard in West Belfast since 2015, joined the order when he was just 17.
Born in Inishowen in County Donegal, Father Burns moved with his family to North Belfast when he was 10. A student at St Malachy’s College, he had first thought of studying medicine when he left.
However, his attendance at a retreat at St Clement’s retirement home led him to decide to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Father Frank Burns, and join the Redemptorists.
He spent his first year in the order’s house at Esker, Co Galway where on 15 September 1962 he took his vows before the community and invited guests including his mother, Brigid and some of his brothers.
Sadly, the special occasion came just six weeks after the death of her 54-year-old father, Paul.
He then moved to the Redemptorist Seminary in Galway, where he studied for the priesthood for six years and was ordained in 1968, again on the special date of September 15.
His first posting was at the Redemptorist Home in Esker, where he spent three years before being transferred to Clonard where he spent the next six years, then to St Clements Retirement Home from 1978 to 1981.
Father Burns then spent a year in America where he undertook a professional training program in pastoral and counseling in Topeka, Kansas.
In 1982 he was sent to Dundalk where he became director of novices.
During his two years in this position, a total of 36 novices spent their time under his direction.
In the years that followed, Father Burns held several posts in Ireland. In 2015, the clerk was again appointed rector of Clonard and again in 2019.
Speaking to The Irish News yesterday, on the 60th anniversary of his profession of vows and the 54th anniversary of his ordination, Fr Burns said he was ‘very grateful’ for his experiences over the years .
“I find it very hard to believe it was so long ago,” he said.
“I was thinking about it this morning and thinking back to the years gone by and it’s been a very, very blessed time.”
This week, Father Burns took a trip down memory lane when he visited the Redemptorist home in Esker, where he took his vows six decades ago.
“It’s been a wonderful life,” he said.
“For most of these years I have held management positions, local management in Clonard and Dublin, as well as at national management level.
“The most satisfying and fulfilling years of my Redemptorist life were the years I spent in formation, when I was director of formation at Dundalk with the novices because you were working with young men who were trying to decide their future, their vocation.”
He added: “I also feel that being a Redemptorist for 60 years is a huge blessing, it’s a huge privilege.
“The access you have to people who are Redemptorists is very humbling and it’s so wonderful that I’m very, very grateful.
“I am very happy and despite everything, thank God, my health is basically good.
“I’m very, very grateful to have been able to do so much in these years.”