WATCH: Fr Ninian's call to the priesthood

Father Ninian Doohan, a priest at St Patrick's, The Cowgate, Edinburgh, reflects on his journey of discerning and answering the call to priesthood in this Shalom World interview.

He emphasises how God's call unfolds gradually over time, requiring a response to the grace already given.

From his childhood in Glasgow to his formation in Australia and Belgium, Father Doohan's path was marked by encounters with God's presence, often amidst challenges and uncertainties. Watch below or on YouTube via Shalom World.

If you are interested in exploring the priesthood contact our Director of Vocations Fr Andrew Garden at vocations@staned.org.uk   

Becoming a Deacon: Peter Shankland's story

Despite being brought up as a Catholic, when I came to Edinburgh to study in 1992, I was more attracted by the bright lights of the city than by going to Mass!

In 2000 however, having by then settled in Edinburgh, I decided to start attending church again.

I went first to the Vigil Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, where the late Monsignor David Gemmel welcomed me back with open arms.

He told me that he hoped I was doing this for myself and not for my family.

I think he was making an important point.

Soon he encouraged me to become more involved in the life of the Cathedral parish, first as a passkeeper and then as a reader.

While I was training to work as a teacher, he offered me the chance to help with the children’s liturgy.

More than a building

Msgr David’s untimely death was a shock to all of us, and this was the moment I realised that I really belonged to a community in this Cathedral.

It was far more than just a building.

Peter (left) with friend and fellow seminarian Paul Henderson. Both will be ordained in Rome on 14 June 2023.

I became an Extraordinary Eucharistic minister at the invitation of Msgr Mike Reagan, another very wise priest from whom I would learn a lot.

Others who had an influence on me were Msgr Patrick Burke and Fr.Nick Welsh.

For me, they were both shepherds at a time when I could have become lost.

In 2018, I went on pilgrimage to Rome for the Diaconate Ordination of Fr Patrick Harrigan who attended the Beda College (where I currently study) and who is also an ex-parishioner of the Cathedral.

I was very moved by this ceremony, and it was the following day that I realised how much it had touched me.

While visiting the Vatican Museum, one of the great thunderstorms - for which Rome is famous - blew up. Once it had passed, I went for a walk in the gardens.

It was then that I dared to think that God might be calling me to be a priest. It is a moment I recall every time I read the story of Elijah’s encounter with the still small voice of God.

Happy memories

Many memories and impressions of the Cathedral stay with me as happy memories.

I think of the ark at the front of the sanctuary, and the times in front of the blessed sacrament when I felt as though I was raising my heart and mind to heaven when I looked across at it.

I think of being involved in the Chrism Mass and the Easter Triduum and the occasion when, in my nervousness at the former, I nearly dropped the processional cross.

Peter and Paul at the Beda College in Rome where they are studying for the priesthood.

I remember vividly assisting with the veneration of the cross on Good Friday, and how moving I found the solemnity on each face that came forward.

The people’s participation at the Vigil Mass was also achingly beautiful, and I felt I was a part of a giant family as we moved together into the body of the Church.

When I revealed to people that I had been accepted to study for the priesthood, I was overwhelmed by expressions of love and joy.

One parishioner said she had made a list of people she thought would answer God’s call, and I had been one of them.

Taking action

The movement from thought to action had come about one Saturday morning in the Cathedral, after confession with Fr Binhu, when he asked me to wait and speak to him outside the confessional.

He sensed I was torn about something. That was when I told him that I thought I had a vocation, and he was very encouraging and helpful.

I then met with Msgr. Burke, who said he thought I would make a good candidate, and with Fr Jamie McMorrin, the new curate, who was also supportive.

Fr Jamie encouraged me to attend his ‘young’ adult group for some pastoral and personal experience.

This gave me more confidence in talking about and understanding my faith.

Although I was receiving a lot of support from the clergy, I didn’t at first tell anyone in the parish that I was applying for the Priesthood.

That said I always found my conversations with parishioners encouraging during this time of waiting.

I would encourage anyone who feels they have a vocation to consider it carefully.

Even though they did not know my plans, I felt we were part of the same praying community, and that they were praying for me (as I was for them) regardless of what I was doing.

I found the Cathedral was a place of unparalleled calm that allowed me to spend time in silence.

As, God willing, I approach ordination as a Deacon this month, I haven’t for a moment regretted the resolution that was formed in that silence, and I feel every day that the Lord is affirming that He has called me into this wonderful vocation.

I would encourage anyone who feels they have a vocation to consider it carefully.

Rome has of course been a special place to study, but the Cathedral will always be the place where I came back to practising my faith and I will always be so grateful for the love, support, and prayers I received there.

In fact, and in a way I can’t express, I shall always be grateful to the Cathedral community.

Peter Shankland will be ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Leo Cushley at the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on Wednesday 14 June 2023. He will be ordained alongside Paul Henerson, who is also a parishioner of the Cathedral. Read his story here. This article first appeared in Crux, the magazine of the Friends of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, Spring 2023 edition.

Called & Gifted Workshop

This workshop will help you identify your charisms (spiritual gifts) and begin to discern God’s call through the Called and Gifted Workshop.

Register here.

You have received gifts in Baptism and Confirmation through which God intends His love to reach others.

You will learn:
• The five steps of discerning the charisms that God has given you, and how they can change your life.
• How discerning your charisms can change the world and help spread the Gospel.
• How discerning and using our charisms together can help transform and renew our parishes.

The workshop will also look at the fascinating ancient teachings of the Church on how the charisms of the Holy Spirit work in your life and in the life of your parish community. We will delve into the signs and characteristics of the most common charisms of the Holy Spirit. Come and discover these charisms in you!

The event is on from 9:00am to 3:30pm with lunch included from midday to 1:00pm. The cost is £25 and includes materials, online access, and lunch (midday to 1pm).

This event is hosted by the Archdiocesan Catechetics Commission in collaboration with the Catherine of Siena Institute. Free parking onsite.

Queries? Email sranna.marie@staned.org.uk

WATCH: 'How do I discover God's will for me?'

"God has created me to do Him some definite service..." St John Henry Newman knew that each of us has a vocation from God to do his will on earth.

For some it will be serving Him in the priesthood or religious life. In the below video, Sr Mirjam Hugens explores how you can discover his will for you.