Northern Ireland

Popular Redemptorist celebrates 60th anniversary of profession of vows which led to a 'wonderful life'

Fr Peter Burns yesterday celebrated 60 years since he professed his vows and 54 years since he was ordained into the priesthood. Picture by Hugh Russell
Fr Peter Burns yesterday celebrated 60 years since he professed his vows and 54 years since he was ordained into the priesthood. Picture by Hugh Russell Fr Peter Burns yesterday celebrated 60 years since he professed his vows and 54 years since he was ordained into the priesthood. Picture by Hugh Russell

A POPULAR Redemptorist who yesterday celebrated the 60th anniversary of the profession of his vows says he has lived a "wonderful life" since that special day.

Fr Peter Burns, who has been Rector of Clonard in west Belfast since 2015, joined the order when he was just 17-years-old.

Born in Inishowen in Co Donegal, Fr Burns moved with his family to north Belfast when he was 10-years-old. A student at St Malachy's College, he had initially thought about studying medicine when he left.

However, his attendance at a retreat at St Clement's Retreat House saw him decide to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Fr Frank Burns, and join the Redemprorists.

He spent his first year in the order's house in Esker, Co Galway where, on September 15 1962, he professed his vows in front of the community and invited guests, including his mother, Brigid and some of his brothers.

Unfortunately, the special occasion took place just six weeks after the death of his 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 to the Redemptorist house in Esker, where he spent three years before being transferred to Clonard where he spent the next six years, then moving to St Clements Retreat House from 1978 to 1981.

Fr Burns then spent one year in America where he undertook a professional training programme in pastoral care and counselling in Topeka, Kansas.

In 1982, he was sent to Dundalk where he became Director of Novices.

During his two years in the position, a total of 36 novices spent their time under his direction.

In the years that followed, Fr Burns held a number of positions around Ireland. In 2015, the cleric was once again appointed Rector of Clonard and again in 2019.

Speaking to The Irish News yesterday, on the 60th anniversary of the profession of his vows and 54th anniversary of his ordination, Fr Burns said he is "very grateful" for his experiences down the years.

"I find it very hard to believe that it is such a long time ago," he said.

"I was thinking this morning about it and thinking back over the years and it has been a very, very blessed time".

Fr Burns this week took a trip down memory lane when he visited the Redemptorist house in Esker, where he professed his vows six decades ago.

"It's been a wonderful life," he said.

"For a lot of those years I have been in leadership, local leadership at Clonard and Dublin and also at national level of leadership.

"The most satisfying, fulfilling years of my Redemptorist life were the years I spent in formation, when I was Director of Formation in Dundalk with the novices because you were working with young men who were trying to decide about their futures, about their vocation."

He added: "I also feel that being a Redemptorist for 60 years is an enormous blessing, it is an enormous privilege.

"The access that you have to people being a Redemptorist is very humbling and it is just so wonderful so I am very, very grateful.

"I am very happy and still, thank God, my health is basically ok.

"I feel very, very grateful that I have been able to do so much in these years."