The SMA Family Vocations Community (FVC) was established in the African Missions College, Dromantine in 1959 to support the missionary work of the SMA. FVC members commit themselves to pray for and help fund the training of SMA missionaries worldwide.
Originally formed to support the training of Irish SMA seminarians, the FVC family is now the spiritual and financial backbone of the SMA training programmes in seven African countries, India, Philippines and Poland. Its 10,000 plus members come from every county in Ireland.
The cost of educating and accommodating these young men (in 2016, 300+ seminarians) is more than €1.7 million per year. Most of them come from less affluent communities and so they are dependant on the generosity of the international SMA support base to help them to fulfil their missionary vocation. From the beginning in 1959 the FVC has been lay-based – the original instigator was Tommy McKenna from Belfast who gathered a small group to pay the £100 that would then educate one student for a year. It grew from there with the support of others such as Marie Bell and the late Johnny Lappin who were among the founding members of the FVC. They, with Fr John Joe Conlan SMA (later Dom David OSB, who died 2017, RIP) travelled all over Ulster establishing FVC groups of Sponsors to support the seminarians in Dromantine. Thank God there are still people willing to establish new FVC groups in all parts of Ireland. Details of the FVC Directors in each Province are given below.
What does an FVC group do?
Every FVC group has an organiser – a Head Sponsor. This woman (or man) will normally invite family, neighbours and friends to join them on an annual basis for a chat and the celebration of the Mass. They will have the opportunity to hear about developments in the SMA and the progress of the young missionaries in training. Normally the training and formation of an SMA priest takes 8 – 11 years. The FVC group agree to make an annual contribution (£10 or €10/15) for an eight-year period. If, at any stage, someone is unable to make their contribution that’s ok, there’s no coercion on anyone. Peoples circumstances change.
At the end of this period they are invited to attend their nearest SMA house to celebrate a Thanksgiving Mass for the ordination class of that year whom they have been supporting (8 Year Sponsors Day). One of our priests – from Africa, India, Poland or the Philippines – will attend to represent the newly-ordained. In this way the Sponsors get a real sense of their vital role in and contribution to Mission and to spreading the Good News in a practical and meaningful way, both at home and abroad.
These meetings are intended to nurture a sense of community and support among the various Head Sponsors in close proximity to each other throughout the country.
The Head Sponsor is the contact person for the group with the nearest SMA house and will often communicate special requests for prayer to their local FVC Director, as well as organising the group, collecting annual contributions and keeping in touch with the sponsors.
Sponsors who are unable to join a group may hold Individual Membership by sending an annual contribution directly to the nearest FVC Director.
FVC members undertake to do three things:
- to pray for vocations daily;
- to encourage vocations in their home through a positive attitude to their Christian faith;
- to make a financial contribution annually to training costs of SMA priests.
FVC members often attend other events at SMA houses by virtue of their connection with the Society.
Some FVC events
Retreats for all sponsors in Dromantine;
Family Fun Days in Claregalway and Dromantine (June);
Get-togethers held in Leinster and Munster at various times and venues throughout the year.
Annual SMA / OLA Pilgrimage to Knock on the 4th Saturday in May with buses from every corner of Ireland organised by Head Sponsors.
Dromanteens Summer Camps – children (aged 11-16) of the FVC sponsor families have the opportunity to attend the very popular “Dromanteens” Summer Camps which take place in Dromantine every July and August.
For more information on the above, on how to start a group or to become an individual sponsor please contact one of the following:
Patricia Nagle [FVC Office], African Missions, Blackrock Road, Cork Tel: 021 461 6316 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fr Dan McCauley, African Missions, Dromantine, Newry, Co Down BT34 1RH
Tel: (+44) 028 3082 1224 or email@example.com
Fr Frank McGrath, SMA House, Cloonbigeen, Claregalway, Co Galway Tel: 091 798 880 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fr Paul Monahan – Dublin & Leinster), SMA House, 81 Ranelagh Road, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Tel: 01- 496 8162 or email@example.com