Richard Reid is talking about vocations. His own could not have been more straightforward – ‘I have wanted to be a priest since I was a very young boy,’ he recalls cheerfully – but he knows other cases can be rather more complicated.
As the Redemptorists’ vocations director for England and Scotland, Father Richard has almost daily dealings with those considering a life in the Church. Yet this month he will address a rather broader range of people at the Living Joyfully event at the Metropolitan Cathedral. This three-day event on 6–8 February is an attempt to show the public – particularly young people – the reality of religious life. ‘We were talking about this Year of Consecrated Life that the Pope has asked for and we thought “We need to do something”,’ he says of the plans laid with a group including a De La Mennais brother and nuns from four different orders.
"We are all ages and all different forms of religious life and I think they will see that and it will raise questions,’ he adds of the event. Its first day is for school pupils from Years 10–13 but the second day – Saturday 7th – is open to all and will feature presentations, discussions and a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon. ‘We are hoping to plant seeds in young people’s minds to let them know we exist and we do great things, and we do things joyfully. If I was a miserable person I would have left the Redemptorists years ago!’
Ordained at 26 in 1998, Fr Richard is based today at Bishop Eton, Childwall. He estimates he has engaged with "about 40 people’ contemplating their calling over the last four years. "They are trying to work out where God is in all the different life choices that are thrown before them. My job is to try and help them listen to the voice of God because there is no other way to get a vocation.’
Returning to his own vocation, he heard that voice when still in short trousers in his native Scotland; indeed he spent two years at a junior seminary – Blairs College in Aberdeen – on leaving primary school. After completing his secondary education back in his home town of Greenock, he joined the Redemptorists. Curiously, his only concern about becoming a priest was a desire to stay at home and not be sent to Africa. "I was asked years later to go to Zimbabwe, completely out of the blue, and it was a really wonderful experience that I am very grateful for.’ That said, his posting to Tafara, Harare ended abruptly when he suffered a brain aneurysm on a visit home. "They thought I was going to die. I was in intensive care for six weeks and then here I am now miraculously.’
He remains grateful for the many prayers said for him then, and after making a full recovery he was presented with a new challenge as vocations director – the latest in his multi-layered life as a priest and ‘a great privilege’. ‘I could never have guessed that I would have been in the places I have been in, and met the people I have met, and done the things I have done,’ he adds. ‘They have happened because I said yes – simple as that.’