In the words of Pope Francis at the meeting with the Union of Superiors General on November 29, 2013:
“Religious life ought to promote growth in the Church by way of attraction. Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is this witness that I expect of you. Religious should be men and women who are able to wake the world up.”
Every year I invite my Sisters in Community to fill out a Vocation Ministry Commitment Card and I offered this quote from Pope Francis as a reminder of why our life and Vocation Ministry is so important!
Since Chapter 2003, our Congregational vocation efforts have been based on a model introduced at the 2002 Continental Congress on Vocations held in Montreal. This model is ever green for us ~ even in 2015!
Prior to 2002, the chief model for vocation ministry was “recruitment,” and presupposed that potential candidates had a strong sense of Catholic identity, were well-instructed in Catholic beliefs, practiced their faith, had a stable family life, and were familiar with sisters, brothers and priests. As you know, times have changed. New methods must be applied. Even with the best intentions, the voices of younger Catholics are easily muted, their perspectives marginalized, and their life experience overlooked.
The Continental Congress on Vocations challenged the entire Church in North America, from bishops to folks in the pews, to encourage vocations and promote a “Vocation Culture” and a “Preferential Option for the Young” in which every Christian is empowered to identify and respond to the mission to which he or she is called as a member of the Body of Christ, in and for the world.
In the words of the Congress document, this means “to foster an atmosphere in which young Catholics are open to a personal invitation to discern accurately and embrace freely the form of permanent commitment in the Church to which they are being called.” (Third Continental Congress on Vocations in North America 2002, p. 62)
To create this atmosphere or vocation culture, the Congress suggested a plan with five action steps:
1. TO PRAY: to be holy, to be converted, to worship
Prayer and a vibrant sacramental life – in the individual who is being called, and in the community through which the Lord calls is primary. Yes, we need to pray for vocations but more fundamentally the call for all people is to be women and men of prayer. How faithful are you/we to this call?
2. TO EVANGELIZE: to teach, to form, to catechize
This must be addressed at all stages of Catholic life but there is a critical need for credible and relevant adult religious education especially in the area of Scripture, Vatican II theology and the Church’s social teaching. Can you/we participate in any way here?
3. TO EXPERIENCE: worship, community, service, witness
To enable young people to be able to consider seriously a life of dedicated service, they need to experience its mission. Are you/we providing opportunities for service and a time to reflect on these experiences for young people?
4. TO MENTOR: to accompany, to guide, to model, to witness
The young people at the Congress asked that we who live consecrated life offer them an authentic and joyful witness to our way of life so that they may experience our passionate service. So they are asking us for personal guidance, that is, for someone to listen to them carefully and help them discern God’s call.
Are you able to do this for at least one young person?
5. TO INVITE: to discern, to choose, to commit
Congress delegates insisted that personal invitations to discern a call to consecrated life or ordained ministry must be a high priority. Yes, this is a chief component of the ministry of vocation ministers but it is definitely not limited to them. They cannot be in all places. They depend upon each sister wherever she serves to walk with young people, speak to them about their call in life and share their names for invitations to events that are planned to foster discernment of a vocation.
Are you/we inviting young people to be with you/us whenever you/we can?
As a Congregation, we have been embracing this model and I have felt the support and affirmation, of our Sisters for me and the vocation ministry since I became Vocation Director in 2003. Every summer I ask our Sisters to review and evaluate how we are doing and how we might improve and to re-commit themselves by filling out a Vocation Ministry Commitment Card which include these steps. Then on Founder’s Day, when we receive our Ministry Commitment Card, Vocation Ministry is added to whatever ministry a Sister might be serving in.
Perhaps this is something you may wish to involve your community in, if you haven’t already. If you are interested I would be happy to share our template for our Vocation Ministry Commitment Card with you.
Remember… we are each encouraged to support vocations and promote a “Vocation Culture” and a “Preferential Option for the Young” each one of us is an important and necessary part of this ministry!