WHAT is Religious Life? This question you might well ask yourself when you travel from Liverpool to Southport as you approach Crosby. You pass massive buildings, and their notice-boards tell us that it is Parkhouse Nursing Home, or Nazareth House, or the Convent of the Sacred Heart of Mary. When you move into other parts of Crosby, or continue your journey into Formby, even of representatives from all these Religious Houses.
What is special about these places? What gives them life? What is their heartbeat? If you live in Crosby, you know that the Sisters dressed in white come from Parkhouse, and those in black come from Nazareth Ilouse, A man in a Roman collar he might be the local parish priest, or belong to a missionary society or be a Christian Brother.
It was with these questions and thoughts in their minds that the Serra Club of West Lancashire, while considering their vocation activities, developed the idea of forming a committee of representatives from all these Religious Houses, This committee was formed and met for the first time in conjunction with the local clergy in the new Church and Parochial Centre of St Helen's, Crosby. It was soon decided that a monthly Vocation activity would take place there under the title ''Getting to Know You." The forms these evenings have taken are a Mass prepared and presented by the community making itself known. followed by refreshments and an informal meeting in the centre. Then more information is given about the Order on a more formal basis, so that the full implication of Religious Life can be seen, and a threedimensional personality be exhibited, where hitherto a flat, vague facade had been visible. These evenings soon became popular with the Orders supporting one another in their preparations. The next question asked was how this theme could be developed, and with special consideration of youth. A sub-committee was formetf and various experiences were brought forward, and finally it was decided to try an experience which had already worked in many schools. A team would move into one of the local secondary schools, and take over the Religious Department for a week. The headmaster of St Joseph's School, Thornton, was approached and agreed to the trial, Volunteers were asked for from the Orders. and a team of four priests, two brothers and seven sisters, together with the Serra Club. moved into the school for a week.
For the team, the week began on the Sunday afternoon when the Drama Hall became an exhibition hall, telling with visual aids the work of the various Orders. We then moved to the Ursuline Convent for Mass, followed by a meal and a short meeting to clear up any problems, and prepare ourselves for the week.
The Monday morning began with an assembly — or rather five assemblies, one for each year group. Every day there were year assemblies, and they became a very important bridge', because depth could be given to the various happenings during the day. During the week, each pupil came to the exhibition hall with his class, which was divided into groups of four or five. and went to as many stands as possible. In the few minutes they were at the stand, the work of the Order was explained to them, and they could ask questions about it.
In the other religious periods, a sister and a priest or brother would visit the class in their classroom, and would develop what had been seen in the Exhibition Hall. Our aim was to show the pupils how we had answered God's call in our lives, arid encourage them to du the same. We also wanted to show them the importance of God in our lives, We did this, by a daily voluntary lunch-time Mass, which was always well attended. We invited them to come and join us in prayer, the central prayer of our lives, where we receive Christ so that
we can take him to others. we can take him to others. The Mass was said in the Exhibition Hall, so there was a visible link between prayer and the work of the various Orders. As prayer is important in Religious Life, we invited them to come and join us in the Evening Prayer of the Church daily at the end of the school day. This was also well attended. At the end of each class period with them. we invited them to join us in the Family Prayer for Vocations. Each was given a copy as a momento of the week, and many still use it On Friday there was a school Mass, which took the place of the first two lessons. The theme of the Mass: "You are the salt of the earth. If the salt loses its taste of what use is it?" This tied in very closely with the theme of the week, and the point was made that God has given each of us a job to do, and if we don't do it, nobody else will.
The Mass concluded with the hymn "Colours of Day", where we are told to "Light up the fire and let the flame burn". The day concluded with a very meaningful renewal of our baptismal promises, and an encouragement to live Christian lives. In the course of the week, the parents of the pupils were invited to the school one evening to join the team in a concelebrated Mass together with many of' the priests in the parishes which send pupils the school. parishes which send pupils the school. It was the opportunity for the parents to share in the experience of their children and to help this experience to develop.
You might well ask what has been achieved? One observer has described it as folloyvs! "Not only have the laity come to know the Religious, but also the priests, brothers and sisters themselves are getting to know their brothers and sisters in different Orders,
"By working together, they have realised their strength and ability to put over their different work for the Church, so that the laity are aware of them and can help by prayer, understanding, and we hope. by helping those who are called.'
The World Day of Prayer for Vocations, is the day when we are reminded of Our Lord's words: "Pray, therefore, the Lord of the Harvest to send labourers into the harvest". It is a day when we can reflect upon our work for vocations during the past year, and a day when
we pray and ask' God's grace to spur us into activity during the coming year.
We have shown how we have put our prayer into action in one part of the country. Let us remember the words of St John's first letter: "Our love should not be just words and talk: it must be true love, which shows itself in action". (1 John 3: I 8),