AS A vocation sister I have worked for 20 years with prospective candidates, assisting them in clarifying their call from God and helping them realise this call effectively.
Latterly, my involvement has been in the healing ministry. accompanying those who have reached a crisis in the living out of priestly and religious life. It is that aspect upon which I propose to concentrate.
The task of the vocation promoter is to present the priestly and religious life in a manner which allows those seeking adult ways of expressing their baptismal commitment, to consider the religious life. In a milieu where all respect the option of full time Church ministry. the role of the vocation promoter must include helping prospective candidates to distinguish the validity of their call.
However. my own experience in the field, soon made me painfully aware that the supply demand ratio of Church vocations, was hardly adequate to meet the needs of our community of faith.
When I asked myself why this phenomenon was present in Church life today. I realised that historical influences had always effected the risc and fall of
Vocations are plentiful when Church society is placed in a Christian world context. This social phenomenon can be explained in psychological terms. If the world community accepts the value of transcendental beliefs, young people are always influenced by current opinion. When the value of life is paramount, as exemplified in the years following the second world war vocations increase dramatically. • If the Church culture is embedded in a secular society that regards religious commitment as a threat, the historical evidence shows an equally generous response on the part of Catholic youth.
Here an adolescent is impelled to make a powerful statement of identity as Church person. For emerging adults, in search of an ideal, are quick to recognise the admiration of those who in disagreeing with their statement, are still aware of its cost.
The witness of the increase of vocations in times of persecution speak eloquently to this fact. We need look no further than Eastern i-:urope and South America for illustration for this phenomenon.
As a vocation promoter today, I see that Christian values are debased in a way that brings persecution of a subtler nature.
In our age. the secular world judges religious commitment as foolish and eccentric and Christian principles are often politely ignored. It is easier to accept the identity of Church ministry when contemporary society sees this membership in terms of either commendation or punishment.
Confusion arises when the Christian ethic is passed off with a 'liberated shrug. When the times mirror such passive contempt. outside the faith community, it is hardly surprising that vocational response to Church ministry is numerically low.
A vocation director needs to be trained in the areas of spiritual direction and counselling to help cahdidates discern what lies beneath their sense of vocation.
Fainthearted response requires encouragement. Disillusionment with contemporary values can be answered.
Candidates for the religious life are changing. Now young and not so young adults, with experience Qi contemporary life standards rather than adolescents from sheltered backgrounds, are the ones who come forward.
Christ's call is always to the individual. But the individual is always influenced by his or her social milieu.
What is necessary in the discernment process is to ascertain the sincerity of the person and his or her degree of conversion. Even those who are relatively free from the influence of materialistic society have had their values coloured by the subtle permeation of secular ideologies present in the mass media.
The formation process of priests and religious has to begin with a re-education in Christian principles. We cannot always rely on the traditional formation of a Christian home when so many families suffer from the inroads of alienation, Frequently, the vocation minister, is called to supply parenting to prospective candidates and he or she must be trained to undertake such a role, in a way that brings dignity to his or her clients int he relationship.
Areas of competence
In conclusion, I would like to summarise the areas of competence I deem necessary. to those engaged in vocation promotion:
1. An ability to listen with discernment to the life process of each candidate, taking into account the individual's history and his or her spiritual aspirations. 2, An awareness of the diversity within Church structures, both those of a 'traditional nature and new movements. 3. An understanding of the impact of rapid change and the sociological phenomena resulting from population movements.
4. An acquaintance with the variety of spiritualities within the Church and skill to lead a candidate in the early stages of spiritual growth.
5. An appreciation of the history of ministries within the Church.
The field of vocation mirvistry is still 'white for the harvest' (John. 4:35) of individuals searching to respond to Christ's call. What we must realise, is that this call comes in the confusion of pluralistic ideologies, to people no longer attuned to the whisperings of the Spirit.
Our mandate to vocation ministry is to foster friendship with Christ among those wishing to discover genuine indications of His call. This happens as we employ our personal human resources in the task of vocation promotion.