Father Kevin Dring, Director of the National
Office for Vocation explains the origins and aims of this new agency, which is formally launched this Sunday, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations
The genesis of the Office for Vocation goes back to November, 1990, when the popular Leeds priest, David Smith (RIP) was commissioned to establish a national vocation service to promote the calling to the diocesan priesthood. However, an important shift in emphasis took place in 1997 with the publication of a key Vatican document entitled New Vocations for a New Europe (In Verbo Tuo), the final document of the Congress on Vocations to the Priesthood and to Consecrated Life in Europe which took place in Rome that year.
This placed all vocation promotion work within a vision of the Church as itself essentially vocational: we are together the community of "the called" and we exist "to call". It is this document and the vision contained therein that has provided the inspiration for establishing the National Office for Vocation.
At the heart of this vision, and therefore of our mandate, is the attempt to help address the vacuum that exists in our society and culture with regard to any real sense of vocation. The challenge is not fundamentally about "recruitment", be it to the Diocesan priesthood or to any other specific "life choice" (vocation), as tempting as it is to make this the Number One priority! If we are to really address the deeper and more enduring issues we need to turn our attention positively to asking how we can work together as the Church to build up a real "culture of vocation", within which
everyone will naturally look at their lives in terms of call and commitment.
Where do we start in trying to build a "culture.... of anything" ? Clearly this task is for everybody. We need to work alongside all groups and agencies in the Church, especially those working in education and formation both of young people and of adults. We need to get across the clear sense that we all belong to a Church that is by its very nature vocational. This means that every person should seek a deeper understanding of their own unique call from God and take on a share in the responsibility to encourage others to do the same (i.e. promote "vocation").
We need also to provide practical resources to help build up a stronger culture of vocation. A whole range of materials, including a website, will be launched for this World Day of Prayer for Vocations [May Ilth] to project a new way of seeing vocational life and response in the Church. When I say "new" what we are saying is as old as the Church, but hopefully giving a new impetus and new energy. Every individual's life is a journey to God, every person is called by God to step into God's wonderful light, or to quote the words of Pope John Paul II "to step out into the
Clearly there's also a real need to work together on defining the relationship between the shared baptismal vocation and the "particular callings" within the Church.
In this regard we need to promote energetically and imaginatively the choices of Diocesan Priesthood & Consecrated Life – and the balance between ordained and lay ministry in the Church today. Finally, the National Office will conduct research to identify those places of real life, commitment, and growth in the Church, again especially in terms of young people e.g. the various "new movements" and "new communities". Sharing good practice and ideas that bear fruit will be an important part of what we do.
The National Office for Vocation has been a long time in the making, but I am hopeful that it can play a real part in helping to define ministerial identity and in promoting collaboration in a changing landscape, and that our service will be effective in allowing all the good work already being done under the umbrella of "vocation promotion" to flourish and achieve its end. The National Office exists to serve the whole Church and, above all, to try and help each individual to a deeper understanding of their personal vocation. Knowing where we are to go, what God may be calling us to, means asking the questions and actively seeking the answers. In a word we will offer people both opportunities and encouragement to explore their life "vocationally".