Friday, March 22, 2013

How To Attract Vocations?

I subscribe to Catholic Answer Forum and every so often I come up with interesting topics that really generate a lot of questions and responses. One of these topics was about vocation. My talking point was: Is there a shortage of vocation in this country?

Someone offered this point:
"As someone who worked with vocations in the 80's and now is somewhat involved in my parish now. I don't think that there is a vocation crisis per se, I agree there is a shortage here in the U.S. ,however I believe it is more of a pendulum effect. Emerging countries like Asia and Africa will have a larger number of vocations just as Ireland did after the famine and how the U.S. did for so many years. I think as our younger people rediscover their religious roots we will slowly find an increase in vocations. As someone who has worked in vocations before and hopes to do some good [now] ... A few things I would like to see done to promote more vocations both to the priesthood but also to religious life is more outreach. In my mind it is not enough to speak about vocations one or two weekends a year at Mass. We need active programs to show young people that it is "okay" to want to enter religious life. I think also that perhaps more programs need to be formed to help those with vocations who have debt. [I had started a thread earlier about successful vocations programs .. it listed some wonderful programs in various diocese....] One other thought is ........ In my (second) discernment process I found it interesting that for a woman seeking religious life.. there are few discernment groups or retreats available... It is almost as though you need to know beforehand the community or rule you wish to follow........ Sr Helena what are your thoughts????"

I thought we were on for a fruitful discussion! I gave her this response:
"I also believe that God still continues to call individuals to follow him in religious life now as in past ages. But it certainly boils down to "are people listening?" And if they say they are, "what are they hearing?". you have to agree that ever since the 60's with its trail of "new self discoveries", and new found "freedoms", organized religion has taken a back-seat. The notion of total obedience (giving up my freedom of choice), poverty (giving up all the modernizations), chastity and celibacy (not having sex and not having a family) is so against the culture of our times. There is also a problem with Catechesis or knowledge of the Catholic Faith. It amazes me to find out that even those who are products of Catholic schooling are so deficient in the basic knowledge of our Catholic practices and why Catholics believe in the things they believe in. Now having said all that, working for vocation would mean bearing in mind the kind of Catholic generation we are dealing with here. We should have programs yes, and especially programs about Catholic Faith, at local levels to increase Faith Catechesis I believe this is happening now with all these Faith Core groups in parishes and universities. I think the value of witness from Religious cannot be overestimated. Young people look for concrete realities not ideas. They gravitate to what they can see, hear and touch. In the USA, with our pluralistic ideas of religious life, we often confuse them more than help these discerners. You don't have to take my word for it, but the biggest discussion groups on the forums are often about religious habits or lack of it. Modern generation needs to see the reality, not just read about it. Religious also has the obligation to "walk the walk and talk the talk." In other words, be authentic. Young people are very acutely sensitive to how religious live the way they say they live. Are they really true to what they "advertise" themselves to be? If you say the community is a contemplative community, do they really pray? Pray together? If we claim to be in love with Jesus, do we really treat and relate to each other in community like we love each other in Jesus? Young people these days often come from problematic family situations and they are looking for the family values they lack and the love they need. Networking and support systems are also needed these days. It's a different world of instant replies and instant connections. One does not have to cross state lines to reach someone. So being present in the media is a tool for reaching out and for making the love of Jesus available to young people who engage the world in this way. In the end, all our human means will be fruitless if God does not bless our efforts. The words of Jesus "Pray to the Harvest Master.." is still as valid today as 2000 years ago. We have to continue to beg and pray that he sends us men and women who will be open to his invitation. But unless those he had already called, be true to the gift he has first given them, that gift will be taken away and given to another."

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