I am grateful for the opportunity to express my gratitude in the name of the community for YOUR SUPPORT and interest in fostering a culture of vocations. In March of this year, I had visited a class of juniors in the high school in Paola, Kansas. I asked the question, “Have you ever considered serving the church as a sister?” A young women in the back row immediately raised her hand to give me her answer. “No, because I never had a mentor or role model like you did when you were growing up! As part of my vocation story, I had acknowledged the influence of the Ursuline sisters who taught me in high school and how they had witness a joy that I desired. A logical and honest answer to a simple question.
The situation for us as Ursuline Sisters is even more of a challenge at this time in our history due to many factors, but one being that there are fewer of us in active ministry, and even fewer in ministries that target the young. Consequently, each one of us, sisters and associates, is charged with extending the invitation to young and not so young adults to discern which vocation, which path or lifestyle within the church that God is calling them to respond.
In 2003, this concept of creating a culture of vocation was born at the Third Continental Congress on Ordained Ministry and Consecrated life. As a church, we have made some movements in making it a reality, but today, I invite you to join in this effort. What is meant by a “culture of vocations?” It is an intentional effort to create an environment which promotes and supports the personal discernment of each person to respond to God’s call, received at Baptism, to live the Gospel in union with Christ and in service to others.
What we have witnessed in recent years is a major shift from a focus on vocation recruitment to the development of a culture of vocations, where each baptized person is invited to see ALL vocations in the Church—married, single, ordained ministry and consecrated life as a path to the “universal call to holiness.” A clear emphasis that every vocation is a call from God, and there is a particular vocation to which God calls each of us.
A resource for creating a culture of vocation entitled: Conversion, Discernment, Mission: Fostering a Vocation Culture in North America,was the result of this Congress. It clearly articulates some indispensable ways that every Christian can be involved in creating an environment which promotes and supports the personal discernment of each person to respond to God’s call and live their life in service to other .
The indispensable actions are summarized in five words, PRAY, EVANGELIZE, EXPERIENCE, MENTOR AND INVITE.
PRAY- “Prayer and a vibrant sacramental life in the individual who is being called and in the community through which God calls are fundamental. It is good to pray for vocation, and I invite you to join us each day in prayer for vocation. But even more fundamental is the call to become women and men of prayer.
In all the various Christian communites that are a part of your life, promote and pray for the sanctity of ALL vocations in the church. Pray for strong and faithful married life, generous and spirited single life, radical and passionate consecrated life and humble and self-less ordained priesthood. Take time to deepen your own relationship with God in prayer and make time to help young people develop habits of prayer.
EVANGELIZE To create a vocation culture awareness of every vocation needs to be a component of catechesis and faith formation at every stage of development. How many of you are involved in catechesis –passing on the faith? Think of the transformation that would take place in our church if at every level, it was taught that every vocation is a call from God. All vocations are paths to holiness and service of others. We need to teach and live a theology of vocations that forms every Catholic in the understanding of his or her own life as a personal response to God’s call to love, holiness and service. All religious, priest and laity, involved in catechesis are key to promoting an understanding that each person must discern God’s call to live the Gospel in union with Christ and in service to others.
EXPERIENCE- We must step up and take responsibility to give specific attention and energy to making our parishes and all Church gatherings more inviting and welcoming to youth and young adults. One of the many challenges on a parish level is how to provide opportunities to make connections between service and spiritual, encouraging everyone to put their faith into action.
MENTOR- One of the young adult express it well, I quote, “Please openly witness to your faith by being available. Specifically, we ask you who live the consecrated life and serve as ordained ministers to offer us authentic and joyful witness to your way of life, that we may experience the passion of your service. Invite us to share your excitement and deep love of Christ and His Church.”
There is such a great need in the lives of young people and young adults to have guides, models and wisdom figures in the faith. They want us to make time to be present and to become actively involved in the life of young people. But this need for committed mentors is not only priest and consecrated religious but every Christian. Parents are the primary teachers of the faith to their children. You are the mentors that they look to on a daily basis for guidance and direction.
Lastly INVITE. The current vocation situation in the church presents an opportunity for all of us, sisters and associates, to take responsibility for building up the body of Christ by creating a culture of vocations. Look and name the qualities that you see in others that would make them good priest, sisters, brothers, married couple or single life. Speak of your own fulfillment in your vocation, witness joy and love of service. For those discerning their call in life, articulating what you see in them is helpful to them in owning what is stirring and nudging them in their own hearts and life experience.
May our efforts to pray, invite, mentor, and evangelize bear fruit in God’s own time.