We, 110 Vocation Promoters representing our dioceses and religious institutes from all over India came together at Pallotine Animation Centre, Nagpur from 12 to 15 November 2013 for a National Conference of Vocation Promoters. It was organized by the CCBI Commission for Vocations. The objective of this conference was to sharpen the vision of the ministry of Vocation Promotion in India today and of creating a network for this all-important ecclesial task throughout the country with a missionary thrust.
Bishop Thomas A. Vazhapilly, the Chairman of the CCBI Commission for Vocations, Seminaries, Clergy & Religious, and the resource persons, Fr. Paul Parathazham, Professor of Sociology, JDV, Pune and Fr. Amirthraj OP, Director, St. Dominic’s Ashram, Nagpur helped us to become aware of the reality of the ministry of Vocation Promotion encounters in India today and to envision the right perspective of Vocation Ministry in India today. Recent studies have brought to light some important concerns in the area of Vocations to Priesthood and Religious life in India. Participants were divided into seven groups and had lot of group work and sharing. At the close of our three day reflection and prayer, a group of 6 persons were chosen from the participants to draft the letter to the CCBI Commission for Vocation, to express positive experiences as well as the difficulties we face in Vocation Promotion.
These are the following few points:
Positives: Church in the forefront for humanitarian work; while there are a few dioceses and Religious Institutes which have a sufficient number of priests and candidates to the priesthood and religious life. A lot of missionary work is being done, dedicated work of caring, etc… But many others are facing difficulty in this area.
The present scenario:
- Enormous investment of money and personnel fails to get the expected results
- Low quality of the candidates selected
- Decrease in number and quality of vocations because of erosion of family values and because of low number of children, study and job opportunity open for all today
- Lack of proper motivation and mixed motivation
- Erosion of credibility of priests and religious; our schools and institutions appearing to be money making enterprises; seeking academic excellence at the cost of Christian and humane values
- Too early recruitment raises the doubts of “free and spontaneous and conscious choice”
- Influence of secularism and globalization make priesthood and religious life more a career than a vocation
- Competition among the Religious institutes; Intolerance towards other religious congregations who come for vocation promotion; closing of doors to religious congregations not present in the dioceses
- Dioceses and Institutions without vocation promoters and vocation commission
- Lack of network for Vocation ministry
- Lack of concern for the global mission of the Church, unwillingness to make vocations available to other missions and congregations
- Promotion of vocations more for taking care of our own institutions than for the Mission of the Church
- Preference among priests and religious for work in institutions, not willing to leave their comfort zones, and not willing to take up the Mission of evangelization.
Strategies and policies
The Archbishop from Nagpur Rt. Rev. Abraham reiterated what all the speakers have said that vocation is the duty of every Christian. He emphasized that the commitment of the vocation promoters does not end with recruitment but they should continue to accompany them in their formative and life journey.
Though the evangelizing mission of the Church is in need of a great number of Vocations the quality should not be compromised. Looking for quality will not only attract better candidates, but will also ensure better formation and effective and credible leadership in the Church.
Since Vocation Promotion is one of the most vital ecclesial tasks, there should be a Commission for Vocation in every diocese/Congregation consisting of all sections of the People of God, especially the Laity. As far as possible a full-time Vocation Promoter or a Coordinator of vocation activities should be nominated, trained and supported at all levels.
Vocation coordination should be carried out at the national, regional and diocesan levels, with adequate infrastructures for the same.
The dioceses and religious institutes should observe a policy of opening its doors for vocation promotion to all mission territories and religious institutes.
While carrying out the ministry of vocation promotion, emphasis should be laid on the Mission of the Church at large and the mission/charism of the diocese/Institute in particular.
Though the family background is an important factor in the selection of candidates, the quality and disposition of the individual should be given due recognition.
While evaluating the fitness and eligibility of the candidates in respect to their life, the vocation promoter should be positive about the candidate’s ability to transcend his/her past failures.
The family being the seedbed of vocations, great care should be given to foster a relatively larger number of children in every family. In this regard the pastoral, economic and educational care of the families should also be taken into account. Existence of large families will ensure sacrifice and generosity in family relationships, which will further help in the increase of quality vocations.
Fostering of Vocations: The ministry of Vocation Promotion presupposes the fostering of vocations at all levels within the Church: by priests, religious and the laity; by pious associations, groups, BCC/SCC and through all activities of the parish such as catechism, homilies, family visits, schools, etc.
The session concluded with a Solemn Eucharistic Celebration by Rt. Rev. Bishop Abraham, Archbishop of Nagpur.
I thank Sr. Ancy John and team for giving me the opportunity to participate in this Conference.
Sr. Rita Joseph, Mumbai