Conference on Vocations Ministry & Consecrated Life:
Horizons & Hopes
Rome 1-3 December 2017
There were 800+ people at this Conference, from all over the world. Mostly religious.
The venue: The Legionaries of Christ college, ‘Regina Apostolorum’ on the via Aurelia.
The meeting began with a surprise 4 page message from Pope Francis: I say surprise because the the organizers were not expecting one. It was quite long, more like a talk than a formal greeting:
‘First of all prayer has a vital role in the area of vocations.
There are challenges:
Trust in the Lord.
We need to know we’ll the society in which we live; and especially that in which our young people live and move. If you know them then you won’t answer questions which no one is asking.
Vocation is a call to follow Christ. God calls each one by name. He is the model.
Vocation work has to be done in the context of the church, a Vatican II church.
Follow the demands of the gospel. Recruit true disciples of Jesus.
It is necessary to accompany young people. They must respond freely. They must trust and feel loved.
It is important not to become impatient. But persevere. The vocation directors role is to sow seeds.
Relate, with young people as they are.
Two things that are fundamental:
It isn’t magic. God is calling. It’s His initiative, for which we require faith.
Have the courage to challenge the young to follow Christ. Young people are waiting it. is time to go.’
‘Come & See’ –
Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz (Head of the Congregation for Religious Institutes and Consecrated Life)
He comes across as humane, down to earth, friendly and humouress, who works well with others and especially the archbishop Secretary. He speaks our language, is not clerical. Straight talking. The cardinal is practical and real. For example that European culture isn’t better than other cultures. A good appetite is the sign of a good vocation
Jesus said to the two disciples: “come and see”. Notice Jesus turns around. The centre of it all is love for Jesus. Let us look to Jesus. The events of his time are still relevant to us today. We encourage young people to set out on the path to discover their vocation. We need a project and be full of joy and hope.
Our place as consecrated people is in the family of God. Religious life is the charismatic heritage of the church. We must guard and protect it. Your own vocational experience is important.
Francis is for us Peter. Vocational work needs new wineskins.
We are being asked to be challenged: what are we asking young people to come and see? Are we happy and smiling? Need to transform hearts. The reform of the church is taking time because it starts from the heart, says the Pope. Consecrated life like the gospel attracts.
Follow Christ. What does that mean? Youth and vocational ministry must go together.
Formation is dynamic. It’s ongoing, it doesn’t stand still. We should share our own experiences.
We are witnesses, who will speak.
Two criteria: all congregations work together and, second, it’s part of the movement of the church, the People of God.
This encounter here in Rome is an opportunity for us; together we will find new light for this work. New hope. Jesus promises to be with us always.
The Sequela Cristi in the New Testament
By his Eminence Jose Rodriguez Carballo OFM
(Secretary to the congregation)He is a former General of the Franciscans. He is also straight speaking.Vocation and the call by the Lord: these are the most widespread topics in the New Testament. Vocation and the call by the Lord: these are the most widespread topics in the New Testament.
Vocation comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’. Then there are those who take advantage. And this can happen today. In the New Testament Jesus is the one who calls. Vocation is in this broad context being called to follow Jesus.
Christ calls differnet people. He also calls women.There are certain individuals, e.g., Zaccheus, Nicodemus.Then there are the 12. They are called to break with the past and follow Jesus. Changing their lives to do this.
There are different aspects of vocation, I shall concentrate on 12, particularly in the gospel of Mark;
1.We are called by Jesus to seek the face of God.
2. The Lord is the one who takes the initiative and we should never forget this. “It is not you who have chosen me but I have chosen you”. We should be joyful, because we follow the resurrected Christ. The disciple is loved and called by the Lord. But this call is also for others; we must lead others to this encounter with Christ. We need to show the face of Christ in our pastoral activity. Discipleship means following. According to Mark ‘epiphany’ is Jesus passing by in the ordinariness of daily life, not like the theophany of the Old Testament: e.g., on the mountain, the burning bush etc. Jesus calls his disciples while they were working, fishing. He gets to know those he calls, including the sinners. There’s an intimate relationship between the one who calls and the one who is called.
If we don’t know the candidate’s history then we should not accept them. We should not be afraid to accept the sinner. To follow Jesus, to follow in his footsteps; follow is a Greek word. In the footsteps of Jesus.
What are the needs?
Jesus wants us to belong to him exclusively. We become, in a sense, the property of Jesus, like Israel of old. He is the only “owner”. Cf. Mark 4:34.
We should be ready to follow Christ. The call doesn’t allow for delays. The response needs to be now. No turning back. Jesus said to Zaccheus to come down immediately. We can’t say it’s not the right time for harvesting.
The first condition is to have faith. We must allow them to have a path of faith.
Then they must be detached. There’s a before and after. They must bear the cross like Jesus. The disciple’s vocation is one of service, which requires faith and detachment.
The disciples aren’t defined by what they leave behind but by what they find. The disciple is the one who is shaped by Jesus. This isn’t easy. We like to be in chareg, to be in control.
Summary: vocation isn’t functional; it’s not a role or a profession. It is to follow a person. Vocation therefore becomes a radical journey towards Christ. There needs for conversion, to chose a different lifestyle. The gospel is demanding, so following Christ involves closeness and intimacy with him. Thus in vocational ministry there has to be a change of attitude.
Vocation isn’t something that can be imposed. There needs to be a free response, consent. We in youth ministry must value this freedom. We let the aspirant free to chose.
The announcement must be accompanied by witness. All is grace.
Young People Today & Consecrated Life
By Pascual Chavez Villanueva SDB
(I heard he wrote the excllent preparation document for the 2018 Synod)
We are living in a new world, a different culture. We speak of different generations; the millenials etc. Young people ask us to listen to them. This ability to listen to young people is so important. As the Pope says: “don’t answer questions that young people don’t ask”.
The young are connected to everything. They don’t dwell on much. They are the ‘YouTube’ generation. They don’t go out to buy clothes but order on line. They don’t reflect much. We are not better or worse. I think they are braver than us. Because of difficult family backgrounds life can be tough.
Social media is changing the world into a global village.
People are living with confusion. They are culturally superficial; they often don’t look beyond sport, tv, fashion. People can be victims of the false heaven of fun, which this leads to tepid passions.
The goal in religious life is more important than the starting point.
What do young people mean when they look for happiness? Where are the problems? What is their relationship with Religion?
The church must accompany young people, but without pre-conceived ideas and answers.
Young people have said: “don’t talk about Christ bring us to an encounter with him”.
This new humanism needs a new Christianity. This should not threaten us. Christianity is about happiness: and so the words we preach and the way we live must be consistent.
It is clear that religion has weaknesses. It’s not a problem of language but the way we live.
Cf. number 1 of the preparation document for the Synod.
Young people are learning to live without God and the Church.
This new humanism calls for a new Christianity.
The question is: what do young people think of religious life.
World Youth Day, Taize, Lourdes are full of enthusiastic young people yet seminaries are empty.
There’s a lack of knowledge. Part of the reason for the crisis is ours. Have we become “social workers”; identified not by who we are but what we do?
We are not just philanthropic/social workers we are also apostles. Consecrated life needs to be prophetic. There is an art to dying (‘Ars moriendi’) as a Congregation. But do we die because we don’t want to be changed by young people?
Cultures & Vocation to Consecrated Life:
Between Possibilties & Difficulties
By Timothy Radcliffe OP
The first question to ask our fellow sisters and friars is: “Are you happy?”.
In Deutoromy God says to Moses: ‘I put it before you life or death. Chose life.’
But, the disadvantage of this is that people on the web tend to think the same way, be it conservative or liberal. Modernity is a fear of differences. Social media can disconnect you from people who are different. Whereas religious life embraces our individuality but stretches our universality. It stretches us so that we become something that we were not. To meet someone of a different culture helps you to become someone different. To be human is to be open to everything that is different. But the temptation is to expel or reject. Cf. 1 John: ‘we shall see him as he is’. In Christ I’m propelled beyond my own identity.
How we relate to different cultures relates to our identity. You don’t chose or construct an identity.
Faced with a younger generation it’s imp to show that identity isn’t chosen but revealed; who we are is yet to be revealed. But how do we sustain people?
The young need a good preparation in the vows.
Then we need good strong leadership.
Peter went on discerning who he was all his life. This can be frightening. Young people will be attracted to RL when they see the radical call of Christ. A culture which is risk adverse is contrary to RL. There should be a health-warning for RL;it’s so contrary to our modern culture of health & safety.
Teach the vows well. Cf. Sr Mary Johnson SND book in which she suggests that such a theology is lacking:
The vow of obedience is to listen to your brothers and sisters.
Chastity, isn’t the flight from the perils of love.
Poverty, more than lack of possessions, is the freedom to travel lightly.
We can only complete this journey if we have wise and courageous leadership. But the leadership model, is that of a team. No one today seems to want a leader or superior, but such approaches can lead to mediocre management. In our culture leadership is seen as control and administration. Risk taking can be good. We can be good at mutual tolerance but not so good at bold initiative. Let go of control, let the Spirit enlighten and guide. Pope Francis is offering a different kind of leadership. Strong leadership is to let God lead the way.
Individual Testimonies of Vocational Ministry in Other Continents
Matteo RCJ (Brazil)
Founded his congregation in Brazil. The institute of vocation mininistry began in 1993. Shows video. There are 13 institutes (congregations). Diocesan priest and religious work together.
There are three depts., including one for communication. formation.
Rosanna Cristina Zan ASCJ
She belongs to the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is also from Brazil.
Three major groups: Vocation ministry is v demanding because it forces us to serve Christ and the church. Every institute works at this. Respect individuality but gospel message is common to all.
Have a week of celebration before a religious takes vows. Not easy to collaborate in groups.
She also showed a video.
Jose Maria Ezpeleta RCJ
He is Filipino but has worked for many years in Vietnam.
Evangelisation began in Vientnam in the16th century. 130,000 Christians killed. 1975 socialist state established. The church kept going in spite of difficulties. There are 7.1 million Roman Catholics in 26 diocese. Almost 4000 diocesan priests, 1500 religious priests, 6,500 religious men, 18,500 religious women. There is a springtime of vocations in Vietnam.
25 per cent of the population is below 19.
There is a strong sense of the sacred in Vietnam, also of prayer.
Many young leaving the countryside and going to the cities. This can lead to problems.
The youth hostels can become centres for vocations.
This system, of youth hostels, is used by religious congregations, as centres for aspirants.
Youth hostels use spaces within for meeting and prayer. A vocations promoter visits these hostels.
One third of Cistercians are Vietnamese!
Pachaline Dubham TSSF
Franciscan, from Cameroon.
54 different cultures in 10 regions. 250 ethnic groups! 19 dioceses.
They encourage also parents to sponsor vocations.
They set up vocation camps. A mass a month for vocations.
It’s a slow process. Wait two years before making a decision about the person.
Vocation comes under the bishop who works with a vocation director, who has a committee of three.
Francesco Piloni OFM
When we meet a youth we say: “to fail in love is to fail in life”.
Not just focussing on vocation for priesthood and RL but others too, including marriage.
We need to offer to the youth something higher. We need to challenge them. They like this.
Three levels of approach, which works with other Congregatins:
The first is evangelisation.
The second is the vocational proclamation.
The third is accompaniment.
We know a lot about the young. What they want is for some one to accompany them. In listening we focus on biblical figures. We need to listen to what the spirit is doing in this person. Philip accompanied the Ethiopian, who didn’t understand. Card Martini was inspirational in this regard. He said that there are different categories of young people:
Those who are far away; the unbaptised.
Those who are far but close (baptized but lapsed). After school disappear from church. But they still have a thirst for God. As Jesus met with the Samaritan woman. But those in the church are not challenged to make choices. We don’t do any good for them.
Then there are those who are close. Kerygma reawakens love.
Vocational ministry comes from a fundamental principle: that every life is a vocation. Identity is fundamental. Baptism is fundamental.
To discover our vocational ministry we have to recognise our own vocation.
God’s arm is still outstretched. We must love all vocations. This gives us freedom.
Natalie Becquart XMCJ (France)
Xavier from France. Works alongside the French bishops Conference.
It’s important to talk the language of young people. Be familiar with social media.
In the faith journey the first call comes from one’s parents; they give us life and help us to grow. They give us a name, an identity; it’s our name that places us on a list.
Then God calls and makes our existence meaningful. We should listen and then discern. God calls all of us.
1959 work on vocations began in France. In 1980 a national centre of vocations was established. Natalie leads this; she is a nun. What the centre offers is to promote all vocations, including marriage. Young people should be encouraged to have a year of discernment, like a gap-year.
Religious and diocesean bishops and priests need to get to know one another. The key word today is partnership. Lourdes and Taize are two centres for vocation.
Paul Bednarczyk CSC (USA)
He belongs to the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Was Director of the National Relgious Vocations Conference. Recently, in order to discover best practises, the Conference carried out a thorough survey of why people join and why they stay. The best practises can be boiled down to six:
1. Be proactive. There should be an allocation of financial resources. Educate our communities about vocation mininstry.
Create a culture of vocation; important to communicate regularly.
3 There should be a vocations’ Director and/or team. Speak at community meetings/chapters. Be honest.
4 Use media for vocational promotion. Use logos: Facebook, twitter etc.
5 Discernment programmes: retreats, ‘come and see’, etc.
6 Target groups: above all university students and young adult groups. Create community where such a group can come. 40% of those who entered considered RL before their 18th birthday.
Do not fear the younger generation. All generations change. Cf. Perfectae Caritatis: read the signs of the times.
Maria Goretti Lee SPC (Far East)
Consecrated life in Asia today.
It is difficult. Both Budism and Hinduism appreciate religious life. Young men and women still want to dedicate their lives to help the poor and marginalised.
Asia has a deep religious culture.
The search for God. Many Asians are searching for spiritual values. They have a love of silence, simplicity and harmony.
2. A life of communion. The need for intimacy. To relate with others.
The imp of the witness of a community. Witness is the key to being a religious in Asia today.
3. Serving others. To continue Jesus mission of service.
Religious from Different Continents Share Their Experience
Juan Bytton SJ – Latin America
From Peru. Latin America.
Can’t speak of just one culture for youth.
The theme of superficiality. Latin America is going through a time of fragility; with corruption etc…
1. Passion: this is essential. Accompany the young with passion.
Patience: this is necessary. Each young person is a world. Accompany with patience. All comes from God.
A Proposal. Show a church that is strong. The sacramental life is fundamental. Jesus Christ teaches us and shows us the way ahead.
Mary Johnson SND – USA
Washington DC. Sociologist.
New immigrants no longer come from Europe but now from Asia, Latin America and Africa. Many are R. Catholic. They bring many positive things with them. But they come at a time of an anti immigrant atmosphere. Rc’s are standing up for them.
Pope Francis’ visit was a time of great grace. It was a message that touched all. Religious Orders are coming to the fore, and thereby gaining the respect of many people.
People in the States are finding God in several places:
Faith Families. The witness of those parents who practise their faith has a great influence. What can religious orders do to deepen bonds with families?
2. Parish life. Most religious grew up in such. One quarter of USA are Catholic. Outreach is attractive to young people.
3. Catholic schools. Called to mission. Young people are generous.
4. Volunteer programmes. There are hundreds of these. 10 per cent of men enter into rel life following such service. Many are seeking to live in community.
Mario Llanos SDB – Europe
Though Argentinian he has been a professor in Rome for many years and therefore can speak for Europe:
1997 ‘In verbo tuo’ imp. Document.
We see the importance of nuturing all vocations, not just those to Religious life and priesthood. Hope is a strong word in Europe. It inspires those involved in vocations.
All must work together.
Vocation is first general then individual.
Young people want to see religious living good lives…
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri: Chair of the 2018 Synod
Synod 2018: the young: prospective and expectations
Cardinal Baldisseri, an amiable and wise man, will take charge of the synod next year. There will be a conference in March led by the young people; it will be a pre-synod. Young people will like him.
The synod will take place in 2018, 3-28 October.
Preparation document prepared by experts. Consultation has begun. There are three approaches to this work: 1. Faith. 2. Look. 3. Act.
They are still waiting for the responses from the various countries.
‘Instrumentum Laboris’ (the working document) will be ready by next May.
Who are the young people we are aiming at?
The answer: all, but more specifically 16-29. Not just Catholics or Christians.
Vocation: to be understood in a wide sense; the vocation to love.
This is to help young people make choices in life.
Young people, said the Pope, have a thirst for more than this world can offer.
Christ is the model.
The preparation has already began. There is a website. They have established an on- line questionnaire. Then there will be a pre-synod meeting where the young take charge. A week before Easter.
We must welcome young people in every aspect of church life.
Prospective: they are looking for a gospel message; tell them about Jesus.
They don’t want abstractions but something concrete.
They need witnesses.
We need to be happy. If not they won’t follow us. Christ is fascinating. We must believe that they will be fascinated by Him. We can talk to young people of beauty. We want young people to say: “it’s good/beautiful for me to live this way of life”.
Cardinal Stella: Head of Congregation for the Clergy
The human dimension of Consecrated life
The ‘Ratio fundamentalis‘ puts a human element within Religious Life, but it is an element that has been somewhat neglected, but is now coming back. Cf, no.63.What is essential to look for is first the human dimension, then the spiritual of the candidate.
The Year of Consecrated Life; there was anxiety about the drop in vocations.
Formation: it is one unbroken journey of discipleship.
Religioius life is the commitment to radically live the gospel; to follow in the footsteps of the Lord.
We can’t do this without first caring for our own humanity. We are religious and can only express this through our humanity.
It is imp to get to know oneself. To develop freedom; cf. 63. The first journey is towards our inner self. We can kid ourselves, and opt for a plan B in order to avoid plan A. We can wear a mask. We have to know our worth, our feelings, our needs and passions. In this way we avoid a repressive spirituality. Following Christ we should be joyous Christians. The Pope said very recently “where there are Religious there is joy” (Bangladesh); this is a constant theme of his papacy with regard to Religious. Self-awareness allows us to have a peaceful relationship with ourselves, God and others. By this self-awareness we build our house on rock. Pope Francis said a good priest is one who is at peace with himself and will know how to spread peace.
2. Develop human virtues. The new Ratio list some of these virtues…. Cf 93. Jesus took an interest in small things in the world around him.
3. To be able to have sound affective relationships. The art of human development is to learn how to love. To live love. The art of tenderness and welcoming.
Conclusion: those who renounce humanity, said the Pope, renounce everything.
Reality is always better than an idea.
Three Young Relgious: Horizons & Hopes
Three young Religious gave their impressions of consecrated life: Harvik Puma Iriarte CCIM, Andre Kulla OMI & Reymond Philippe Pamela Basa FSMI. They prepared a joint arugument, each one taking turn to deliver it.
First thing young people want is a personal encounter with Christ.
We have to move from life in common to community life. It’s important to build genuine community. We have to find harmony in diversity. Diversity is the challenge but also the richness. Let us witness to this. Married couples can help us, let us be formed by them.
The kairos of God. We propose a vocation with passion. Be happy. Smile. This generation will be attracted to us if we show the beauty of our vocation. We’re convinced that our being is more important than our doing.
We have to be respectful, to young people. Listen to them. Need to strengthen family ministry. To accompany young people is to lead them to God. It is his work with which we cooperate.
We need to cooperate with other congregations. We came up with the idea of a rainbow; it looks beautiful when the colours are together. It is important to network. We need to commit ourselves to vocation, which is vital.
We form teams. I believe it is timely to start changing. The Pope says the same thing; we have to change our mindset, from “we’ve always done it this way”. We have to engage everyone in our communities. Recognise the love of God, the beauty and love of the Holy Spirit who has changed our lives. First our communities then reach out to the world. Young people only see us working. Are we happy? Am I happy? What is the image of Christ we present to others. God’s love has no limit. Cf.Ps 23: this is the generation that is seeking the face of God.
There is a crisis today. Our relationship with the youth is fundamental. The youth are facing a crisis. We should understand it. For our own formation we need to understand this crisis and understand the new guidelines for one reason or another.
Holiness is a profound communion with others. I also think that we show a God who shows love, mercy and forgiveness.
– Encounter with Christ. A simple encounter.
– Changing our mindset. New wineskins new ideas. A vocation director needs to become young.
Learn their language etc.
– Fraternal community. It’s not life in common but community life. Humanising community life.
– Working together. Kairos: the consecrated life is the time/place of God. Listen to the young.
– It’s in the real fraternity that such work is carried out. We need to ask: am I happy. The community is the sum of everyone.
– Hope. Get to know humankind.
– Vocation and youth ministry are slow.
– This is a challenge that summons us to holiness. This is done best in community. Also marriage, church, consecrated life.
His Eminence Jose Rodriguez Carballo OFM
He offered ten key points:
1. Vocational Ministry starts with our own vocation.
2. Vocational Ministry is linked insepably with evangelizatin; beginning with the Family.
3. Jesus is the one who calls; it’s all his grace. We are given the task to walk humbly.
He has to be at the centre.
4. We have to propose to young people a higher standard. We should not be afraid to do this. Pope Francis asks us to be prophetic.
5. We must believe in the beauty of the consecrated life. Also believe in young people.
6. Consecrated Life shouldn’t be presented as renunciation but as the fullness of life.
7. Vocational ministry means we propose the gospel of cooperation; we work together with priests, bishops, religious and laity.
8. VM also entails the enactment of Emmaus: to walk with a candidate. Aso to challenge them. Listen to them. Help them to reach out to God. This entails a methodogy of talking with them, listening and discerning.
9. VM needs men and women who really understand the young, those who are near and those far away. Such men and women should have a good knowledge of the process of vocation. We must try to reach out beyong the confines of the Church, to build bridges.
10. Iff all the above is true, prayer and servce are essential in the cause of vocation.
To conlude: As St Teresa of Avila said shortly before she died. “the time has come to set out on a journey”.
by Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz
We have walked together. As a result our voices will have a broader dimension. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Thanks all those who collaborated.
We at the Congregation we are not policemen, but reflect the Pope. We have to make difficult decisions but always with compassion.
The message of the holy father has given us a new stimulus in working together, for which we must thank him.
The radical message of the Gospel isn’t just for us religious, but for all Christians; married people as well as the young.
Our proposals will be given directly to the Holy Father.
There was group sharing, based on language: there were several english speaking groups
The Conference was a wonderful opportuntiy to meet Consecrated persons from all over the world; a golden opportunity for networking. This happened particularly during the breaks, and especially at lunch time. I met a marvelous group of Carmelites of St Joseph,mostly Mexican, and also others from near and far.