This week is National Vocation Awareness week and a lot of parishes are doing their part to encourage parishioners to pray for young men and women to consider becoming a priest, deacon and religious brother and sister.
|SISTERS of the Visitation, Tyringham, Mass.|
Actually, the USCCB are having guest blog posts by young priests and religious on their pursuit to the vocation and how they were prayed for and encouraged by God and others to live the consecrated life.
Additionally, the newest members of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Tyringham, Massachusetts come from very different life experiences and are a variety of ages but have all been drawn to the life of a cloistered nun. Peggy Weber of Catholic News Service shares the thoughts of each of the four new members as well as the director of novices’ Sister Mary Emmanuel’s goal for the community. Sister Mary Emmanuel says, "We're looking for someone with enthusiasm, someone's who's very interested in the religious life, someone who is a deep, faithful Catholic. She said that anyone considering religious life has to be open, willing to take a risk, and be someone who dares to be different.”
Thankfully, in the spirit of vocations, the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States is thriving! Deacon Greg Kandra shares on his blog The Deacon’s Bench, “with more than 50 men in formation,” their congregation, “is among the healthiest for Catholic religious orders in the United States.” The key to their success is shared by Vocations Director Holy Cross Father James T. Gallagher is simple: “We use social media as a way to make ourselves known to those young men discerning a call to religious life. But the personal interaction still comes first. Our social media outlets are just tools we use to help make Holy Cross known, share discernment tips and help deepen a man’s prayer life.”
Let the beautiful words of Archbishop José H. Gomez be our prayer during this National Vocation Awareness week; "Every priest is a sacrament — a sign and instrument that brings men and women to the encounter with the living God. So in this Year of Faith, we need to refocus ourselves, especially in our families, on helping men to hear this beautiful and noble calling from Jesus.” (Shared from his November 2012 Tidings article).
As we close out Vocation Awareness Week, we reflect on the recent message of Pope Benedict XVI who has emphasized the need for good spiritual counsel for those who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. The Catholic News Agency along with ETWN, reported the Pope's very important message on vocations.
"I would like to emphasize the critical role of spiritual guidance in the journey of faith and, in particular, in response to the vocation of special consecration for the service of God and his people," the Pope commented this Sunday at his Angelus address.
Also instrumental in the process, he said, are parents "who by their genuine faith and joyful married love, show children that it is beautiful and possible to build all your life on the love of God."
Speaking from the Papal apartments to several thousand pilgrims, the Pope explained his point with references to the Scripture readings at Mass on Sunday.
The Pope concluded his comments by entrusting all educators, "especially religious including priests, sisters, and parents," to the Virgin Mary as they help young people discern their vocation in life.
After speaking on religious vocations the Pope also mentioned the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will run Jan 18-25. He invited everyone "to join spiritually and, where possible, practically, to ask God for the gift of full unity among the Disciples of Christ."
The Baltimore Sun reports that a panel of Roman Catholic priests, brothers, sisters, and deacons faced an audience of lively fifth graders Thursday (Oct 27), offering snippets of their personal history histories and the motivation for their career choices. But many children were so unfamiliar with a nun's habit and veil that several directed remarks to "the lady in the blue dress."
"We have regular teachers, not nuns," said Craig Kelly, a student at St. Ursula School in Parkville who attended a conference Thursday at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Classmate Cathyrose Odoh added, "They are not the ordinary people we see every day."
In Maryland and across the country, the Roman Catholic Church is looking to inspire younger students with a zeal for religious life and help stem decades of decline in the ranks of nuns and priests. National research suggests that students start to consider the priesthood or sisterhood at as young as 11. But overcoming students' unfamiliarity — even at Catholic schools — can be a challenge.
Sister Patricia Dowling, CBS vocation director for the Sisters of Bon Secours and co-chair of the event, helped organize the first Focus 11 in Maryland and is planning several others. It drew students from Catholic elementary schools throughout the area. Focus 11 includes activities like a quiz game between the children and panelists, who included a priest, a brother, a deacon and two nuns. The back and forth showed the children that vocations come from people leading ordinary lives.
"Nobody is born a priest or nun," said Sister Fran Gorsuch, CBS, who played emcee for the game. "God called them to that life. And, that life is anything but boring."
When she asked which panelist was a Phillies baseball fan and a motorcyclist who worked in the Dominican Republic, the children chose one of the men — not the correct answer (it was Sister Mary Beth Antonelli, OSF). They erred about who had mastered fencing. It was the "lady in blue," Sister Mary Grace Dateno, FSP. Emma Crowhurst, a student at Our Lady of Grace School in Parkton, said, "It is interesting how these ordinary people became priests and sisters."
More coverage on Baltimore TV:
BRAZILIAN Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, 64, was appointed in January as the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Vatican body responsible for overseeing Roman Catholic religious life.
Bráz de Aviz
Commenting on the Vatican visitation of of women’s religious congregations in the United States, the archibishop said: "That, too, has not been an easy matter. There was mistrust and opposition. We’ve spoken with them, and their representatives have come here to Rome. We’ve started to listen again. That’s not to say there aren’t problems, but we have to deal with them in a different way, without preemptive condemnations and by listening to people’s concerns. By now, we’ve received many reports which we have to work through. There’s also the relationship with Mother Clare Millea [the Vatican-appointed head of the visitation], which will be important."
From John L. Allen, Jr.'s report on the NCROnline blog.
In 2010 Father Andrew Torma, M.S.C., vocation director for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, formed two parish vocation committees in parishes the M.S.C.’s serve. The purpose of these committees is to reach out to parents and others in the local church to assume the responsibility of supporting young men and women who hear a call to serve God, the church, and others by becoming a religious brother or sister or through ordained ministry.
The process includes asking the pastor to identify and encourage 12-15 people who would have an interest in learning about the need for a vocation committee. Father Torma makes a presentation to them explaining the importance of forming a “culture of vocation” in the parish to inspire young men and women to consider consecrated life. The committee brainstorms possible parish activities to promote a vocation culture and chooses two or three activities to be implemented in the parish immediately.
Finally Torma asks three people to be the committee for three years, with a chairperson for two years. This committee can add members as they are able to recruit others from their parish. After the meeting Torma sends the committee ideas and keeps in contact with them to encourage their work.
“Am I to live the sacrament of marriage? If so, when? Am I to live the single life? Live as a chaste single person? Am I to be a priest? Am I to be a lay minister? Part time? Full time? Am I to be a religious brother? A religious sister? Am I to be a consecrated lay person? Is it time to make a first step toward commitment? To this person? To the church? To this religious order? To this organization?
“When discerning about something, it is important to be a person of faith. Believe that God has a plan for you. Each of us does the hard work of dating, inquiring, studying, volunteer activities, prayer, and searching. We must be engaged in the process. Passivity is not discernment. God will not spoon-feed us into a life commitment. Yet, when we turn our action over to guidance from God, situations, persons, and circumstances will be tools to illuminate the direction. Prayer is necessary. In prayer, mention the person or the actions or the circumstances around the process of one’s search.
“Talk with people. The gospel uses the image of the lamp on the lamp stand which illuminates the entire room. We cast light onto our experience when we talk about it. Parish marriage preparation or Engaged Encounter helps a person to see clearly that this person is choosing me as her or his life partner. Sharing our spiritual journey with a mentor helps to clarify God’s will for our lives. A trusted friend or an experienced person can help clarify confusing experiences. Searching for a call to serve as a priest or a consecrated person is nourished by the lives of the saints, involvement in ministries, making sacrifices, and living with sisters, brothers, or priests for a short time."
Regardless of how you feel about the role of women in the Catholic Church, the fact is that many Catholics would like to see women become priests. Although leaders in the Roman Catholic Church have made it clear that only men may serve in the priesthood, a suburban Chicago pastor is raising the question of whether women can become deacons.
Father Bill Tkachuk, pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Evanston, has been thinking about the topic for months after a longtime female parishioner expressed interest in becoming a deacon should the Vatican open up the option to women.
Experts say that's unlikely to happen any time soon. In the 16th century the Council of Trent recommended restoring deacons as a distinct permanent ministry, as it was in the early Western Church, but they weren't reestablished until the 1960s and another church reform council, Vatican II.
Like bishops and priests, deacons are ordained through the sacrament of Holy Orders, which is available only to men in the Catholic Church. Their ministry centers on the word, the sacraments, and service. Though they aren't allowed to consecrate the Eucharist or hear confessions, they can preside at baptisms and weddings. They often help priests with other liturgical and administrative duties.
There are transitional deacons who are on the road to the priesthood and permanent deacons who are not studying for the priesthood and, unlike most Catholic priests, may be married and have children. (In the Archdiocese of Chicago, for example, there are perhaps 500 active permanent deacons.)
Pope John Paul II closed off internal debate on allowing women priests. Among the arguments against ordaining women is that Jesus selected only male apostles. But there's no such ban on talking about the deaconate, which was clearly established by the early church. Supporters of the concept of women deacons note that the New Testament makes reference female deacons, though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops indicates "there is no conclusive evidence that this office or the persons who fulfilled these roles were truly 'ordained' like the male deacons."
Tkachuk said he’d like to see women also serve in that role, and he is pushing for a “broader conversation” on the issue. St. Nicholas has hosted parish events centered on the topic, and Tkachuk has used the parish bulletin to further discussion.
Eventually he plans to reach out to the top Catholic cleric in the region, Cardinal Francis George, to see if he'll take up the issue. In recent months several Chicago-area priests have signaled their support for women in the priesthood—an idea George batted down in a recent column in the archdiocesan publication the Catholic New World.
"Whether women can be ordained priests has been discussed regularly since the 2nd century," George wrote. "Each time over the centuries, the church has said she is not free to change the gift that comes to us from Christ himself. The argument is with Jesus, not the church."