The following outline covers some of the innovative approaches being used in the Melbourne Archdiocese to foster vocations to the priesthood, religious life and various lay apostolates.
Joanne Grainger is the Special Projects Officer, Catholic Vocations.
The Catholic Vocations office of the Melbourne Archdiocese continues to make a concerted effort to promote vocations in new and innovative ways. Here, we face a challenge in identifying the best ways of getting the message across to the Church community that each individual is called to a vocation.
Last year the major focus was to promote the actual term "vocation", for its very meaning and relevance had been somewhat distorted. In the secular culture, to have a "vocation" is to make a commitment to a particular career or group, often with the undertones of service to others, e.g., working in the healthcare field or education.
To have a vocation in the Catholic Church implies an element of this service, but it is primarily a service to Jesus Christ. Through our Baptism we are asked to follow the call that He has made to each of us.
To remain focused on Christ and follow His teachings will not only lead us to what the Holy Father suggests is our individual call to holiness, but also guide each in the ultimate vocation journey that has been personally requested of us by Our Lord. Catholic Vocations is dedicated to assisting Catholics on this journey, through providing resources, direction and contacts.
Ultimately, however, it is up to each individual to follow Our Lord's call with hope and conviction, and not fear and trepidation. For if the Lord asks something of a person, who can say no?
During 2002, Catholic Vocations has assisted many individuals on this journey of vocation discernment. As well as the annual men's retreat for those discerning the call to priesthood, in June we conducted for the first time a spiritual retreat for women. This was conducted by Sr Margaret O'Keefe CSN, Fr Paul Stuart, Fr David Cartwright and Miss Rachael Byrnes, and involved twelve women from around Melbourne participating in a weekend of prayer, reflection and spiritual direction, hoping to come to a greater understanding of what is their vocation.
Following this weekend, many of these women have continued to make life-changing decisions influenced by their participation at the retreat. The weekend was conducted as a result of an increased response by young women in answering the call to religious and consecrated life. Correspondence to Catholic Vocations by many Orders represented in the booklet A Chosen Life has highlighted that several have received inquiries and visits from young women to their communities. To continue this promotion of religious life for women, an information evening focusing upon the call to consecrated life in Apostolic movements and communities will be conducted at the end of this year.
It has become increasingly obvious that information technology has a vital role to play in assisting in the discernment of vocations, with the Catholic Vocations website receiving an average of over 1500 visits per month. As a result of these visits, there have been some amazing requests nationally and internationally made to our office.
A seminarian from Los Angeles contacted Catholic Vocations with a request for two hundred of our vocation prayer cards to be delivered to him within four days! Thanks to Federal Express, he received them for a weekend vocation retreat that was conducted at a local school. Our recent vocation poster Been There! Done That! Now What? has been distributed throughout Australia and also to Canada, USA, New Zealand and Malaysia.
A vocation newsletter titled God Knox [Knocks] is another initiative aimed at promoting vocations amongst youth and young adults. Ten thousand copies of this newsletter are delivered to all Catholic secondary schools in Melbourne for distribution to all Year 12 students, as well as to parishes and young adult groups. An online version is also available on our website at www.catholicvocation.org.au
These resources have broadened the idea that for a Catholic, the concept of vocation is confined to a call to religious life or the priesthood, and only involves a select few within the Church. All Catholics have a vocation to the Lord, and it is their undeniable duty to discern what this is. The future of the Church depends upon a widespread willingness of people to make this commitment, whether it be to religious life, priesthood, single or married life, missionary work or other active apostolates in the Church.