Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Vocations ‘awareness-building’ continues
by Sister Elaine Thaden OSF, for the Inland Register
(From the January 17, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)
Thirty-seven years have passed since the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called for the annual observance of a National Vocation Awareness Week. This year the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 13, marked the beginning of this time of special awareness.
Some say the Catholic Church is not suffering a shortage of vocations – every baptized person has a particular “call,” as all are named a Beloved of God and called to further Christ’s mission by virtue of their Baptism. They say the shortage is not in the “calls” but in the “responses.” None of which are more puzzling than the slow-down in responses to Religious life and priesthood. The issues are complex, dating back to the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on “the universal call to holiness” in each and every Christian, and as close to us as the recent article in the local ecumenical newspaper, The Fig Tree, in which Jesuit Father Frank Case discussed the mission to help Gonzaga University students discern their vocation as laity.
Significant efforts to help promote positive responses to the call of women and men to Religious life and priesthood in the Catholic Church have served as awareness builders in the last decade:
• 2002: North American Continental Congress on Vocations with its two outcomes which became central to creating a shift in vocation promotion: a “Preferential Option for the Young” and fostering a “Vocation Culture” where it is normal to ask, “What does God want of me and what do the Church and the world need from me?” This Congress’s action plan has given rise to many initiatives on the parish and diocesan levels.
• 2009: National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) initiated a scientific study with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) to identify and understand the characteristics, attitudes, and experiences of the men and women who have been coming to Religious life. The study also identified the characteristics and practices of the institutes that have been successfully attracting new candidates and retaining new members. This unprecedented study provides a benchmark for vocations in this century.
• 2012: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a practical statement, “ABCs of Fostering Vocations” directed largely to the family, as parental support in the encouragement of a son’s or daughter’s call to a Religious or priestly vocation has been seriously diminishing as documented in the CARA study and later research.
• 2012-2013: “ Moving Forward in Hope: Keys to the Future” is a project designed and sponsored by NRVC, a training session designed to help 89 different congregations of Brothers, Sisters, and priests from 24 different states and from Canada. The participants were from different generations, ethnic backgrounds, and spiritualities, and representing all the leadership conferences of men and women Religious. The purpose of this project is meant to allow all the congregations’ members a practical means to engage in deeper exchange about the results of the NRVC/CARA study done in 2009, particularly around the areas of greatest interest to new and future members; community, visibility, communal prayer, and Eucharist.
• March 2013 is the target date for a publication on the latest NRVC/CARA study designed to learn more about the impact of educational debt on the men and women who are seeking to respond to a call to Religious life. The study was also designed to learn about the policy and practices of the Religious institutes in regard to educational debt and to learn from their experiences with inquirers and candidates who carry educational debt. It would seem that the preliminary reports of data gathered 2001-2010 will show that educational debt is now a serious barrier to vocations in young men and women discerning a call to Religious life.
(Sister Elaine Thaden is Co-Director of Vocations for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.)
© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved