What is to be our understanding and action in regards to "vocation" in the Church today?
Here is a summary of the Pastoral Plan for the Church in North America which is entitled: Conversion, Discernment, Mission: Fostering a Vocation Culture in North America
Part I: Foundations- Conversion, Discernment Ch. 1: Tells the story of the Third Continental Congress on Vocations to Ordained Ministry and Consecrated Life, held in Montreal from April 18-21, 2002. To quote one gem from this chapter: The fundamental pastoral challenge is that of creating a "Vocation Culture" in the Church in North America: that is, a culture in which each Christian is empowered to identify and respond to the mission to which he or she is called as a member of the Body of Christ, in and for the world. Every Christian vocation is a "gift of God, given for God's people." (p.11)
Ch. 2: Defines contemporary North American society, identifying both hopes and obstacles to the creating of a genuine "Vocation Culture". We need to know the "soil into which the message of Christ is being sown" in order to provide effective pastoral response. Our culture is our "sacred dwelling place" and we are invited to take a "long, loving look at the real" revelation of God in the here and now.
A sign of hope from the young adults: We understand that in true community all are called to be leaders. We acknowledge that we are called to take risks. We ask that you support and train us to become leaders and risk-takers for the sake of God's Kingdom. (#5, p.115 Young adult statement.)
Ch. 3: Gives the biblical and theological foundations for Vocation Ministry. "We are all called on a mission to love and serve the Lord and His people, and we do not all do so in the same way. Some are called to marriage and family life, others to the single life. Some enter ordained ministry and consecrated life, while others serve in recognized lay ecclesial ministries. Countless others respond through their presence in the world, in their professional, social, political, and community commitments." (p.43)
Part II: Action- Mission Ch. 4: Chapter 1 suggested that the Church needs to make a "preferential option for the young" (without detracting from the traditional preferential option for the poor). To create a true "Vocation Culture" in which young Catholics embrace freely the form of commitment in the church to which they are being called, we need to build on a solid foundation. Five priorities for pastoral action are suggested:
a. To Pray - not only for laborers for the harvest but we need to be men and women of prayer. Parishes and other Christian communities need to become "real schools of prayer." (p. 43)
b. To Evangelize: to Teach, to Form, to Catechize. At the congress, the young adults specifically asked that we "enrich their Catholic identity by providing them with opportunities for meaningful catechesis, ongoing formation and education. We must teach and live a theology of vocation that forms each Catholic in the understanding of his or her own life as a personal response to God's call to love, holiness, and service. We must also foster among all Catholics a knowledge and appreciation of the different vocations in the Church. On this foundation, each individual's unique call can then be discerned and given a full response." (p. 67)
c. To Experience: Worship, Community, Service, Witness- young people need to be exposed to these four fundamental aspects of the Church's mission. Quotes relating to these aspects: "Vibrant, joyful, prayerful liturgies should be a priority in all parishes, but most especially where young people gather. The communal nature of the Church needs to receive far more emphasis: specific attention and energy should be invested in making parishes and other Church gatherings more inviting and welcoming. Ministry to youth and young adults should always incorporate elements of direct Christian service. When asked what moved them most deeply during a retreat experience, young people often mention personal testimonials." (p. 72ff)
d. To Mentor: Accompany, Guide, Model, Witness. "In order to respond faithfully to God's call, young people need personal guidance. They need mentors who will listen to them attentively and help them discern God's unique call to them." (p. 80)
e. To Invite: Discern, Choose, Commit. "If our deeper concern is the long-term future of the Church in North America we need to move to a model of vocation ministry which emphasizes discernment and mission rather than recruitment." (p.88)
Ch. 5: Lists practical questions for a broad range of people in order to assist in implementing the Pastoral Plan.
E.g. Parents- Do I seek opportunities to participate in programs for youth and young adults in my parish? Do I assist them in identifying the specific call that is theirs?
E.g. Priests- How do I provide for mentoring and spiritual direction to help others discern their call from God?
E.g. Educators- Am I consistently conveying the truth that every person has a vocation? How am I living out my own call of discipleship?
Ch. 6: Presents a suggested agenda for meetings of parishes, deaneries, communities in order to discuss and act on the Pastoral Plan, aimed at the on-going building of a Vocation Culture
Contact the Resource Center 352-1651 to borrow the book or call the Vocation office 352-1651 to purchase a copy - $10.