Tomorrow, Saturday 5th November, I will attend the annual general meeting of Vocations Ireland. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that Vocations Ireland is the umbrella organisation for the religious vocation directors/promoters for the religious congregations in Ireland. The organisation also represents the missionary societies, contemplative communities and other religious institutes with a presence in Ireland. The organisation is responsible for assisting vocation directors by organising appropriate seminars and conferences during the year. It also deals with enquirers about religious life and tries to match them with appropriate orders. It promotes religious vocations at various events across the county during the year. During the past number of months it has promoted and supported the ExploreAway project. It has a wide remit.
Having attended the bulk of the annual meetings over the past decade or so, it strikes me that the religious vocations personnel in Ireland are a very optimistic group. In a sense they have to be. Despite the modest increase in enquiries across the board to male and female religious orders, it has not significantly impacted on the numbers of new members joining. It would be easy to be downcast, even fatalistic. Vocation personnel are a resilient lot, although there is a high rate of attrition among them. Clearly, an organisation like Vocations Ireland is important as a support system and network for all of us. I am aware that some, though obviously not all vocation directors do not get adequate support from their congregations. For those working full time in this ministry, they will be aware that it is a distinctly lonely job and support is crucial.
Comparing Vocations Ireland to other comparable groups in various parts of the world is a fruitless exercise. Ultimately the upkeep and running of the office is dependent on the goodwill and financial assistance of the religious in Ireland, so the organisation does not have limitless resources. In an ideal world, the religious vocations directors would be best served if Vocations Ireland could have the capacity to be more pro-active in the promotion of the religious vocation. It would benefit hugely from having serious research done as an aid and assistance to short, medium and long term planning and strategies. The membership would also be served well by having personnel who are well trained in dealing with the various media available and by extension be a clear voice for the promotion of religious vocations. But I sense that we are a long way from that.
In the meantime, keep these vocation directors in your prayers. They are in great need of them!