The annual general meeting of the religious vocations directors (male and female) in Ireland – known as Vocations Ireland
will meet in Dublin this weekend. There will be a keynote address from well known Irish Times
journalist Breda O’ Brien. I look forward to hearing her. She is, without question, one of the more rational and serious social and religious commentators in modern Ireland
What are the concerns of the vocations personnel in Ireland at this time? No doubt, the question of continued dwindling numbers of vocations will be high on the agenda. It is a perennial! The other issue that always exercises the mind is: where do we tap into where the young are at – how will we reach them? Lamentably, there will be a continuous call for more sub-committees, more focus groups, more research to be done to get to the root of the problem. Allied with that will be the sense of deflation on the part of many – it’s hard to retain optimism when there are few vocations.
And yet, some of the concerns seem so misplaced. I’d like my fellow vocations directors and promoters to think in a more constructive manner. Instead of lamenting and moaning about the small number of vocations why not take the initiative and make a concerted effort to promote the vocation of each order, congregation and entity. There is a very serious lack of vocational promotion in Ireland. It is practically negligible. No visibility. Will young (and not so young) take religious vocations seriously if religious themselves do not?
I have observed the proliferation of committees, sub-committees, focus groups and research studies undertaken by religious congregations in recent years. I do not doubt that they are well-intentioned. Unfortunately, like many reports and studies – they are filed away but give a suggestion of actually having done something. No report, or focus group or research will substitute for the real hard work of vocational promotion and discernment. Time to stop meeting and get out and do!
Then the question of deflation/lack of energy or hopelessness which is the malaise of many vocations personnel: it is time to look at your congregational leaders and leadership teams and encourage them to make vocations a top priority – to put resources (material, human and spiritual) at your disposal. Congregations leave so much to vocations personnel without ever encouraging them.
And finally, prayer! Where is there a sense of religious congregations praying in a real and earnest fashion for vocations? There are a few, but very few. Look at the thousands of ordinary people associated with religious communities whose resource as pray-ers for vocations that have not been tapped into. Do religious communities pray for vocations? And ultimately – no prayer, no vocations.
Please pray for us religious vocations directors as we begin a new academic year of promotion and discernment.