Archbishop John Dew
I had a conversation recently with someone who was commenting on the gift we have in our Lay Pastoral Leaders. The part of the conversation I thought the most important was the comment that the lay pastoral leader’s role is a response to a calling.
This person went on to say our Lay Pastoral Leaders don’t look for this position for themselves or for what they will get out of it, but because it is their response to God’s call. It is their way of living out their discipleship.
The centre spread of this issue of Wel-Com highlights National Vocations Awareness Week (3–10 August).
This week is observed every year and we also observe and pray for vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday – the fourth Sunday of Easter. We pray sincerely on that day for vocations to priesthood and religious life in particular.
This month, as we observe National Vocations Week, I am asking you to do two things. The first is to pray: to pray for vocations to priesthood and the religious life. The second is to talk about vocations in your families and with your friends. Unless the possibility of a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life is actually spoken about, we will continue to struggle to adequately staff our parishes, schools and chaplaincies, and to provide pastoral and spiritual care.
I agree with that person who spoke to me about the calling of the lay pastoral leader. Like those first disciples we are all called by Jesus, and we learn to make a response – to make a response every day as disciples, whether it is as a single person, a married person, a priest or religious, or as someone working in some form of leadership within the Church.
I know I was called. It took some time for me to hear the call, and in actual fact I didn’t want to hear it at first. But I know God called, and I also know now what a great privilege and blessing that has been and is.
We talk about the need for priests and religious but we are not getting much response. I actually wonder if the young people we hope for ever actually hear the call, and I wonder that because today everyone lives very full and very busy lives. In the midst of that busyness, how is the call of Jesus heard, or is there so much noise and distraction and other things to preoccupy us the call is not heard at all? Do we need to teach one another how to stop and listen for the voice of God calling?
It’s also often said the call is heard by being invited, by being invited to at least think about one’s baptismal call as a disciple, by being a priest or religious.
As a parent, a grandparent, as a teacher, a sibling or a friend, have you ever invited one of your family, or close friends, to think about the fact that he or she might be called by Jesus?
Have you created a space for them to stop and reflect on life’s essential values?
Have you spoken about the witness and inspiration a religious or priest has had on your life?
The need for prayer and the promotion of vocations is an urgent responsibility of every Catholic community, whether it is a family, a school, a parish, chaplaincy or some movement within the Church. Our Catholic primary schools too are just as important as our secondary schools for our young people to be taught to stop and hear the call of God.
I believe in our young people in the Church today. I see wonderful examples of prayerful and generous young people, faith-filled and hope-filled who are eager to be of service to others. Maybe if we want them to hear the call of the Lord, we need to ensure there are opportunities to stop and listen, to hear his voice. That may come through our invitation.
The first disciples were called and Jesus told them he chose them, they didn’t choose him (John 15:16). That means to hear his voice, we all need to listen. Those first disciples were called, and generation after generation of women and men have heard the call. Now is the time for our friends, schools and parishes to be serious once again about praying, talking about and asking others to listen for the call of Jesus.
He is always calling, he is always inviting . . . . the question that needs to be asked is ‘are we listening?’.