WelCom August 2018:
Te Wiki Aroā mō Ngā Karanga Tūranga Hāhi a Motu ki Aotearoa, 5-12 Ākuhata 2018
To highlight National Vocations Awareness Week, 5–12 August 2018, WelCom presents reflections from a range of voices in our dioceses.
The Good News
Fr Bryan Buenger
The truth is there are places in the world, Asia, parts of Europe and North America and even in Scandinavia where the much maligned and often misunderstood millennial generation is embracing the faith and participating in a ‘vocation boom’. The decision to devote their lives to the Church seems radical in the context of common stereotypes about millennials, a generation often accused of lack of discipline, scepticism, preference for a ‘hook-up’ culture, and vague spiritual impulses. But the millennials populating seminaries and religious orders defy those clichés by choosing lifelong vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to God.
In a large part of this ‘vocation boom’ it can be traced to places where Catholics recognise their responsibility to build a vocation culture in their parishes, schools, and families where children and young people are being introduced to the various vocations in the Church starting at an early age. How can we do this?
Fr Bryan Buenger is the Vocations Director for the Diocese of Palmerston North and is currently assigned to the Tararua parishes for the Palmerston North Diocese.
All Catholics can engage in some simple and effective methods of encouraging vocations:
- 1. Pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Jesus says, “to beg the master of the harvest to send labourers into the vineyard” (Matthew 9:38).
- 2. Teach young people how to pray. Pope Benedict XVI said unless we teach our youth how to pray, they will never hear God calling them into a deeper relationship with Him.
- 3. Invite active young adults and teens to consider a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life.
- 4. Make it attractive. The challenge for priests and religious is to be joyful models of their vocations.
- 5. Preach it! Vocations must be talked about regularly for the ‘vocation culture’ to take root in parishes and homes.
Let us pray that Aotearoa-New Zealand can be part of this vocation boom.
Hearing my inner call
A few of weeks ago I asked a question to a group of young people gathered to discern a vocation to priesthood or religious life: ‘What makes you feel the most alive?’ I asked it because I believe the core of our unique call is already there within us. We’ve got the elements of the answers we are searching for, sometimes we just have to piece them together and dig deep to figure out how to move forward.
‘…we all desire to find a place in the world we feel we belong…’
Earlier this year I was able to attend a meeting of young people ahead of the upcoming Synod on the topic of ‘Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.’ That title sounds lofty, but ultimately the Church is trying to figure out how we can best accompany young people as they make important decisions in their lives. The conversations we had at the meeting were enriching, challenging and honest. No matter where we come from, we all desire to find a place in the world we feel we belong and want to be able to make a positive contribution wherever we find ourselves. The heartbeat of that meeting was twofold; hope and thanksgiving. We were immensely grateful that Pope Francis and the Church want to hear the voice of the young and there was a palatable sense of hope in the midst of the challenges we face as young people.
As a somewhat transient young adult myself, I know my own journey is an ongoing search for those answers deep within. It is about attempting to make sense of who I am in light of an overall call to love those around me, no matter what season of life I find myself in. It’s certainly not easy. But I’ve found the accompaniment of others on this journey is essential in trying to make sense of it all. I am grateful for the sometimes slow, yet seemingly deliberate ways my own call is made known within.
‘Certainty is an illusion…’
Certainty is an illusion, which is lucky for me in light of my own vocation, but those moments when we feel fully alive are an immense gift and reveal to us something essential. May we not take them lightly, but rather cling to them in hope.
Isabella McCafferty, Family and Young Church Vicariate, Wellington Archdiocese.
My Vocation Story
Fr Andrew Kim
I think I have an unofficial world record. I was a seminarian for 20 years. I was 18 when I joined the Redemptorists. It was nearly time for my final vows, but I wasn’t sure it was God’s call for me. I wanted to experience the world, so I decided to leave. Perhaps I didn’t listen to God’s voice. I wasn’t sure what God wanted from me and where I could go to follow Him.
When I left the seminary, people talked about me rather than blessing or encouraging me. They wondered what problem had caused me to leave. There was a lot of gossip, and some friends treated me like a failure. I was hurt and stopped relating to people. I blamed the church. I was stressed, depressed, and my family were worried about me.
My spiritual director knew I was confused about my vocation and advised me to listen to God’s voice. But I didn’t know how to listen and determine what was God’s voice from among all the others’ voices. God seemed quiet, and I was more confused than ever.
I travelled to other countries, experienced different jobs and tried to open my mind, to listen to what God wanted from me. I met Jesus on the street and in work places. I saw His face in people and experienced His life in their lives. People shared their stories and problems with me. They treated me as their brother and friend. I realised that Jesus wanted me to serve Him through His people. He had been calling me all the time, and so I decided to return to the seminary. But there was a problem. I was 38 years old – too old to re-join the seminary in Korea. One of my priest friends suggested a seminary in New Zealand. I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I knew clearly God was calling me to New Zealand. I am very happy to be here and to follow God’s call.
We are all on a journey towards God. Sometimes we lose the way, and do not know where we are supposed to go. But if we stop what we are doing and listen carefully with our heart, we can hear Jesus whisper to us there. And this whisper will lead us in the right direction. We just need to trust Him and remember His words, “Come follow me”.
Fr Andrew Kim was ordained on 9 November 2012 and is currently serving as Assistant Priest at Our Lady of the Bays Parish, which covers Richmond, Wakefield, Waimea West, Motueka and Takaka.
Could someone you know become tomorrow’s priest?
Pray – Invite – Encourage
Contact Fr David Dowling at email@example.com or 021 174 4248.
What happened to my prayers for vocations?
As every Catholic child growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s was encouraged to do, I prayed with great fervour for vocations. But, as the number of vocations to priesthood and religious life continued to dwindle, we wondered whether God was listening, or was God answering my prayer in a way I was not expecting?
In the 1980s, a couple of biographies of Nano Nagle got me excited. I recognised this remarkable founder of the Presentation Sisters in myself. I have come to understand I have been gifted with the Presentation charism. Over the past 30 years, others all over the world have been awakened in similar ways. I am convinced the spirit of many religious congregations has been let loose in every corner of the world and is being embraced by people in all walks of life and many cultures. Charisms previously the domain of vowed religious are lived out in homes and workplaces, finding new expression in today’s world. Religious orders who may be attracting fewer members to religious life are drawing significant numbers of people to live in relationship with them, sharing dreams and working towards common goals to bring about the reign of God. It is clear, once transformed these ordinary folk can no longer return to their old ways.
In 2002 a papal document Starting afresh from Christ recognised this new movement of the Spirit.
The fact that the charisms of founders and foundresses, having been born of the Spirit for the good of all, must once again be placed at the centre of the church, open to communion and participation by all the people of God, is being increasingly discovered. …The new phenomenon being experienced in these days is that some members of the laity are asking to participate in the charismatic ideals of Congregations. This has given rise to interesting initiatives and new forms of association. We are experiencing an authentic re-flourishing of Religious Congregations…and the birth of new lay associations and movements linked to religious Families…it is growing out of the need to share…specific aspects and moments of the spirituality and mission of the Congregation. (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 2002, #31)
Joan Chittister osb says, ‘Charism is the heart of the founder aglow at one period in history beating on in us in another day and age …’. What if God has been listening to all that prayer? What if God’s answer is the flourishing of the many different charisms within the hearts of men and women who are able to take this gift into places that were never imagined possible? This is not what I thought I was praying for – it is much better.
Sr Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun, author, and speaker. She has served as prioress and Benedictine federation president, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women.
Mary-Ann Greaney is Director, Parish Leadership Vicariate, Archdiocese of Wellington.