Vocations – called to put out into the deep

In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations celebrated recently, John Paul II reflected on the call to all of us to follow Christ and, in particular, to consider the call to Religious Life and Priesthood. This is very relevant today when perm

‘Priests and Religious are the only living example of their own ways of life. Others in the church, especially young people and parents, need to hear from us that we strongly believe in our way of life, that we have a deeply-felt sense of personal mission, that our real and deepest joy is our calling from the Lord Jesus.’ (Donal Neary sj)

How are you being called to ‘put out into the deep’?

My Life in Mercy by Sr Mary Hepburn rsm

‘Carefully observe the way your heart draws you and then choose that way with all your strength’ (Jewish Hasidic saying). None of this is static! Indeed, living reflects the cosmos itself, where there is continuous vibration, relationship, creation, mystery and invitation. Catherine McAuley’s heart was drawn to some very vulnerable people in Dublin, and the ways she chose to bring them a greater fullness of life led to the founding of the Sisters of Mercy in 1832. ‘Observe’ and ‘choose’ -were two key concepts for Catherine and for all who want to live a Gospel life.

I have been a Sister of Mercy since I was 19 years old and it continues to be a graced journey of invitation and discovery in action. I have changed over the years. Religious life, the Church and society have changed. But the key elements of vocation live on. A reflective, contemplative way of living is necessary to stay in touch with the drawing of the heart, for that is where God is. And there I discover, in the tradition of Mercy, the ways I am being called today to work for a better world. All children, women and men are called to live life fully. As Catherine’s heart was drawn to respond to some urgent needs in 1832, so is this Sister of Mercy’s heart drawn to respond in 2005. This means being firmly rooted in the real world, an ongoing discovery of the gift of living in community, and a heart open to the promptings of the Spirit.

My way of observing and choosing has changed over the years. School teaching, theology studies, ministry in Honduras and Guatemala, have been ways of living out the call to be a Sister of Mercy. My current ministry is music therapy, which responds to identified needs of women, men, and children. In particular, this service, in the tradition of Catherine McAuley, seeks out those among the more vulnerable members of our society and provides an opportunity for greater fullness of life. For me it is also important to be involved in the life of my parish, St Anne’s in Newtown, where we try to understand and live the Gospel in the context of today’s world.

This is a really exciting time to be a Sister of Mercy! I have so much to discover about our Mercy story and roots, so much to understand about the reality in which I live. Life is always changing. Always so much to learn – and enjoy! One of my favourite sayings of Catherine McAuley is ‘We can never say it is enough’. May I continue to observe the way my heart draws me and choose that way with all my strength.

Marist and Brother by Br Kieran Fenn fms

What a blessing were parents who stood for sound Catholic and Christian values.

Growing up in a family of four boys and a young sister taught me about the give and take of life, especially the give that is the mark of generous parents. Integrity and hard work, along with a sense of humour, and a great love for their children, these are values that my parents strove for, not that they were perfect, but that, too, is a vital part of life and learning.

It was a blessing to grow up as a brother in the spirit and aftermath of Vatican II.

It has been painful living with its uncompleted agenda. My hope and contribution lies in a scriptural vision that moves our church forward: ‘The presence of the Lord in his Word is as real as his presence in the Eucharist.’ That is the sustaining truth of my spirituality and apostolic challenge for the last 30 years, to feed people with the bread of the Word.

I have been blessed in the communities I have lived in. Always there were brothers who inspired me with their example as both spiritual and dedicated men. After 16 years of teaching, most of which I really enjoyed, I became part of the early Marist Retreat team, then moving into adult faith and leadership formation at Marcellin Hall, an adult pastoral centre.

Living in community for 10 years with all the branches of the Marist religious family, was an awakening to both the positive feminine and feminist dimension of life together in a mixed community of sisters, priests, and brothers.

The Marist Brothers have given me so much over the years that when the opportunity arose to make some return to the order it came as a surprise and a blessing.

I was asked to go to the Marist Asia Pacific Centre in the Philippines to form young Brothers and Sisters in the Scriptures, over a period of six years. Surviving TB (tuberculosis), heat rash, and DVT (deep vein thrombosis) was a challenge but it was worth it to lay some biblical foundations in the lives of the young religious men and women of Asia and the Pacific.

My Biblical apostolate continues unabated. I have always had an ecumenical interest, having taught at Anglican, Methodist, and Baptist centres.

Now I am involved at both the Bible College of New Zealand (Protestant) where I currently have a class of seven different denominations, numerous classes for the Wellington Catholic Education Centre, involvement in the Communio series in the Hutt Valley, and parish work. A highlight last year was a day of scripture study with our cardinal and 30 priests.

This year, a most exciting group are the young university students, some of whom are preparing for World Youth Day, part of which is a journey in the steps of St Paul. I am introducing them to the person, world, and writing of Paul. My journey in scripture and life at The Grove, a young adult community, keeps me in touch with young people.

It is a wonderful stage in life to have a deep sense that ‘my life fits me!’ What I have done and am doing brings a feeling of peace and gratitude for a life of fulfilment.

Priesthood and human fulfilment by Fr Alan Roberts

Perhaps what most don’t realise about a vocation to the diocesan priesthood is the scope one has for creativity.

The possibilities for extending your imagination are endless. I doubt if any other career offers such variety.

Apart from the ordinary work one might be called on to do in the general day-to-day running of a parish, one is able to become more involved in a wide variety of activities.

The more academically inclined are free to explore their interests and use those talents in their work later on. Others may be content to just keep a shepherd’s eye on the parish entrusted to their care, while still others may want to become more fully involved in a specific ministry such as youth work, school chaplaincy, retreats, hospital chaplaincy, working in the field of justice or lecturing in the world of theology or spirituality.

These are just some of the possibilities that will be offered a diocesan priest. It is a vocation of surprises.

Parish life today calls one to work in cooperation with others. The priest is still the shepherd of the flock but he knows too that lay people can do things he can’t. It is much more satisfying to know you are building a community that won’t be relying on you for survival.

When you encourage people to offer their talents for the good of the community, it all comes to life and for the priest it is extremely satisfying.

Worship is a vital part of a priest’s day-to-day existence. He becomes very involved in liturgy, and the importance of good liturgy soon becomes a priority.

For me personally, this is perhaps the most satisfying aspect of being a priest. A vibrant liturgy can reach out to so many people – those who believe, those wondering what it is all about, those who have fallen away from the Church and those who seldom go near it, but happen to be there for an occasion.

A good liturgy is impossible without a group of prayerful parishioners prepared to become involved. When there is good liturgy, there is Jesus, in both his earthly and risen form.

A priest is called to be a person of prayer so prayer must be a major interest. When the spiritual life opens up, one soon learns that the journey inwards is an infinite world to be explored if one goes there to meet God.

As the priest realises his own hunger, he will soon find those who are also searching. Wonderful conversations can take place among those of such a mind.

Finally, the priest can enjoy the fellowship of co-workers – not just priests these days, but lay women and men who understand the Church of this age. He finds his challenge in this company and his reminder that together we are on a mission, and there is hope in the Church, even if the signs sometimes point to failure.

When I look back on more than 30 years of ministry, all I can say is that it has given me far more than I have given it.