World Day of Prayer for Vocations – April 2024

Vocation Sunday is a worldwide day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It falls on the 4th Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday – and a day on which there is a seminary collection. There is usually a message from the Pope for the day. Pope Francis’ 2024 message was released on 19 March. This year’s theme is: ‘Called to sow seeds of hope and to build peace’.

WelCom April 2024

World Day of Prayer for Vocations – April 2024  
Te Rā Īnoi mō Ngā Karanga Tūranga Whakapono i te Ao – Te Kohinga tā te Kura Amorangi  Te Rātapu 4 hei te Wā o te Aranga, 21 Paenga-whāwhā 2024 

National Vocations Awareness Week, 21–27 April 2024
Te Wiki o Ngā Karanga Tūranga Whakapono ā Motu, 21-27  Paenga-whāwhā 2024 

Vocation Sunday is a worldwide day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It falls on the 4th Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday – and a day on which there is a seminary collection. There is usually a message from the Pope for the day. Pope Francis’ 2024 message was released on 19 March. This year’s theme is: ‘Called to sow seeds of hope and to build peace’.

Vocations Awareness Week is a national initiative that focuses on vocations in general. It is on the New Zealand Bishops’ national calendar, and starts on Vocation Sunday each year on the 4th Sunday in Easter Time.

Pope Francis’ 2024 for Vocation Sunday message is outlined below, along with stories of vocational journeys from people in the Archdiocese of Wellington and the Diocese of Palmerston North.

Pope Francis’ Vocations Day message: ‘Be pilgrims of hope, builders of peace’

Pope Francis blesses seminarians at the Vatican. Photo: Dicastery for the Clergy, Vatican

Though the global situation risks plunging people into pessimism, Christians are called to pursue their vocation of becoming ‘men and women of hope’, Pope Francis said in his message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 21 April 2024. 

‘As individuals and as communities, amid the variety of charisms and ministries, all of us are called to embody and communicate the Gospel message of hope in a world marked by epochal challenges,’ the Pope wrote in his message for the day. 

Global challenges such as war, migration, rising poverty rates and climate change, in addition to personal difficulties encountered daily, ‘risk plunging us into resignation or defeatism,’ the Pope wrote in his message released on 19 March. He encouraged Christians to instead ‘cultivate a gaze full of hope and work fruitfully in response to the vocation we have received, in service to God’s kingdom of love, justice and peace’.

To be ‘pilgrims of hope and builders of peace’ means ‘to base our lives on the rock of Christ’s resurrection, knowing that every effort made in the vocation that we have embraced and seek to live out will never be in vain’, the Pope wrote.

Pursuing a vocation, he explained, is not an imposed duty but rather ‘the surest way for us to fulfil our deepest desire for happiness’.

The Holy Father noted all Christians are called to welcome our God-given vocation to serve Him in the world, whether it be through the consecrated life, the priesthood,  marriage, or as a single person.

‘Our life finds fulfilment when we discover who we are, what our gifts are, where we can make them bear fruit, and what path we can follow in order to become signs and instruments of love, generous acceptance, beauty and peace wherever we find ourselves.’

The Pope expressed his gratitude for the ‘hidden efforts’ of those who consistently respond to their calls in life, namely parents, workers, consecrated men and women and priests, and he urged young people to make room for Jesus in their lives to discover their vocation.

‘Let Jesus draw you to himself; bring him your important questions by reading the Gospels; let him challenge you by his presence, which always provokes in us a healthy crisis,’ he told young people.

The pope also highlighted the ‘synodal character’ of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, noting how ‘amid the variety of our charisms, we are called to listen to one another and to journey together in order to acknowledge them and to discern where the Spirit is leading us for the benefit of all.’

Prayer, he added, ‘is more about listening to God than about talking to him.’

The Pope called on Christians to ‘open the doors of the prison in which we so often enclose ourselves, so that each of us can discover his or her proper vocation in the Church and in the world’.

‘Let us be passionate about life and commit ourselves to caring lovingly for those around us in every place where we live,’ he wrote.

Sources: OSV News; Vatican News

Feeling at home in the Diocese of Palmerston North

Peter Hung Nguyen (l) and John Lam Nguyen (r). Photo: Hung Nguyen

Peter Hung Nguyen and John Lam Nguyen from Vietnam are living in Palmerston North while they study English in preparation for entering the seminary next year.

Hung Nguyen

I am Peter Hung Nguyen, and I come from the Diocese of Vinh in Nghe An province, Vietnam. There are many splendid and magnificent churches, as well as a large Catholic community in Vinh diocese. I am the youngest of three. I am truly grateful to have been born into a family filled with love from my parents and siblings. Additionally, we have wonderful neighbours in my village who are always ready to help others. I am even more fortunate to live in a parish with gentle and kind people. This is a driving force that motivates me to want to serve.

My vocation journey started quite late. After finishing university, I went to live with a parish priest in a poor parish in Vinh Diocese. At first, I felt quite lonely because everything was unfamiliar, and I didn’t really like it. However, the parish priest taught me how to pray, helping different things in the parish, and reaching out to the poor. Through many interactions and conversations with poor people, I developed a deep appreciation for them, which gradually motivated me to do something to help them and others. Moreover, I had the opportunity to be closer to God’s Eucharist every day while living in the parish.

During that time, I often asked myself, ‘Do I want to become a disciple of God? Do I have the courage to follow that path?’ I found the answer, and now I am living in the beautiful country of New Zealand. I believe it was not my choice but God who led me to this country according to His purpose, where everything is different, from culture to language and people. Initially, I felt very strange, but now I feel very familiar because the people here are wonderful. They give me words of encouragement and I know that I cannot be here without the prayers of many people.

Many times, I knelt before the Lord’s Eucharist and asked myself, ‘Do I love God enough to follow Him?’ I truly desire to become a priest for God and for people. For young people, please remember that do not be afraid to response to God’s call to be priest, it is not an easy journey but the grace of God will help you to overcome all the difficulties you face on your journey.

Lam Nguyen

My name is John Lam Nguyen. I was born in Hoi Yen Parish, Vinh Diocese, in North Vietnam. I was raised in a big Catholic family with seven children. I am the second child and have two brothers and four sisters. My parents work in agriculture.

During my time in college, I joined the monastic vocations group of my home diocese. Here, my vocation seemed to take a new direction, as I learned and practiced virtues under the guidance of the father in charge. From then on, my love for Christ grew stronger and urged me to follow Him. Faced with distinctions about things such as love between men and women, love between husband and wife, material wealth or fame, and position compared to the love of Christ and the love of service, those things cannot be compared. 

Through my prayer life, I firmly believe God will give all the necessary grace to those He chooses. As St Paul affirmed: ‘I consider everything a loss compared with the wonderful gain of knowing Christ my Lord. For His sake, I have lost all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ’ (Philippians 3:8). That is also my choice, for the love of God and the salvation of souls.

About two years ago, I received a call from Fr Trung Nguyen, a Vietnamese priest belonging to the Diocese of Palmerston North. He asked me, ‘Do you want to become a priest in New Zealand?’ Personally, I truly wished to become disciple of Jesus, but New Zealand was never on my mind because I didn’t have any foreign language skills, especially English. When I received that call, I took the time to think and asked my relatives for their opinions, and they advised me to follow my heart’s will. That decision brought me to New Zealand.

Right now, I am just learning English for the IELTS exam. The biggest challenge for me now is the language barrier. The next step in my vocation is to pass the exam and enter the seminary next year.

Youth is the time to stand at a crossroads and choose a direction. It’s a time for making decisions. Both choices are difficult and involve asking many questions. As a young Catholic, vocation is not just about a career, future, or status. Amidst these appearances, God’s invitation may confuse young people’s thinking. May we, as young people, dare to generously listen, discern, and live out the calling that Jesus has for us.

Monastic life with the Cistercians

Jonathan Craven in the library at Southern Star Monastery, Kopua.

Jonathan Craven

Southern Star Abbey is a Cistercian monastery located in Kopua, between Takapau and Norsewood, Central Hawke’s Bay, within the Diocese of Palmerston North. The monastery supports itself by operating a dairy farm.

In the year 1098, the first Cistercian monks broke away from the existing Order of St Benedict to get closer to God. For them, this meant having no parishes or schools, which were often run by monks. These were becoming enough of a distraction where the monks would, out of kindness, and their own shortcomings, become more involved in other people’s journeys than their own.

The brothers had a sense that this wasn’t what God wanted for them, and that they would improve the quality of their spiritual life and ministry without them. They reduced the liturgy and time they were spending in church, creating more time for God in their work, private prayer, lectio divina, and study. They had the saying amor ipse notitia est, and amor ipse intellectus est – love is knowledge, love is understanding. By living in this way, the monastery became a magnet of love, attracting many talented men and women.

Part of the attraction was they had reduced their physical comforts and simplified their architecture giving them a greater solidarity with the poor and ongoing lessons in humility. By making these sacrifices for the wellbeing of the poor, the monks were a greater witness to their plight, and their life of voluntary poverty emphasised that the kingdom of God is within us.

Kopua Monastery guesthouse. Photos: Jonathan Craven

Many men and women have thrived spiritually in these conditions of adversity and hardship, becoming more compassionate for the world, reaching a much greater understanding of God and themselves. They have influenced the world for the better through their prayer life, hospitality and witness to the Gospel.

In 1954 six monks came from Mount Mellerey Abbey, in County Waterford, Ireland, to Kopua, to help make it possible for New Zealanders to have the advantage and privilege of being able to live the Cistercian Way of life and serve the Church in this way. They faced the hardships and challenges of founding a new monastery. People from all over the country joined up and things slowly developed to what they are today. Kopua monastery aims to be a place of equality, atonement, inner freedom and humility and is often referred to as a school of love.

I was humbled to spend four years as a junior monk in the monastery. The Cistercian Order is dealing with many challenges these days and vocations are one of them. Of the vocations who enter monasteries, most of them leave about the same time I did, with a few staying on for longer. I was hopeful I could navigate the current difficulties, but the Lord had other plans for me. I’m very grateful for this time and the many things I learned.

Kopua currently has two monks in formation; a novice whose in Australia for a year and a postulant who arrived on Christmas Day, making ten monks in total.

Jonathan Craven is not currently at the monastery while he is officially having a break for a year to discern his vocation.

Teresa Rayner

Tessa Rayner

Teresa Rayner was one of the Archdiocese of Wellington’s first Tuākana Youth Ministers. Teresa has now joined a religious order in Australia. She shares her vocation story.

I grew up in Tawa, the oldest of eight kids. I went to St Francis Xavier School in Tawa and later to Bishop Viard College in Porirua, and I was always involved in my parish. In my teens I joined our youth group and attended Jesus4Real and Life Teen camps. 

After college I joined the Christchurch Mission Team for two years. We ran high school retreats, and the experience sparked in me a desire to actively share my faith with young people. I returned to Wellington, and in 2020 became a Tuākana Youth Minister at St Catherine’s College in Kilbirnie. This new part-time role gave me an opportunity to journey with high school students in their walk of faith. I was there for two years and enjoyed accompanying students as they wrestled with questions of life and faith.

Throughout this time, the seed of vocation continued to grow. In 2022 I left St Catherine’s to actively discern religious life. My desire to help young people encounter the love of God led me to the Missionaries of God’s Love, whom I had met at Hearts Aflame. I visited them in Australia and felt at home with them.

Back home, I wanted to share my discernment journey with others. I spent five months touring around New Zealand in a campervan and visiting congregations of Religious Sisters. This experience solidified my own attraction to religious life. I discovered their varied spiritualities and charisms and documented the experience on a website for others to discover ( 

As a teenager I had a profound encounter with a God who loves me and wants to have a relationship with me. This encounter changed my life, and I want others to experience the same. For me, religious life is a way of entering into that relationship of love with Christ and responding by giving my whole life to share His love with others.

I entered the pre-novitiate with the MGLs a year ago and professed my promises on 18 February 2024. This is an initial commitment, after which I will then enter the novitiate. It will be an eight-year journey to perpetual vows, and I appreciate the prayerful support of family, friends, and my home parish in Tawa.

Teresa Rayner, far right, with fellow Tuākana Youth Ministers, Wellington, 2021. Photos: Supplied

My vocation journey

Fr Ravi Kumar Voliganti

Fr Ravi Kumar Voliganti, Catholic Parish of Wellington South

I come from Andhra Pradesh in India. I was born in a Catholic family and had three uncles who were priests. My vocation journey has had many twists and turns.

I was sent to boarding school at the very young age of six and studied with the Don Bosco Fathers. When I was 18, after finishing college, I was on my way home with friends on a train when we were drugged and robbed. I woke up three days later in a hospital in a strange place, all my belongings gone. People had recognised we were college students and helped us to get back to our homes. This incident made me think that God had a plan for my life. At my priest’s suggestion I joined a new society started by a Jesuit. Formation for priesthood in India takes 13 years, and after nine years in the seminary I decided to leave and try something else. I finished my BEd and Masters and went to work in Bangalore while I prepared for competitive exams for a government job. 

One night, while being driven home with nine workmates, our van collided with an oil tanker. It was a terrible accident, and seven of my workmates died. I walked out with virtually no injuries. This was my second clear vocation moment. Surviving the accident unharmed convinced me that God had other plans for my life. I decided to return to the seminary, I finished my formation and was ordained.

I served as a parish priest in Calcutta, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra and Punjab, then spent several years working in schools, first as vice principal and later as principal. When my society was dissolved by the Vatican, I was incardinated into the diocese of Asansol. It is common in my diocese for priests to be sent to serve in different countries. My bishop decided to send me to New Zealand. Archbishop Paul Martin sm invited me to Christchurch just before Covid-19 hit. When he became Archbishop of Wellington, and the borders reopened, he invited me to Wellington. 

I arrived in New Zealand in August last year and am serving at the Catholic Parish of Wellington South. It has been a huge culture shock for me – I’ve had to adjust and still have much to learn. 

Coming from a Hindu country where Catholics are persecuted, I was expecting that in New Zealand the churches would be full as there is freedom of religion here. I didn’t realise how secular New Zealand is until I got here. My biggest challenge here is how to attract young people and those who are away from the Church.

But the people here have been very friendly and helpful, and I am happy to serve in this archdiocese. God’s plans are different from our own. I never dreamt or thought that God would bring me to other side of the world. I strongly believe it is all God’s plan for me.

Please pray for our Wellington seminarians

Deacon Matthew White
Currently serving as Deacon in the  Catholic Parish of the Wairarapa
From Te Ngāhau Tapu Parish, Porirua

Kinh Nguyen
Sixth year seminarian
Originally from Vietnam

Emilio Capin
Fifth year seminarian
Currently on Pastoral placement in Our Lady of the Bays Parish, Tasman
Originally from the Philippines

Gerson Badayos
Fourth year seminarian
Originally from the Philippines

Max Copley
First year seminarian
From Holy Trinity Parish, Wellington East