Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Vocations Activities in Southwark
The last post has generated a lot of interest. I hope you find it helpful. I promised to do a follow-up on what happens here in Southwark to support vocations. In the comment box for the last post Mark expresses an interest in knowing more about the signs of a vocation. I'll try and deal with that on another occasion, today I just want to let you know what we offer.
It will be clear from the last post that early contact with the Vocations Director is really important. This Blog is also important and I know that it has helped a number of young men contact their respective dioceses. It is also a point of contact for people who have already spoken with me and, importantly, for those just dipping their toes. However, there is no substitute for personal contact with the Vocations Director. At the same time it is important to be clear that meeting the Vocations Director doesn't mean that you are somehow committed to being ordained seven years down the line. In Southwark we try to offer opportunities to meet informally the Vocations Director and other young men thinking of priesthood. In what follows I'll give an account of these opportunities.
Seekers Meetings take place on the third Friday of each month. The first part of the evening involves some input on topics such as prayer and the interior life. This is usually given by me or another priest, although sometimes we have a guest (last Friday we had Br Martin OFR). After the talk there is time to meat informally and get to know each other. We then sit down to a meal together. At the end everyone goes home (having washed up!) hopefully inspired by what they've heard and encouraged by the people they've met. There's always an opportunity to speak with me privately should anyone wish to. The Seekers Meetings are important but I recognise that they may not suit everyone. In order to sort out the catering I need to know how many people will be turning up so it's usual to let me know.
Each term we try to offer our seminarians and those interested in priesthood a chance to come and spend some time together in the parish. On St John's Day (27th December) there is a Mass (up until now it has been celebrated by the Archbishop) in the morning. Sometimes there's a film or other activity. There's always a nice meal followed by a time when we just hear from each other about whatever interests them. On Good Friday I invite those who wish to join us for the Solemn Liturgy followed by Hot Cross buns. They are welcome to hang round as long as they like afterwards. Most stay for Stations of the Cross in the evening. In the summer we have a barbecue. The important thing about these events is that they provide a chance for men thinking about priesthood to meet each other, ask questions, and receive encouragement.
The Vocations Week takes place in July and is for seminarians, seekers and those seriously considering a priestly vocation. It's not quite a week as it starts on Tuesday afternoon and ends on Friday. This year we will be going back to the Sacred Heart School in Woldingham. During the week there are various inputs on different aspects of priestly ministry and Catholic life in this country.
The Vocations Retreat takes place in March. It takes place at St John's Seminary, Wonersh and is run jointly with the diocese of Arundel and Brighton. It is open to everyone but is best suited to those who have begun to develop a clear sense of being called to priesthood. It helps to visit the seminary, to meet the students there and ask them questions, and also to have that time out to consider the call prayerfully. The Retreat has been very helpful in the past: some participants have seen clearly that they are called to diocesan priesthood while others have soon realised that their call lies elsewhere.
Discovering Priesthood Days
DPDs are a new initiative and are designed to encourage and support vocations among the under 18s. They take place once a term and we try to have them in each of the episcopal areas. This year we plan to hold an additional one at the Seminary.
I'm always keen to talk at university chaplaincies and schools. We're working on the format of one day events for secondary schools and hope to have it completed soon. I'm sure there's lots more that can be done and am always happy to receive suggestions. So now it's over to you...