Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vocations Experience for Women

Southwark doesn't have many female monastic communities but an important one is the community of Benedictine nuns at Minster in Kent occupying the site of a seventh century monastic foundation. The sisters run a number of vocations activities including the forthcoming "Monastic Experience Retreat" which will take pace at the Abbey from 9th -14th July this year.
Although the Abbey has a website, the sisters don't allow the telephone or internet to become a distraction to their routine of work and prayer so to find out more information you need to contact them by letter.
The address is:
The Benedictine Nuns of St Mildred's Priory
Minster Abbey,
Minster-in-Thanet, Nr Ramsgate,
Kent, UK

As a taster of vocations discernment at St Mildred's Priory you may find this extract from the website helpful:

Monastic Vocation

All people are called to love and serve God. Some people are called to serve their brothers and sisters by devoting their lives in service to the poor. Some are called to bring new life into the world through married love. A few people, however, are called in love to give themselves to God, in a life dedicated to prayer, through Benedictine monastic life.

"Discernment of a Vocation"

Discerning a vocation to the Benedictine life at Minster involves a process of prayer and dialogue and three parties are involved. God who calls, the person who is called, and the Church through the community, guided by the Holy Spirit, discerns if the call is genuine. This process will take some time.

There are however some important elements which are essential for a genuine vocation to our life. The young woman must be Roman Catholic, single, free from all obligations to her family and not be in debt.

Our life is joyful and rewarding, but it is also demanding. The young woman must be healthy both mentally and physically and have an ability to live with others in community. Usually she will be between 22 and 39 years of age. It is important to have the desire to spend time each day in spiritual reading (lectio divina) and be eager to participate fully in the Liturgical prayer, and life of the community.

"Is she truly seeking God?"

St Benedict wrote that "the concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and shows eagerness for the Work of God (i.e. the Divine Office), for obedience and for trials" (Holy Rule chapter 58). These 'four aspects ' of a Benedictine vocation practically cover the whole of our spiritual life

In the Benedictine life the nun binds herself by solemn vows of obedience, stability in the community, and the monastic way of life. The monastic call is always to a specific monastery.


If you feel drawn to a life of prayer with the Benedictine community at Minster Abbey the first step is to contact the Novice Mistress. You may then be invited to stay in the Guest House to experience something of our monastic hospitality and to meet the community. You may be asked to visit a number of times. During your visit it is wise to ask to see the Novice Mistress and discuss your feelings about your possible vocation. If both parties believe God is really calling you, you may be invited to live alongside the community for a month or so in order to experience life 'on the inside'. If you still feel a desire to pursue a monastic vocation and the community feels it is right to do so, you may request to enter the community as a postulant.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Sacramental Sunday

Today we had our thirtieth baptism this year in the parish and there are plenty more on the way! We try to offer individual baptisms to our parishioners. I know there is some debate about this. Generally parents prefer the more familial nature of an individual baptism. For me it's a practical thing: in my first parish we had baptisms once a month and they were sometimes quite chaotic. It does, however, make for quite a busy day.
I celebrated the 9am and the 10am Masses and our assistant priest said the 11.30am Sung Mass. I was able to catch up with a number of our 'marriage preparation mentors' after the Masses and also encourage a new couple to become mentors. This is a really important and developing ministry in the parish.
Today we were particularly busy because the 11.30 was one of our three 'Presentation Masses' for the First Communion classes. At previous Masses the children have received a Bible and a Rosary. Today they received a Crucifix.
We also had quite a few Confessions today which is always gratifying. The Church now explicitly encourages making the sacrament available during Mass and we have found sitting in the confessional on Sundays a very effective way of promoting confessions.
There were two guests for lunch - one a young man considering his vocation and the other a retired Anglican vicar. Along with our parish sister and one of this year's candidates they formed quite a combination.
After the baptisms I had to collate the candidates' paperwork in order to drop it off this evening at Archbishop's House in time for the Bishop to digest it before the interviews on 10th May. Fortunately I'm not on the evening Mass but it does mean I won't be available for Confessions. Later we have a presentation on the Way of St James for our young adults' group.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Seminaries Need to Employ New Cooks?

The National Office of Vocations recently sent out a press release pointing out that England and Wales has enjoyed an annual increase in the number of men entering seminary for the last four years. Last year forty four men began training at one of our diocesan seminaries. We've just had the Selection Conference at Wonersh which was attended by twelve potential new candidates. They all seemed good men and there was a very good spirit among them.
It would be great if they were all to be accepted. But the increasing numbers of seminarians bring with it other questions of a more mundane nature. If any rectors out there are wondering if they should employ a new cook, I recommend getting in contact with the chap in the photograph Manuel Mucho Comida. He's a dab hand at rustling up a quick paella. This one's for five hundred!

Friday, April 25, 2008

What's been happening?

I may not have been posting much lately but it wouldn't be true to say that nothing has been happening on the vocations front. In Southwark we've continued with our monthly Seekers' Meetings and also with our termly Discovering Priesthood Days. These have been a tremendous success, enabling us to give young people a taste of priestly life and ministry in the context of a relaxed day of fun as well as reflection. Last term nine youngsters joined us at Lewisham where the parish pulled out the stops to make us welcome. It was my turn to be 'priest on the hot seat' and there were lots of thoughtful questions.
We try to have Discovering Priesthood Days in different parts of the diocese and my aim would be to organise one in every deanery. In this way we encourage young men to think about the vocation God has in mind for them. At the very least it reminds them, at a key moment in their lives, that as they grow up they have to begin to accept responsibility for their Christian life and faith. I'll post again on the DPDs but in the meantime please keep them in your prayers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back to Blogging

Those of you with long memories might recall the Southwark Vocations Blog started after a reception hosted by the Nuncio in honour of the Holy Father. In the time I was Blogging regularly I often received emails from men and women saying that the site helped them in their discernment process. I have to admit the Bloggap that started last summer was somewhat longer than I had anticipated and once you stop blogging it's hard to take it up again. In the last few months I've received messages from individuals asking me to keep the site going and it's hard to ignore those requests.
So what makes me write a post today? Last night I was at the Nuncio's reception once again and as I prepared to leave a complete stranger came up to me. "Are you Fr Stephen Langridge. We haven't met but I have to thank you" and he went on to describe how his fifteen year old son was so impressed by a time I showed 'Fishers of Men'that he reads 'Vocations News' and wants to be a priest.
He's not a Southwark lad and I doubt his father would let him apply anywhere but to his home diocese! But, as I said when I last posted, thin sowing means thin reaping - perhaps the time has come to start posting again!