Saturday, May 04, 2013

Vocations Seminar for Religious

On Thursday we had the fourth session in our seminar for Religious entitled: Contemporary Developments in Vocations Ministry. The first three sessions had looked at questions of religious identity, the paradigm shift from recruitment to discernment and the challenges posed by the New Evangelisation. The fourth session was always meant to be a "from vision to action" forum and so it turned out to be. 

One of the questions faced by Religious Communities whose profile is ageing is whether they can accept with any hope of success younger vocations. It would be easy to give an either or answer to that question: either you do or you die out. However the group came up with a much more interesting response. It was recognised that it would be very difficult for a girl in her twenties to join a community whose average age was sixty or above. But it wouldn't be so hard for someone in their forties. A twenty year gap is much more manageable than a forty year one. If someone in their forties joined a community and stayed through to final vows they would be in their fifties by then and, working on the principle that a twenty yea gap can be managed, they could then consider taking someone in their thirties so that bit by bit the age profile begins to decrease.

It is an interesting thought and I know that I occasionally get emails from people complaining that the Vocations Office is not targetting later vocations. With that in mind, we have decided to hold a Vocations Retreat for older people this coming autumn. We had hoped to have it in October but that won't be possible this year so, instead, it will take place at the Kairos Centre in Roehampton (London) from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th November. It is good to flag it up and get it into the diary now. The retreat will be open to men and women between the ages of 35 and 50. 

It will be important to provide follow up for those who join us for the retreat and that is something we will be working on over the next few months. We also would like to know which religious communities would consider taking older vocations.

Everything we do must be rooted in prayer and so we hope to organise a diocesan Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious life in one or more venues across the diocese. This will be an invitation to men and women to come together to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send labourers into his harvest.

I am very grateful to the Religious who gave their time to join us for the seminar. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and will, please God, bear fruit in lots of ways over the next few months.


Silvana rscj said...

Wishing you well with your retreat for older discerners. I know the Compass programme has an age limit around 35, which is hard for the many who only start discerning around that age! But I do appreciate it would be very hard for them to run such an intense process for a group with a 20+ year age range.

My own congregation, the Society of the Sacred Heart, had a decade of no vocations. The youngest - including me - had reached our late 40s. In 2011, after some very hard prayer and work we were blessed with 3 candidates, now 3 novices. They were aged 42, 34 and 26!!

We now have another candidate aged 32, a prospective aged 50, and a few more enquirers, aged 21-51! Someone would discern seriously with each one who asks to discern: age is a factor of course, but so are other things, especially whether our charism and spirituality resonate with what is deep within her.

Fr Stephen said...

Thank you Sr Silvana for that comment which will encourage a lot of people. I know some other Congregations that have had a similar experience to yours. Let's pray the forthcoming weekend will bear the fruit God wants.