Thursday, February 28, 2013

I've Adopted a Cardinal!

The German Youth 2000 site (Jugend 2000) has an imaginative project to encourage prayer for the new Pope: Adopt a Cardinal. Mine is HE Anthony Olubumni Okogie, the Archbishop emeritus of Lagos, Nigeria.
By adopting a Cardinal I commit myself to praying for him each day in whatever way I choose from now until three days after the election of the new Pope. I am pleased to start doing this now as the Cardinals will begin their Congregations tomorrow - the time when all of them, electors or not, will begin discussing the qualities they believe a successor to our beloved Benedict XVI will need.
At the time of writing 126432 people have adopted a Cardinal. How many will it be when you adopt a Cardinal by going to the website here?

No Words Necessary...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


There is always something to be done at the Vocations Centre. Currently we are decorating the bedrooms. So far we have finished three of them so there are only six more to go. It is amazing to see the difference a couple of coats of paint can make. Each room takes about five litres of emulsion at about £5 per litre - so if anyone would like to help us out please do so! Don't forget we remember all our benefactors at Mass each month.

So far we have gone for a sharp, clean blue-grey colour in the rooms. This has been determined by the colour of the curtains that are already on the windows. Before long, however, we will have to think again about colours because we will be moving into rooms with some quite distinctive curtains that definitely wouldn't go well with that colour. The Vocations Centre was built as a Convent and most of the curtains are the same but every now and again there is a set that either reflects whatever material was inexpensive at the time, or a particular sister's sense of individuality. It is not always clear which!

St Francis, Maidstone

On Sunday afternoon I was in Maidstone for a special celebration to mark the Year of Faith. The idea is that each of the area bishops will meet with the young adults in their area for a catechesis and to take questions on the faith. I was asked to help structure the first one which was given by Bishop John Hine for the Kent area. Before the event started some of us went out for a quick meal at Bhuddabelly's - it was the only place we could find that was open, warm and didn't smell of beer. If you've not tried it, think all you can eat Chinese but a bit more upmarket...
After the Bishop's catechesis we had two testimonies from a young Catholic man and woman who had attended events at the Vocations Centre. They spoke about their experience of growing up in Catholic families, of school and of their decision to take their faith seriously. We then broke down into smaller groups to discuss what we had heard before coming back together to ask the bishop and our two young disciples a series of spontaneous questions. This was followed by refreshments generously provided by the parish before returning to the Church for a period of Eucharistic Adoration and benediction.
We are all very grateful to Bishop John for his input and also to St Francis Parish for their hospitality. 

Corpus Christi, Tonbridge

Last week involved three visits to Corpus Christi, parish, Tonbridge. The first was to take part in their Lenten Mission which involved a series of reflections on the Year of Faith. A guest speaker was invited each evening to speak on a given topic. He would then repeat the talk the following morning which ensured as wide a selection of parishioners as possible could attend. I gave the last talk in the series on Friday night, speaking on "Handing on the Faith". I was back there on Saturday accompanied by one of our seminarians to repeat the talk and also to celebrate Mass and hear confessions as the parish priest is currently recuperating from a serious illness. On Saturday evening I was back in the parish to preach at the weekend Masses about vocations. For that I was accompanied by a young lad who had attended the Advent Retreat at the Vocations Centre and who was able to give a testimony at the end of Mass as to how much the work of the Centre had impacted on his life.

The second Mass on Sunday morning was celebrated in St Peter's Chapel in the little village of Hadlow just outside Tonbridge. It was nice to have more time to meet the parishioners there and I am grateful to many of them for their gracious comments about my talk during the retreat and also that day's homily.

During half term I was very pleased to be able to welcome a number of our seminarians to the Vocations Centre. It is important that our seminarians take the Centre and its work to their hearts, keeping it in prayer and supporting its activities. It was great to see the cameraderie among our students. The almost constant laughter made a good impression on three young men staying here who are considering a priestly vocation. Apart from catching up with essays, the students helped with the ongoing task of sorting out the Centre in order to bring it up to an acceptable standard. It is, of course, already clean and hospitable but there are lots of jobs still to be completed. Of course it wasn't all work and the photograph above was taken during a day out at Canterbury after a visit to the Cathedral - and just before lunch at Wagamamas.

Vocations Weekend

With the help of some of our seminarians we had a great vocations weekend a short while ago. The formula was very simple with the focus being on growing in discipleship more than focusing on any particular vocation. Talks were given by the seminarians and the participants had lots of time not only to pray but also to get to know each other and simply be encouraged by the witness of other young Catholics. Fr Stephen and Fr Terry Martin were available to chat with anyone who wanted to discuss vocation questions. The interesting thing about this weekend was that it attracted a number of young people I had never met before, all of whom were seriously seeking to discern God's will for their lives. Please keep them in your prayers.

Some Pictures of Whitstable

A lot of people ask me what Whitstable is like and so I am very grateful to a recent participant at one of our vocation weekends who let me have copies of some of the photographs he took. I thought you might like to see them for yourself...

The Statue in the front Garden...

Whitstable has a working harbour...

This jolly chap stands outside the fish market...

Whitstable Oysters were famously mentioned by the Romans...

Sailing is a popular pastime...

There are also great stretches of beach to enjoy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Vocations Retreat

There will be a special Vocations Retreat for men considering priesthood at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, from Friday 1st until Sunday 3rd March. The weekend begins with supper in the seminary at 7.00pm on the Friday evening and ends after lunch on Sunday.
For more information about the weekend please contact the Southwark Vocations Office as soon as possible as places are limited. Email us here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Religious Life in the United States

The Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has published its annual report on sisters and Brothers professing perpetual vows in the United States. The whole report can be accessed here.

Here are some of the major findings:

The average age of responding religious of the Profession Class of 2012 is 39. The average age among women professing perpetual vows in 2012 is 40, while that for men is 39. Over two-thirds (69 percent) of responding religious identify as white, nearly one in six (15 percent) identifies as Asian, and almost one in ten (8 percent) identifies as Hispanic. Most responding religious (71 percent) were born in the United States. Of those born outside the United States, the most common country of origin is Vietnam (8 percent). On average, the respondents who were born outside the United States were 28 years old when they first came to the United States and lived here for 12 years before perpetual profession. 

Family Background 
More than eight in ten (85 percent) responding religious have been Catholic since birth. Almost eight in ten (78 percent) come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Among the 15 percent of respondents who became Catholic later in life, the average age at which they converted was 24. Almost all (96 percent) responding religious have at least one sibling and the most common number of siblings is two. Almost half (45 percent) of these responding religious have four or more siblings. The same proportions (29 percent) are either the oldest or the youngest sibling, with similar proportions for men and women. 
Education, Work, and Ministry Experience 
About four in ten responding religious (43 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is almost the same as that for all Catholic adults in the United States (42 percent). These respondents are more likely than other U.S. Catholics, however, to have attended a Catholic high school (36 percent of responding religious, compared to 22 percent of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (33 percent of responding religious, compared to just 7 percent of U.S. adult Catholics). 
The responding religious are highly educated. Twenty-two percent of responding religious earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute (including 37 percent of brothers, compared to 19 percent of sisters/nuns). Six in ten (60 percent) entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree or more (58 percent for women and 70 percent for men).
Most religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among those who did report educational debt, however, they averaged two years of delay while they paid down an average of $19,500 in educational debt. Several of the women, but none of the men, reported receiving assistance in paying down their debt. 
Many responding religious were active in parish life before entering their religious institute. Almost half (45 percent) participated in youth ministry or youth group. One quarter (25 percent) participated in young adult ministry or group, Catholic campus ministry/Newman Center, and/or World Youth Day. 
Almost nine in ten (88 percent) had ministry experience before entering their religious institute, most commonly in faith formation (46 percent). Women were more likely to participate in faith formation or liturgical ministries (except altar servers), while men more commonly reported hospital or prison ministries, altar server, or teaching in a Catholic school. 
Nearly all (95 percent) responding religious regularly participated in some type of private prayer activity before they entered their religious institute. Three quarters (73 percent) joined in retreats (more common among women than men) and seven in ten (69 percent) participated in Eucharistic Adoration before entering. Three in ten (31 percent) participated in Lectio Divina prior to entering their religious institute. 

Consideration of Religious Life and Choice of Community 
On average, responding religious report that they were 20 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 18 or younger when they first did so. 
Eight in ten (82 percent) responding religious say they were encouraged to consider religious life by someone in their life. Just under half (47 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest. Sisters and nuns were less likely than brothers to say they were encouraged to consider religious life by a parish priest (44 percent among women compared to 58 percent among men). Brothers are also more likely to say they were encouraged by a parishioner, a friend, or a family member. 
Almost three quarters (74 percent) of responding religious report that they were discouraged from considering a vocation by one or more persons. These respondents are most likely to report that they were discouraged by a family member other than a parent (29 percent) or by friends or classmates (25 percent). Women were more likely than men to say they were discouraged by a relative other than a parent (32 percent compared to 17 percent). 
On average, these religious report that they knew the members of their religious institute for four years before they entered, but half knew them for two years or less. One in five (20 percent) were introduced to their institute through a sponsored institution or work of the institute. Women are less likely than men to say they were introduced to their institute through a sponsored institution or work of the institute (15 percent compared to 42 percent). 
A great majority of the religious of the Profession Class of 2012 (88 percent) participated in some type of vocation program or experience prior to entering their religious institute. Most commonly, this was a “Come and See” experience (60 percent) or a vocation retreat (49 percent). Men were slightly less likely than women to have participated in a “Come and See” experience (54 percent and 61 percent, respectively) while women were slightly less likely to have participated in a vocation retreat (48 percent for women compared to 54 percent for men). 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Holy Father's Statement

Today, at the end of the Mass pro Pontefice the little congregation at the Vocations Centre broke into a rendition of Full in the Panting Heart of Rome.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Discernment Retreat for Single Women

The Ursuline Sisters in Wimbledon are offering a Discernment Weekend for single women aged 20-40. It will take place in their convent at:

          28 Mansel Road
          London SW19 4AA

The weekend begins on Friday evening at 6.00pm and ends at 3.00pm on Sunday.

For more information contact Sr Zela by email.

Oremus pro Beatissimo Papa nostro Benedicto

Dominus conservet eum, 
et vivificet eum, 
et beatum faciat eum in terra,
et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

Today at the Vocations Centre we shared the universal shock at the news of the Holy Father's intention to resign the Papal Office at 8.00pm on the last day of this month.

In common with millions of young Catholics all over the world we gathered in the Chapel to pray the Holy Rosary at 3.00pm for the Pope's intentions.

At 6.00pm we met again for a Holy Hour singing the "Veni Creator Spiritus" for the Pope and for the Church.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Vocation Discernment Weekend

Here at the Vocations Centre we have had a full house this weekend with ten people staying here for a Vocations Discernment Weekend. We started with supper on Friday night which was followed by a talk on the basics of vocations discernment and then a Holy Hour ending with Compline. On Saturday morning after prayer and Holy Mass we had a second input on the Elements of Christian Discipleship. In the afternoon the talk was on signs and countersigns of a vocation. On Saturday evening we watched the film Cristeros which is about the persecution of Catholics in Mexico by the forces of secularism. The story is based on historical events and some of the main characters were beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. It was interesting to see how 'creeping secularism' can result in a bloody persecution of the Church simply because people lost sight of the primacy of conscience and so longer tolerated religious freedom. The English title is "No Greater Glory". Finally today the talk this morning sought to give some indications on where our participants might go from here, simple practical ideas to help them develop their Christian life.

I should add that Cristeros was a film on our Amazon Wishlist (see the side bar) and was bought for us recently by one of our benefactors.

Contemporary Developments in Vocations Ministry

On Tuesday this week we have the second of four sessions designed to share with members of religious congregations some of the insights and experience of diocesan Vocation Directors. The topic this week is "The Challenge of the New Evangelisation". I was recently invited to give a talk on the New Evangelisation in the United States. Having spoken about the experience to a number of friends since then it has become clear to me that there is still a lot of confusion around what the expression means. I found a very useful explanation is a recent collection of essays (not yet available in English) by Cardinal Walter Kasper where he develops some of the distinctions we can see expressed by pope Benedict in Porta Fidei, the document announcing the Year of Faith.
All over the world there has been an increase in vocations attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit through those groups and movements that are agents of the New Evangelisation. I am told that in the United States, for example, a third of seminarians are the fruit of the apostolic endeavours of just two groups evangelising young people. These fruits of the New Evangelisation can challenge us in very specific ways. Are we willing to allow ourselves to be challenged? Men and women who come to faith trough the New Evangelisation remain people who have grown up within a particular social, family and cultural context. Their formation needs are, therefore, not necessarily the same as those of people who belonged to a different context. How do we discern what those needs are and respond to them in ways that are recognisably Christian rather than offering a therapeutic model of human formation based on a pagan (and therefore flawed) anthropology?
To book a place on the session please email the Vocations Office.