Vocation Matters – Summer 2019
National Vocations Office, Irish Catholic Bishops Conference
Newsletter of the National Vocations Office – www.vocations.ie
It has been a busy number months for the National Vocations Office since the last newsletter.
The highlights of the past few months have been the televised broadcast of Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations from the studios in RTE and running of the second National Come and See retreat in Maynooth. In total 28 men attended these two retreats.
We attended the annual EVS (European Vocation Services) meeting, which this year was held in Rome. There was a very special moment in this meeting, where we had an audience with Pope Francis. The Holy Father departed from his prepared script and spoke from his heart.
He said we must learn to speak the language of young people and the Church must help young people learn how “to dialogue with the Lord” and
how to ask him, ‘What do you want from me?’ “This is important, it is not an intellectual conviction,” the pope said. “No, the choice of a vocation must be born from dialogue with the Lord, no matter what their vocation is.”
It was coincidental to hear Pope Francis saying this, as for some months now, we have been reflecting in the Council for Vocations about how we go about promoting vocations. Some members have suggested that we should meet with young adults to solicit their
views, to listen to them and to learn their language. With this in mind, Bishop Cullinan (Chair of the Council) suggested we meet with representatives from the various groups involved in youth evangelisation. He proposed that the Youth 2000 summer festival in Clongowes would provide such an opportunity.
I also attended a short conference in Valladolid accompaniment and discernment in light of the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis which provided a valuable insight into their Propaedeutic formation programme.
Finally, the Office is arranging a short conference for the Irish Diocesan
Vocation Directors in November on the Spirituality of
Accompaniment and Discernment. This is being led and facilitated by Br. Paul Bednarczyk CSC
Deacon Eric Cooney
Administrator – National Vocations Office
Email: email@example.com Tel: (01) 505 3118
GETTING YOUTH’S PERSPECTIVE ON VOCATIONS
At the last Council for Vocations meeting, there was a discussion about Vocations promotion among Youth and it was suggested that would be important for us to hear from our young people about what they think about vocation, and the language that should be used. Bishop Cullinan proposed that the Youth 2000 Summer Festival was on in Clongowes Wood College (Clane, Co. Kildare) from 15th to 18th August, and that this would provide an unique opportunity to have an initial brainstorming meeting with representative leaders from the various groups that are involved in youth evangelisation.
Bishop Cullinan has arranged for a room to be made available on Saturday 17th August for a working lunch meeting, which will run from 1.00- 2:45pm. He has written to the key groups (Net Ministries, Youth200, Pure in Heart, etc.) inviting them. He has asked me to extend this invitation to all the Vocation Directors, who may wish to participate in this. All vocation directors are welcome to attend.
Clongowes Wood College
Saturday 17th August
1.00 to 2:45pm
To attend Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Review of the National Come and See Retreats
Two events – 28 Men – 6 Months
In May we hosted the second National “Come and See” retreat for men seeking to explore a vocation to Diocesan priesthood. This second retreat was hosted in the Seminary in Maynooth.
Coincidently there were fourteen men, (we also had fourteen men also at the first retreat last November in Mount St. Anne’s) ranging in age from 19 to their mid- forties. It is interesting that in the space of six months, there have been 28 men who have attended an over-night weekend retreat to explore priesthood. Some points worth reflecting on:
There was no overlap – i.e. none of the men attended both weekends!
The majority of the men were between 28 and 38
Only a few of the men were already know to their vocations director, i.e. they came on the weekend
because they either were told about it, or saw a poster or email about the retreat.
The feedback that we received from the seminary staff and the various Vocation Directors involved were of the overall
‘quality’ of those who attended. I put this down to the fact that all applications were channelled through the vocations director of the diocese where they lived. So this allowed for a certain level of validation of the applicants suitability, unlike an “open day” where you do not know who is going to turn up on the day. Another benefit of this process was the very low number of men who cancelled at the last minute.
One benefit of hosting the retreat in the seminary was the opportunity for the men to meet and talk with the seminarians who were present. A surprising benefit was the feedback I received from the seminarians that they were encouraged to see that there were others exploring priesthood and discerning a vocation.
The National Office are very appreciative of the support welcome and hospitality provided by the staff and seminarians for the duration of the weekend.
“They spoke to each other of all the things that had happened” (Lk 24,14)
Bishop Donal Me Keown, Deacon Eric Cooney- Administrator of the National Vocations Office , Margaret Cartwright of Vocations Ireland and Fr Willie Purcell National Diocesan Vocations Coordinator recently attended the European Vocations Services Meeting in Rome. Some
50 delegates from 22 European countries met in Rome, from 4 to 7 June, to attend the annual meeting of the heads of the vocations ministry of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe. It’s theme was: “They spoke to each other of all the things that had happened” (Lk 24,14). We had
questions and perspectives after the Synod, three days of prayer, testimonies and reflections on the vocation to the priesthood and to the male and female consecrated life, to marriage in the light of the synod on the youth, and the final document and Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit.
The pinnacle moment of the conference, the audience with Pope Francis who, in his impromptu speech, reminded the participants that a vocation “is not proselytism. It’s not looking for new members for this club. No! The work for vocations must move along the line of growth that Benedict XVI said so clearly: the growth of the Church is byattraction, not by proselytism.”
The Challenge for the Church, the Pope continued, is “communicating with young people. Working with them requires a lot of patience. A lot of listening skills… It is necessary to understand their language, which is a poor language of communion, because although they know so much about contacts, they don’t communicate. We need to accompany, guide, and help the youth so that the encounter with the Lord will show them the way in life. Young people are all different; they are different in all places, but they are equal in their anxiety, in their thirst for greatness, in the desire to do good, they are all the same.”
“In the current almost univocal cultural context, vocations have diminished, but neither the enthusiasm of the proposal nor the certainty that the Lord will not fail in giving ministers to His Church has been extinguished; the call to a special consecration is still attractive and timely. Young people are the recipients of our commitment with a look of benevolence, esteem and trust; they want to be loved within so much loneliness that they experience. They are strict with the Church but if they find credible witnesses from within it then they are attracted to it. They want to be involved in the Announcement to become first witnesses for other young people. They must be accompanied so that they recognize the work of God in their personal experiences and are available to listen to God who asks something more of them.”
Fr Willie Purcell
PROPAEDEUTIC FORMATION – VALLADOLID
Accompaniment, Discernment, Selection and Propaedeutic Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood. In July, I attended a conference for Vocation Directors, which was being run by the staff of the Royal and Pontifical English College of St Alban in Valladolid and facilitated by Rev Dr. Gerard Fieldhouse-Byrne from the St. Luke’s Centre in Manchester.
In the light of the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, this conference explored the first steps of the formation journey, looking at each stage in detail. Sessions covered:
The accompaniment and discernment stages addressing issues around safeguarding and safer recruitment.
Elements of the selection process with particular reference to the psychological assessment of candidates.
Explanation in the use of candidates’ Psychological Reports.
The propaedeutic stage and its content.
The Propaedeutic stage prepares each individual candidate for the priesthood for the journey ahead. It gives them time and space to develop a grounded spiritual life and helps them to prepare for the prolonged study that the formation journey demands The year-long programme recognises that candidates for the priesthood today come from many different backgrounds and all have unique circumstances. As a result, the formation process takes nothing for granted. The programme helps students develop a solid, missionary vision for the priesthood and understanding of the Catholic Church.
At the end of the Propaedeutic stage a candidate should be aware of the challenges that lie ahead and well prepared to give himself fully to his formation for a life of ministry within the Universal Church. The Propaedeutic stage is the indispensable period of intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral formation of candidates for the priesthood. These are vital areas of gr owth in developing the skills necessary to enable seminarians to look towards the next stage of formation with greater personal self- awareness and honesty. It gives the student an opportunity to explore the faith, so that when they move on to the next seminary phase, where the academic element is substantial, this challenge will seem less daunting as they will have constructed more solid foundations.
The conference was attended by 18 Vocation Directors and collaborators from across the UK and Ireland. There were a good representation from Ireland comprising six vocation directors and myself. I came away with a very good sense of the importance of a propaedeutic programme and the importance of a candidate having a psychological assessment.
THE SPIRITUALITY OF ACCOMPANIMENT & DISCERNMENT
A Collaborative Conference facilitated by Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC
At our last National Vocations Director’s gathering, there was a request for additional input on accompaniment and discernment. To deliver on this request, the National Vocations Office has been fortunate to secure Br. Paul Bednarczyk CSC to come to Maynooth to facilitate and present on these vital stages of candidate selection for priestly formation.
Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, a Holy Cross brother, teacher, and national leader in vocation ministry. Br. Paul served as Vocation Director for his province for nine years. He also worked for three years as Formation Director and has served several terms on his Provincial Council. In July of 2002, Br. Paul assumed the role of Executive Director of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC), where he oversaw this professional organization of religious vocation directors consisting of over 900 members in 15 countries. Within this capacity, he served as a consultant to the U.S. Bishops Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. He has served as a member of the Advisory Board of Praesidium Religious Services, the Corporate Board of Holy Cross Family Ministries, and on several international Holy Cross commissions.
Br. Paul has published several articles on vocation ministry. In addition to his retreat work, he has been invited to give workshops in vocation ministry throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Br. Paul spearheaded four major studies on religious vocations, the most famous being the 2009 NRVC/CARA Study on
Recent Vocations to Religious Life.
At the invitation of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, in 2009, he addressed the entire assembly of U.S. Bishops on the study results.
Br. Paul was still serving as Executive Director of NRVC when the 2016 General Chapter elected him the Congregation’s First General Assistant and Vicar. In this new leadership role, he now resides in Rome in the Holy Cross Generalate, where he works fulltime.
Commencing with supper at 6pm on the evening of Wednesday 20th and finishing with lunch on Friday 22nd November.
Further details and application form will be sent out to the Vocation Directors in the next few weeks.
‘The most important moment of my life” – Sixty years ago, 29 June 1951, Joseph Ratzinger was ordained a priest
In his essential and limpid autobiographical account published in 1997 – the original German is entitled Aus meinem Leben: Erinnerungen 1927-1977 (Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977) – Joseph Ratzinger remembers with vivid simplicity his ordination to the priesthood. The great German Catholic Cardinal, Michael von Faulhaber (1869-1952), distinguished biblicist and patrologist, Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1917, who during the dark years of the Third Reich had become one of the most courageous critics of Hitler’s regime, laid his hands on the 24-year old deacon in June 1951 and on his older brother Georg and 42 other young men.
“We were more than forty candidates, who, at the solemn call on that radiant summer day, which I remember as the high point of my life, responded “Adsum”, Here I am. We should not be superstitious; but, at that moment when the elderly archbishop laid his hands on me, a little bird—perhaps a lark—flew up from the high altar in the cathedral and trilled a little joyful song. And I could not but see in this a reassurance from on high, as if I heard the words “This is good, you are on the right way.”
There then followed four summer weeks that were like an unending feast. On the day of our first Holy Mass, our parish church of Saint Oswald gleamed in all its splendor, and the joy that almost palpably filled the whole place drew everyone there into the most living mode of “active participation” in the sacred event, but this did not require any external busyness. We were invited to bring the first blessing into people’s homes, and everywhere we were received even by total strangers with a warmth and affection I had not thought possible until that day.
In this way I learned firsthand how earnestly people wait for a priest, how much they long for the blessing that flows from the power of the sacrament. The point was not my own or my brother’s person. What could we two young men represent all by ourselves to the many people we were now meeting? In us they saw persons who had been touched by Christ’s mission and had been empowered to bring his nearness to men. Precisely because we ourselves were not the point, a friendly human relationship could develop very quickly.”
A priest for sixty years, Joseph Ratzinger carries out daily, with humility and transparence, the work of making the one Lord of the world and of history present to women and men of our time. For this, the Osservatore Romano offers Benedict XVI its best wishes, sure that its sentiments are echoed not only by those in the Catholic Church but by many others throughout the world. And repeats for him the words of the ancient prayer for the Pope, invoking Christ’s protection and the only happiness that counts: Dominus conservet eum, vivificet eum, beatum faciat eum in terra et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reflects on sixty years of priestly ministry
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass marking the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patron saints of the city of Rome. During the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope also conferred the Pallium on 41 new Metropolitan archbishops, from countries all over the world, who have been appointed over the past year.
Attending the Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday morning was a special delegation of three Orthodox leaders representing the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, part of a traditional exchange of ecumenical delegations which has helped to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the Churches of the East and West since shortly after the 2nd Vatican Council.
But the Mass also marked a personal moment of reflection for the Pope himself who was celebrating the 60th anniversary of his own ordination to the priesthood.
“Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination…
In his homily Pope Benedict said that sixty years on from his ordination, he can still hear the words that were addressed to the new young priests that day in 1951, the words of St John’s Gospel, ‘I no longer call you servants but friends.’ Words, the Pope added, that bring great inner joy and can also be seen as the entire programme of a priestly life.
“Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will..
Reflecting on the meaning of that friendship with Christ, the Pope said it is above all learning to grow in ever greater conformity with His will, to know Him better through the Scriptures, through prayer, through the communion of Saints. Jesus’ words on friendship, he said, should be seen in the context of His commission to His followers to go and make disciples of all nations – a command which challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to all people.
“On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul my most cordial greeting goes first of all to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st …
After his intimate reflection on the meaning of his own priestly ministry, the Pope also greeted the Orthodox delegation present in the Basilica, as well as the new Metropolitan Archbishops who received the white, woollen Pallum, a symbol of service and a sign of a communion with St Peter and his successors. Pope Benedict concluded with heartfelt words of thanks to the Lord for the past six decades of his own service to the Church, as well as thanks to all the people who, he said, have formed and accompanied me.
In silence gaze upon the face of Christ
He is calling you by name
He wants your happiness
Listen for his voice.
One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
(Allow these words to find a home in your heart)
In the silence of this moment ask the Lord to reveal to you the depths of his love and give us his peace.
Seek His Face
A Prayer Initiative of the Vocations Office
One of Irelands leading Iconographers, Sr Aloysius McVeigh, a Mercy Sister, from Derry, has provided us with an appropriate icon as the focus of our prayer.
The icon depicts the face of Christ. Its title is ‘Achieropoitos’ (image not made by hands), and is based on the shroud of Turin. This image is very appropriate as it is Christ who is the one who calls us to our true vocation in life– the vocation of holiness.
The theme of the prayer endeavour is ‘Seek his face’. This icon was blessed by his Holiness Pope Benedict in Rome over Easter and will travel around our diocese spending a week in parishes encouraging parish communities to pray for vocations.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face Always.
1 Chronicles 16:11
Allow these words to enter into your heart
Slowly Read the Following Passage:
The Calling of the First Disciples
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
Matthew 4: 18-22
Where is the Lord Calling You?
You love me and you want me to be happy and at peace.
Reveal your face to me,
show me the path I must walk,
Give me wisdom to know where you are calling me and the courage I need today to answer that call
Help me to seek your face each and every day of my life so that my life can be spent in your service.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.