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Renewing our commitment in vocational pastoral care

R eventTuesday, 05 July 2022

Intervention by Father Vincent Breynaert, Director of the National Service for Youth Evangelisation and Vocations (SNEJV) at the French Bishops' Conference. Exchanges during a meeting with sisters from France on vocational pastoral care. He is a member of the community of the Chemin neuf (New Way).

Vocational ministry today has to be as cross-cutting as possible. It is not the sole concern of a single commission or the exclusive responsibility of a single sister in the community. It has to be a matter concerning each sister in the congregation and each community. What is the place of vocational ministry in the community projects, and how available is each sister to devote herself to it?

How can we administer a vocational ministry? There is no single or magical answer.

  • A pastoral conversion: Pope Francis calls on members of religious orders to make a pastoral conversion, to a change of lifestyle. We must ask ourselves both personally or within the community: What enables a young person to hear the call of Christ in their heart of hearts and within our community life? Consecrated life is a gift bestowed on us by God, something that we welcome, and this must free us from any fear of advocating consecrated life.
  • Today's youth culture has difficulty accommodating the celibacy of consecrated life. We are in a world where celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is very far-removed from the concerns of young people. This represents a challenge for us in showing the beauty and completeness of religious life. In some places, young people have grown up far from any feminine religious community. They have no concrete role models. In this context, it is important to give a highly narrated presentation (a first-person account, a testimony, "story telling"), creating a more explicit vocational ministry - a culture of appeal.
  • Vocational ministry needs to have nourishing soil for germination on common ground with youth ministry in general. Vocational ministry often emanates within the activities proposed by youth ministry and it develops from there. We must make our youth ministry attractive, extensive, and appealing to young people. It can sometimes happen during an activity in outlying regions, for example, that a young person comes across a sister who is radical and contemplative in her commitment.

SEVEN FEATURES OF VOCATIONAL PASTORAL WORK

  1. Vocational ministry today is necessarily very personal and differentiated. Pope Francis in Christus Vivit insists on the need to differentiate proposals since young people come from very different backgrounds: whether or not they be from a practicing Catholic family, or a united or divided family, etc. He requires us to take time with young people. In our communities, does each sister accompany a young person or know a young person personally and offer them friendship and an attentive ear? Do each of you have a personal link with young women? It is not a question of age; that is a matter concerning everyone!
  2. Our vocational ministry should be recounted and exemplified: The Pope speaks of "contagion", the contagion of our spiritual experience or that of our foundress, Marie Eugénie; an experience that inspires desire. Young people need to know and to hear our stories. Too often we think that all the sisters are same…to show who we are, to invite the sisters to speak about themselves, their spiritual journey, their humanity, the twists and turns of their story. It involves learning to testify, to share the joys and also the obstacles that we have had to go through. Young people need role models. Many of their questions have an emotional dimension…to inspire confidence, to talk about oneself, even to reveal oneself. The image of religious life is sometimes battered, even false. There is a need for places to meet.
  3. An ecclesial and synodal vocational ministry. This is a matter about giving young people the possibility of taking initiative, of becoming actors and not mere spectators, and of deploying their talents. Young people become aware that it is possible to ‘blossom’ in the consecrated life; one renounces everything for Christ, but in so doing, one's entire humanity unfolds.
  4. Offer accompaniment. Young people need to be enlightened on their journey; they need to be listened to. All of us can offer an ear, a friendly presence, engage in spiritual conversations, formal and informal, over a cup of coffee or during an activity. But sometimes we spend more time on administrative work or organising affairs rather than really offering our time. Goodwill…young people complain about adults not really listening... opening our communities, sharing our life of prayer, our meals. Young people will be very sensitive to joy, freedom, internationality and interculturality, to our capacity to celebrate together, to pray, to be silent, to commit ourselves, to ask for forgiveness...
  5. Be persistent and patient with young people. Accept that young people go through a period of inner healing that requires more approachability and being listened to. Often, young people feel a little crushed; they have had complicated family or emotional histories or have experienced academic or professional failure. Offer places to listen to and welcome these fragile situations.
  6. This does not depend on age. Pope Francis strongly insists on this point. It is good that the young and the old dream together. The older sisters can be very ‘infectious’; they can also offer a listening ear without judging. Cultivate the capacity to leave room for young people, to transmit joy to them, as can be expressed when sharing a meal, through a burst of laughter, for example, and the capacity to celebrate, and to have fun.
  7. Be bold in evangelisation. The new generation is more daring in endorsing explicitly their faith.

To conclude this presentation, I would add two convictions:

  • To pray peacefully together in community, to ask for vocations, saying to the Lord: "Look at your flock, send us vocations, call those whom you desire, you who wanted this congregation. Allow it to continue".
  • The charism of the call is the capacity to relay God's call at the right moments, leaving the young person very free, giving them space and distance. We have to exercise this charism of the call both individually and together. Sometimes we lack boldness in the Church. Each of us can exercise this charism of call; we must ask for the intercession of the Lord.

 

Hna. Eugénie SENTUCQ

AMA Province of France