I have been observing an interesting change in my conversations with young women and men, about vocations to our form of life in the Church. I have often wondered if we could do more in promoting the vocations to the Vincentian Family at this time in our history. Everyone who loves Vincent and those who share his legacy can help.
One of the consistent attitudes in young people who might become candidates for a vocation to an apostolic community is the strong desire to serve in meaningful ways. My experience in youth and young adult ministry has led me to believe that there might be many young folks who would be attracted to life i one of our communities if we knew how to speak to their hearts at a significant time in their lives. Sometimes they identify themselves as interested in “serving.” Explore what they mean. My experience has shown that sometimes their desires remain unfocussed because they simply do not know that their calling is with us. True discernment requires that a person know the possibilities in order to “hear” God’s voice effectively and fruitfully.
A Vincentian vocation can be born very early. More and more high school students have opportunities for service as part of their school experience. Certainly, service is is a part of almost all Catholic university experiences, as well as the experience at Newman clubs and campus ministries on secular campuses. Here are some initial strategies:
Ask the young person to tell you about her/his service experience. If it reminds you of anything in the life of Vincent, tell the story.
Ask about their prayer lives. Teach them to reflect on how service is related to the kind of actions and attitudes that are characteristic of Jesus.
Inquire about their likes and dislikes as they relate to their academic careers.
Find out if they are connected to their local church, especially in ministry that relates to the Eucharist (lector? Eucharistic minister? usher? server? choir member/cantor? musician?) or an established youth group. If they aren’t, suggest that it is necessary to discernment.
If they show an interest, don’t be afraid to suggest a visit to a local community or a short-term live-in experience at a formation residence.
Meet their parents or guardians and invite them all to visit.
If they are already in college, write to them – just a simple “how’s it going” card can go a long way.
If they’re in college in your area, bring them to visit the local community.
make contact with someone in active ministry, and put them in touch.
The older inquirer’s search is often deeply related to a desire for community. Their life history has taught them something about this aspect of their lives. They usually have a work and academic history related to their talents and abilities. But something is changing.
Start from where they are: think about where their existing experience and training can fit the apostolic initiatives of our province.
Again: if they are not deeply involved in the life of their local parish, help it to happen.
Be aware that you are in a powerful position. Do not pretend that the relationship is like being “friends.” Be a mentor and guide. Help them ask the right questions.
Teach them to pray deeply. Help them to love the Eucharist. Encourage their devotion to Mary.
Acquaint them with the writings and story of Vincent.
This “open discernment” process allows the inquirers to understand themselves and their call as it relates to the Vincentian family. Vocational promotion is everybody’s business. What I am suggesting is that, with the right kind of experiences, knowledge and relationships, inquirers might discover in themselves the kindling of a call to the life of Charity. I ask that you gently fan the flame.