A 4-Day RYVM Workshop for Vocation Promoters in the Bangalore Province

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Why have a Vocations-Promotion Ministry?

Vocation promotion is a fundamental priority for us Redemptorists. Most of us may not have joined the seminary or committed our lives to the Redemptorist congregation if not for the help of a confrere or two who helped us to make a transition from the lay state of life into consecrated life. Many confreres happily take up the task of promoting vocations, without an official appointment, simply because they have a love for the Congregation and a deep appreciation for the gift of vocation that God has entrusted to them. Every Redemptorist is called to be a vocation promoter. However, to avoid the possibility that everybody’s work becomes nobody’s work it is helpful to have appointed vocation promoters who are trained in this ministry. Towards this goal, a workshop for the appointed vocation promoters of the province was held from 15th to 17th April 2024 at NSK Bangalore on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee Year of RYVM in the province.

DAY ONE: Vocation Promotion as Experienced in the Province and in the Catholic Family

The workshop was attended by 12 confreres representing the North, North East, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu Mission Zones. The workshop was attended by two representatives of the Missionary Sisters of Mother of Perpetual Help, Sr. Sangeetha, and Sr. Jesintha, MPS; and one representative of our lay partners-in-training – Mr. J Sylvester. Fr Louis Christopher from the extraordinary provincial council celebrated the inaugural Mass exhorting those in attendance to remain committed to this essential mission even if appreciation or results are hard to come by.

On the first day we had a quick recap of all that had been planned in the last meeting of RYVM held on 13th and 14th October 2023, followed by a common assessment of how much had been done in the last six months. The confreres were able to reflect on the signs of hope and frustration which they have encountered in the search for new vocations to the Redemptorist way of life. This session was moderated by Fr. Peter B., C.Ss.R. the Youth Secretary of RYVM Bangalore.

In the afternoon session, Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy and Kimberly Xavier, who spearhead a successful lay movement called the Missionary Families of Christ (MFC) in India, addressed the gathering about their views on what makes young people today hesitant or excited about choosing the consecrated life as a vocation. As married lay Catholics involved in ministry to the young, they shared valuable insights about the reality of smaller families, negative attitudes towards the Church, poor witness of some clerics, finding it difficult to choose priesthood or consecrated life if their distinctiveness from the lay vocation is not made clear, and the fact that many promises of material prosperity and comfort of the postmodern life prevent young people from aspiring for a life of service and sacrifice for the Kingdom of God. Their insight was that if we do not spend time with the young to get to know them and their families, there are little chances that any of them would even consider the possibility of a vocation to be a Redemptorist. They invited Redemptorists to partner with MFC whenever they organized their national youth events so that their youth could consider a vocation to the Redemptorist life. At the conclusion of the day, Fr A P Rajan, C.Ss.R. gave the vocation promoters 20 biblical inspirations to guide their mission.

DAY TWO: The Current Scenario in the Province and among the Young

The second day was dedicated to an analysis of the youth scenario in our Province, so that we could plan our interventions more in keeping with the ground realities. First,  Fr Sanjay Kujur, C.Ss.R., the Chairperson of RYVM Bangalore, presented the statistics of membership in the congregation as per the latest report given by Fr. Provincial Edward Joseph, C.Ss.R. at the XVIII Provincial Chapter. He showed how the average age of confreres in the Province is rising and the number of new vocations joining are not steady. The drop-out rate once candidates join is also not very encouraging.

Next, Fr Dheeraj Adarsh D’Souza, SJ, a pre-novitiate director, and vocation director for the Jesuit Province of Karnataka addressed us about the challenges and opportunities for vocation promotion in our times. Young people’s lives are characterized by a tension between commitments to the real world and the virtual world, the rise of unemployment, a growing gap between the rich and the poor, clashes caused by political and religious fundamentalisms, a growing disparity between politicized religion and true religion, and a failure to navigate through real human relationships while regulating their emotions in a healthy way. Moreover, there are challenges arising from the reality of the modern Catholic family itself. Even in urban and semi-urban centres of India, we are noticing nuclear families with few children, attractive lifestyles presented to young people through modern gadgets, pressure from the parents’ work life and the children’s competitive academic life leaving little or no time for family prayer, all members of the family seem to struggle for a healthy work-life balance. Moreover, within the family, materialism, addictions, and fights among the parents, leave the young with few faithful and virtuous role models in their life. Given this scenario, we need to assess how much prayer and catechesis has had a formative influence in the vocational journey of the young people who show interest in joining us. We need to assess how far the candidate has had positive role models representing the Church in their life. Recognizing that vocations are a gift from God, it is important for us to recover the practice of praying for vocations and searching for vocations. Our Jesuit resource person emphasized being proactive about vocations, creating a culture of vocations, use of media for Vocation Promotion, Discernment Programs, and targeted messaging for various generations (Millennials, Gen Z, etc). Moreover, Fr Dheeraj gave us tips about the Inspirational Appeal, Intellectual Appeal, Visible Appeal, Emotional Appeal, Spiritual and Social Appeal which our vocation promotion efforts must have. Whenever and wherever we are engaged in Redemptorist ministry to the young, whether in the real world or the virtual world, among the poor or well-to-do, we need to be sensitive to the work of promoting vocations.

DAY THREE: Motivations of Vocation Promoters, Potential Candidates and Planning Ahead

On the final day, Sr Jeya Soosai, MSI, of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate shared the secret of her promotion of over a hundred vocations to her religious congregation. The spiritual secret of her phenomenal success in this ministry was her willingness to go to far-off places, her contact with the families of potential candidates and her genuine Christ-like love for the young people concerned irrespective of whether or not they remained with her congregation. This last point was worth noting, Sr Jeya loved the candidates as ends-in-themselves, rather than a means to gain numbers to her congregation, thus inspiring many of them to become religious sisters like herself.

For the second session of the day, I shared an anthropological framework for the discernment of motivations of candidates whom the vocation promoters come into contact with. This involved noticing that there is often a natural and human dissonance between the candidates perceived self-ideal and the institutional ideals held by the Congregation. My point was that as vocation promoters we must resist the temptation of seeing ourselves as merely the first point of contact between the candidate and the Congregation. Instead, we need to see ourselves as witnesses and spiritual guides who accompany the young person for at least a year before they decide, along with us, to enter into the seminary. This is in contrast to the current practice of sending young men or high school boys to the seminary immediately, after having met the candidate for the first time, just one or two months before their entry into the initial stages of formation.

During the meeting, the confreres also had the opportunity to raise questions about the work done by the RYVM secretariat both at the Province level and in the different Mission Zones. The action plan at the end of the meeting was to have online meetings at the Mission Zone level to plan, budget and execute plans for vocation promotion more concretely in each Zone.

Fr. Sandeep Menezes, C.Ss.R.
Vocations Secretary
RYVM Province of Bangalore