Vocations Challenge

Fr Bernard Buckley
We didn't mean to begin a campaign on vocations at this time of the year but the article published yesterday has led to a string of related articles. This third installment is an article we have lifted from VocNET - the Journal of Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia. It links to the article published two days ago here about the role of the ordained person in helping people discern their vocatios in life. Fr Bernard Buckley is Vocations Minister in the Sale Diocese, Eastern Victoria. His article discusses the role of priest as inviter or catalyst in triggering a commitment to a religious vocation.

For your convenience, the other articles on this general subject that have been referred to here in recent days are as follows:

A Letter to a Prospective Seminarian -
http://www.catholic.net/collars_habits/template_channel.phtml?channel_id=18

Montreal Conference Background Paper -
http://www.vocations2002.org/english/pdf/Main_voc_piece.pdf

Criticism of Montreal Conference Background Paper -
http://www.catholic.net/us_catholic_news/template_article.phtml?article_id=393&channel_id=1


Priest as Inviter

I remember many years ago, as a young-ish worker, driving from Leongatha to Sale, to a meeting, with a priest from my parish. The trip takes an hour and a half, long enough to get past the conversation about the weather, the plight of people on the land and the state of the roads.

Still, it was somewhat out of the blue, when he asked me whether I had ever considered a vocation to the priesthood. "No", I said, seeking to end the discussion quickly. I lied! In fact, since my days in a Catholic boarding school, I had occasionally considered such a vocation. The 60's were still days when the priests seemed to regularly ask the boys in their care, that or a similar question. But at that stage of my life the call of thc land. was very strong for me.

I know though from my own experience that being invited to consider the priesthood, by a few important people in my life, was a prompt to do so, seriously.

So, in a way, I wasn't surprised when I took on vocations ministry for our Diocese, to learn that research shows many of the people who respond to God's call to the priesthood and religious life, had been encouraged, invited, helped to do so by someone already in the priesthood or religious life.

I was lucky enough from my school days and from within my own family to know many priests, brothers and nuns. I saw many of them as happy people, doing good things in their lives, serving God's people. Many of them were role models for me, and the ideal of helping others in a response to God, was appealing to me then - (it still is!). And if that was ringing true for me then it might well be for someone else, if they were invited to do so.

As vocations promoter in our Diocese, when so much of our time and thinking seems taken up with issues arising from fewer and ageing clergy, it seems to me that we priests rarely discuss vocations as a group. So earlier this year, I was on the phone to Sr Mary Ryan, our new CVMA Officer, to see what resources were available for a session at our annual In-service on "Vocations from a Diocesan Priest's perspective". Mary was able to recommend the "Priest As Inviter" resource, a video workshop from the USA, for me to use with our priests.

I must say I enjoyed the sessions very much. With the video as a lead in to small and large group discussions, many of our priests were able to share some of their vocation story for the first time with other priests. It was moving to hear them reflect on those significant people who had inspired them, encouraged, helped or invited them to consider a church vocation, some as many as fifty years ago. How that invitation has changed their lives, we could scarcely imagine, let alone the effect on the lives of people in Gippsland.

After we reflected on our own stories, we spent time on what sustains and energizes us in our ministries. Finally, we considered what we look for in candidates today for our Diocese and how do we invite them to consider priesthood as an option for their lives.

"Priest As Inviter" helps with all these questions. The video features very normal men talking about their very normal lives, the handout sheets are very user-friendly, the accompanying notes helpful, the method of inviting clear. All were asked to fill in a sheet, committing themselves to doing "inviting" work when they got home to their parishes. I will be following this commitment up with them before National Vocations Awareness Week in August.

It seems to me that if the priests in our Diocese aren't going to invite men from our Diocese to consider priesthood, then why would anyone else? I feel that "Priest As Inviter" gave us a method of doing this challenging work in a very "user friendly" manner.

A fortnight later one of the priests jokingly "attacked" me at a meeting calling me all sorts of names! When I asked what I had done, he said he'd already asked or invited three people to consider the priesthood, and all three had said that indeed they had at times thought of it for their lives. He felt he was already tired, "invited-out"!!

I commend "Priest As Inviter" as a worthwhile resource, to all readers of VocNet.

Fr Bernard Buckley is a priest in the lona and Koo Wee Rup "Parishes in Partnership" project, and is the Vocations Minister in the Sale Diocese, Eastern Victoria.