Time to raise vocations consciousness: Bishop Walker

New guidelines to assist parishes build a "vocations culture" have been released this week to coincide with National Vocations Awareness Week now underway.

In a foreword to the new guidelines, Bishop David Walker (pictured) writes that over 40 years ago, the Second Vatican Council challenged the Church to strive to make parish communities "vocations conscious."

The new national Parish Vocations Awareness Committee Guidelines which are intended to fulfil this goal have been launched for this year's ninth annual National Vocations Awareness Week now underway until 13 August.

The Guidelines, which will encourage and resource parishes and dioceses across Australia, provide clear and precise details about establishing a Committee, and offer a whole range of suggestions for ongoing activities that are designed to further develop a vocations culture within parishes and dioceses.

In the Foreword to this document, Bishop Walker says "to meet this challenge all of us have a responsibility for creating an environment which recognises the primary vocation of each and every Christian: to life and love; holiness and discipleship; witness and service.

"Such an environment would take for granted that young people will be endowed with the skills, knowledge and support that will enable them to make an informed, discerned, conscious choice about their life's vocation."

Meanwhile, for National Vocations Awareness Week with this weekend's theme focusing on religious life, Online Catholics reports that a new religious ministry outside the Oceania region by the Australian Christian brothers is taking the congregation and its associates "into uncharted waters."

For Rod Ellyard and Peter Hardiman, from Western Australia, Neil Langan, from Queensland and John Moodie, from Sydney, their new ministry is in the diocese of Kabankalan in the province of Negros Occidental in the Central Philippines.

This is a poor area where the people, generally, are not familiar with religious brothers. It is also the area where the "Negros Nine" including Australian Columban Fr Brian Gore were imprisoned on trumped up murder charges during the Marcos era.

Early in June, they were visited by the congregation's world leader, Philip Pinto, who in 2004 had asked the Australian Brothers to refocus on "new and greater areas of need". It was in seeking to respond to this request that the Brothers decided to look to areas of need in Asia.

"We are here as an expression of new life within the congregation," writes Br Rod Ellyard. "We are here personally to find, in a new way, the face of God among this beautiful people of Negros. This will require deep listening."

He says that while gentleness and caring characterise the people, paradoxically there is an undercurrent of violence, with murder regularly reported in the media. The gap between the rich and the poor also has given the Brothers much to think and pray about.

Br John said that while the Brothers were "straining a little at the leash" as they were contemplating what their involvements might be, it was becoming clearer that each was likely to have a different ministry.

"Our spirituality is an alternative to the spirituality of the clergy and we hope that both spiritualities will complement each other," Br Philip Pinto said. He added that each of the pioneer Brothers was glad to be part of "the birth of something historic."

Once this new community of Brothers is established in the Kabankalan, the Christian Brothers will consider opening a second community in the Maasin diocese in Southern Leyte Province, possibly in 2008 according to the Online Catholics report.

Fostering a vocations culture (Catholics Vocations Ministry Australia, Media Release 4/8/06)
Pagbag-o sang kabui (Online Catholics, 9/8/06 - subscription required)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
National Vocation Awareness Week 2006
Christian Brothers Oceania

9 Aug 2006