Church needs ‘culture of vocations’

Members of the Australian Catholic Diocesan Vocations Directors Conference at their Adelaide meeting this week.

Diocesan vocations directors from across Australia met in Adelaide this week to discuss opportunities for creating a “culture of vocations” in the Church in Australia.

Fr David Cartwright, executive officer of the Australian Catholic Diocesan Vocations Directors Conference (ACDVDC), said one of the clear messages from the gathering was the need to refocus efforts to promote vocations and have that reinforced at the parish level.Fr Cartwright said: “All people have a role to play in promoting a ‘culture of vocations’ where we can help young people listen to the voice of the Lord and help them to at least ask the question, ‘What is God’s plan for my life?’”

He said “the primacy of prayer for vocations” needs to be reinforced in parishes if that is to come about.

At this week’s gathering, the conference discussed some of the challenges that vocations directors face when discerning vocations with young men. It was noted that there are some specific issues present in rural dioceses compared with metropolitan places.

“Some of us spoke about the challenges facing the Church in Australia post Royal Commission, and that certainly has had an effect on the way young people view the Church these days,” Fr Cartwright said.

“We talked about the importance of prayer, praying for vocations in our parishes and making the option available in schools so that young men may even think about a vocation for priesthood while in school.”

Fr Cartwright said the two-day gathering of about 20 diocesan vocations directors primarily allowed for collaboration and the sharing of initiatives and resources to support the work being carried out across Australia.

The ACDVDC has been in place for six years. Similar groups exist in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Fr Cartwright said the organisation exists to support vocations directors spiritually, to pray for and promote vocations, and to serve as a point of liaison with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

“It is a platform for the sharing of resources across the nation and dioceses, to foster professional development, to coordinate participation in events like the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, National Vocations Awareness Week and Good Shepherd Sunday,” he explained.

One of the highlights of this year’s conference was a presentation by Peter Bierer from Adelaide’s Catholic Youth and Young Adult Ministry on Pope Francis’ document Christus Vivit. Mr Bierer looked especially at the chapter on vocations and discernment in the document, which was published following the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.

Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Tony Randazzo provided an update on progress towards the new Ratio Nationalis, a program for the formation of candidates for the priesthood, and there were group discussions on helping men discern a vocation and best practices for seminary entrance and pre-seminary formation.

In addition to the conference Mass, celebrated by Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, the vocations directors also held a Holy Hour to pray for vocations and for their own priestly ministry.