Expert Comment: Vocations SundayFriday 24 April 2015
This week, the National Office for Vocation reported that the number of women entering convents in England and Wales has hit a 25 year high, and that from a low point of 7 in 2004, the numbers have steadily increased to a high point of 45 in 2014. Fr Christopher Jamison, Director of the Vocations Office has said of the recent increase: “There is a gap in the market for meaning in our culture and one of the ways in which women may find that meaning is through religious life.”
Sr Cathy Jones, Religious Life Vocations Promoter at the National Office for Vocation has also argued that the growing confidence of congregations in proposing their way of life, demonstrated through the offering of taster weekends and youth festivals, is “enabling potential ‘discerners’ to easily encounter religious and take the first steps to find out more about religious life.” Dom Henry Wansbrough (Alexander Jones Professor of Biblical Studies), explains what Vocations Sunday, which takes place this weekend, means for the Church.
Who is your role-model? Who do you want to be in life? Bill Gates? Mother Teresa? Genghis Khan? Malala? There is a slot for everyone. And if there is just a whiff of Jesus Christ in your role-image, it will involve service, playing a part for others in the community, perhaps as a loving mother, an inspiring father, a sympathetic leader, a willing helper, an alert servant.
On the fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church celebrates Vocation Sunday. It is a day to remind everyone that each of us has a special part to play in the Christian community. The Spirit of Christ is given to us in so many different ways. Each of us has different temperaments and different gifts – what a dull place it would be if each was a clone of each other! The talents and temperaments we have shape our opportunities, the call we have from God, the way each of us will change the world.
University is a special place for learning - learning not only skills and facts, but learning also about ourselves. Stop for a moment this weekend and ask yourself in what way you will change the world, in what way the world will be different for your passing through. What is the service you can provide? Doctor, nurse, teacher, parent, counsellor, loyal friend to someone in need? A helper, even for a time, as a volunteer for others? Which is your vocation? What is the Lord calling you to do? There are so many ways of serving in the Christian community and parish.
There is also a special, more particular sense to Vocation Sunday. It asks each of us whether we have been called to a special vocation of service in the Church, one of special friendship and closeness to Christ as a priest, or religious. Most young people brought up in the faith have at some stage asked themselves whether this way of serving Christ and his people in prayer and ministry is for them.
Stop and ask yourself again, at this pivotal moment of your life, in prayer, silence and honesty. If you have come to Christian faith on your own, ask if you have yet come all the way: is the Lord calling you to an even closer bond of serving him in this way?
Remember the story of the rich young man who suddenly listened to the gospel: ‘Sell all you have and follow me’. He sold all he had (putting a bit aside for his sister) and became St Anthony of the Desert. Or St Augustine, who heard a child in some game crying out, ‘Take and read, take and read’ and took up the gospel in the same way.
Many religious orders have a website which can help you get to know what it is about. Just type in the name of a religious house or order. Ask a chaplain his or her story or visit the Vocations Sunday website.