The Catholic Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Priesthood and Consecrated Life on Sunday (25 April 2010).
On this day, the Church in England and Wales will be encouraging young people to consider whether priesthood or religious life might be for them. Over 4,000 posters and other materials have been distributed amongst parishes, university chaplaincies and schools. This event takes place each year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Vocations Sunday. The materials sent out to schools celebrate the diverse vocations in today’s Church as well as encouraging students to reflect on what it means to be called.
Pope Benedict has designated this year as a “Year for Priesthood” encouraging a renewal of our understanding of the gift of priesthood in the Church and encouraging priests to be renewed in their dedication to Christ and his people. This presents a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the priestly vocation and this year’s poster links the priesthood to the visit of the Holy Father to England and Scotland in September which so many people are looking forward to with great enthusiasm. Fr. Paul Grogan, Vocations Director for Leeds Diocese reflected on the last time a Pope visited this country saying, “The visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982 was an important part of my own journey towards ordination to the priesthood. As an 18-year-old, I went with many other sixth formers from my school to the Youth Mass at Ninian Park in Cardiff. When I left that event I knew that I wanted to be a priest. I am sure Pope Benedict will touch the hearts of many young men who are contemplating how they are being called by the Lord in a similar way.” Fr. Stephen Langridge, Chairman of the Conference of Diocesan Directors of Vocations added:
“I am convinced the visit of Pope Benedict will bear fruit in a marked increase in vocations in our dioceses. The visit will enable ordinary men and women to see him for what he is: not only a great theologian but also a truly humble man with a great love of God and God’s people. The direct contact young people will have with him will move them very much and lead them to open their hearts to God’s will for their lives”.
The poster’s text “Witness Awakens Vocations” is the theme of this year’s letter from Pope Benedict in which he writes that: “It can be said that priestly vocations are born of contact with priests, as a sort of precious legacy handed down by word, example and a whole way of life…Every priest, every consecrated person, faithful to his or her vocation, radiates the joy of serving Christ and draws all Christians to respond to the universal call to holiness. Consequently, in order to foster vocations to the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life, and to be more effective in promoting the discernment of vocations, we cannot do without the example of those who have already said “yes” to God and to his plan for the life of each individual.”
In July there will be an exciting opportunity for priests and consecrated people (monks, friars, sisters and nuns) to be an example to a new generation of young Catholics: inVocation 2010 is the UK’s very first Discernment Festival for young Catholics aged 16-35 who are open to the possibility that they might have a vocation to the Priesthood or Religious Life. The festival-goers will camp in the grounds of Oscott Seminary near Birmingham and the headline speakers will include Archbishop Vincent Nichols; Dr. Andrew O’Connell, a scientist who formerly worked for Intel and who now as Communications Director for the Presentation Brothers speaks widely on vocations and faith; Abbot Christopher Jamison who starred in the BBCs The Monastery; and Sr Gabriel Davison, an enclosed Poor Clare nun who featured in The Monastery’s counterpart, The Convent. Walking and praying alongside the young festival-goers will be young nuns, sisters, friars and monks, priests and seminarians from all over England and Wales. It is their joyful witness that has the power to awaken vocations in many of the hundreds of young people who are expected to attend and who are already expressing support through social networking sites.
In addition to this year’s national campaign, individual dioceses are also promoting various local initiatives. Earlier this year, the diocese of Arundel and Brighton produced a DVD about the priesthood entitled “Alter Christus” (Another Christ), which features young Catholics talking about why they attend Mass and how they value priests.
In Liverpool, Vocations Director Fr. Steve Maloney is holding 24 hours of fasting and prayer in the Carmelite monastery at Upholland from 5pm Saturday 24th to 5pm Sunday 25th April. Fr. Maloney said “The fast is to direct our hunger to God in order to hear God more clearly, especially in the vocations work and what God is calling us to at this time and demonstrates our need for God’s help and guidance through our dependence on Him”. This fast is being spent in Adoration at the Monastery and Archbishop Patrick Kelly will lead a Holy Hour and celebrate Mass at the end of this time.
Fr David Cain, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Nottingham is running the London Marathon which coincides with Vocations Sunday. As well as raising awareness for vocations, Fr. David is fundraising for LOROS, a charity which provides specialised palliative care for terminally ill patients and a wide range of vital supporting services for them and their families.
St Paul’s, the Catholic communications venture are publishing “No Ordinary Call” a book of vocations testimonies from priests throughout the country. The book collects the vocation stories of thirteen priests living and working in England and Wales. They include a former Communist Party activist, a nuclear scientist who worked on the Hadron Collider, and two brothers one of whom is a diocesan priest while the other is a Franciscan friar. We hope it will encourage young men to see that God calls them from the most ordinary circumstances of their lives and gives them the strength they will need to respond joyfully to that call. It will be launched at Pentecost and will be available from St Paul’s bookshops or from their website.
Current interest in vocations is encouraging. Each year, the Archdiocese of Southwark hold a Vocations Retreat at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh for men considering the possibility of a priestly vocation. This year’s retreat was the fifth and the largest one so far. Twenty-six men booked into St John’s for a tremendously inspiring weekend.
In the Archdiocese of Westminster, a new online video has been released as part of a fundraising drive for the Diocese of Westminster’s Priest Training Fund. Charles Donington, Fundraising Manager for the Diocese of Westminster said: “Over 40 men are now on their journey towards the priesthood at Allen Hall, the Diocese of Westminster’s Seminary. It will take them six years and there will be times when they won’t find it easy – as answering God’s call to become a priest can be very demanding. But we can all play our part by praying for our seminarians and by supporting the Priest Training Fund – which helps pay for both the preparation of seminarians and the ongoing training of clergy after their ordination.”
Arundel and Brighton Diocese covers Surrey and Sussex. The Archdiocese of Southwark covers London, South of the River Thames and Kent. The Archdiocese of Westminster covers London North of the Thames and parts of Hertfordshire and Middlesex.
Official Site for inVocation 2010
Archdiocese of Southwark
Diocese of Nottingham
St Paul’s Books
Official site for Diocesan Priesthood in England and Wales
Official body for Religious Congregations
Official site for the Holy See
For up to date information on the Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom please visit the official website.
To hear some inspiring testimonies from young men who are contemplating the Priesthood:
Each year in the three-year cycle of readings for Mass in the Catholic Church, the gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Easter is that of the ‘Good Shepherd’. This particular Sunday each year is designated as a special day of prayer for vocations to priesthood and consecrated religious life.
National Office for Vocation
tel: 0207 9014 829
Fr. Stephen Langridge
Chairman, Conference for Diocesan Directors of Vocation
Vocations Director, Archdiocese of Southwark
tel: 020 8355 0211
Fr. Paul Grogan
Deputy Chairman, Conference for Diocesan Directors of Vocation
Vocations Director, Diocese of Leeds
tel: 0113 283 7199
Fr. Steve Maloney
Vocations Director, Archdiocese of Liverpool
tel: 0151 287 8787
Fr. Paul Turner
Vocations Director, Diocese of Arundel and Brighton
tel: 01293 603773