By Ann Marie Foley - 11 May, 2014
Today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, also known as Vocations Sunday or Good Shepherd Sunday and it has the theme ‘Vocations: Witness to the Truth’.
In his message for today, Pope Francis calls for labourers who will go into the great harvest where many people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. “And the harvest will be plentiful,” he said.
There are messages from bishops, and other initiatives are taking place many diocese across the country. The Armagh archdiocese has opened a special website on priesthood (www.armaghpriest.com) which aims to help anyone discerning the call to the priesthood. This site has information and video clips from different priests and students from the diocese.
At the launch of the website last month the main speaker on the evening, Dr Eamon Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh said in his address: “We must never neglect the need to pray for vocations and if we want to reap an abundant harvest, we have much work to do”.
He also referred to Pope Francis’ message for Vocations Sunday this year where he said: “A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service”.
Vocations Ireland has seen an increase in the numbers of religious congregations advertising for vocations and holding ‘monastic’ and other discernment programmes.
“That sends a clear message to those discerning their vocation, that there is a lot happening,” said Ann Marie Gallagher, Vocations Ireland.
Vocations Ireland which runs the ExploreAway programme with several religious congregations working together has just completed the 2013-14 programme and it is too soon to know how many will go further.
However 80% of the previous year’s participants took further steps in discernment. Ann Marie Gallagher told Catholicireland.net that there are several vocations promotions activities around the country for Vocations Sunday.
“In Dublin mission teams are doing parish missions with vocations emphasised. On Vocations Sunday there will also be missions,” she said. She added that events which have already been held have had positive feedback. For example people said that they brought life to the parish and one man contacted the organisers a few days later to progress his discernment journey.
“In Limerick, the diocesan vocations group and vocations directors have been visiting and talking in schools across the diocese,” she said. Also today priests are speaking about the vocation to religious life and diocesan priesthood in the parishes of the diocese.
Bishop Leahy has written to a special message on this theme, and in it he states: “Everyone has a calling in life. Vocations Sunday is a chance to recognise that. Sometimes we think a vocation is only for priests and nuns. But that’s not the case. In and through life’s circumstances, God is calling each person to become fully alive, fully in tune with his plan for them …”
Marking the day, the Diocese of Limerick has produced a video entitled: Vocation – an adventure of life, which highlights all vocations – priesthood, religious life, marriage and single life. (See www.limerickdiocese.org)
Also on Vocations Sunday the Munster branch of Vocations Ireland is holding a prayer service at Muckross Abbey, Killarney. There is a 3-mile walk to the Franciscan Friary followed by Benediction and Reflection.
Going beyond Vocations Sunday and planning for the future the Vocations Ireland Summer Seminar on 17th May 2014 has as its guest speaker the well known Sr. Deborah Borneman. She is the Associate Director of Programmes and Resources for the National Religious Vocation Conference in America and will address the title of this year’s Summer Seminar: ‘Encouraging and equipping religious communities for vocation ministry’.
In November a ‘Creating a culture of Vocations’ event will look at setting up local Samuel Discernment groups. Sr. Cathy Jones is the main speaker and she comes from the National Office for Vocations in the UK. There she is responsible for fostering an understanding of religious life among all vocations personnel and supports the vocations ministry of religious congregations.