The metaphor of an ocean and being called to a new horizon is the theme of the whole conference. Photo by Ties Rademacher on Unsplash

Vocational discernment is for every Catholic

  • March 19, 2021

A vocational discernment is for every person of the faith, says Sr. Mary Rowell, president of NAVFD, National Association of Vocation and Formation Directors.

Yet traditionally when people hear the word vocation, still they often only think of priests and religious sisters.

This year’s NAVFD conference aims to expand that concept. Under the theme “Calling to New Horizons,” the April 26-28 virtual conference is encouraging Catholics to take a closer look inward, individually and collectively as a Church body.  After a year of great challenge and introspection for many, Rowell hopes to dig deeper roots in establishing a culture of vocations.

“We’re all called in one way or another, and each way is just as special,” said Rowell. “One of the problems we’ve had in the past is that when people use the word vocation, they thought about religious life only. What we really see is if everyone feels the dignity of their own call coming from baptism, we enhance one another’s calls and we strengthen one another in responding in fidelity.”

As preparations for the event are underway, the team looks forward to creating space for a valuable time of return to deep introspective relationship with Christ. In a year where many have experienced life’s ups and downs, resilience is found in focusing on the divine purpose that is ever unfolding.

“We use the metaphor of an ocean and being called to a new horizon, which is the theme of the whole conference,” said Anne Walsh, chair of the conference planning committee. “The horizon is always changing. It’s about being able to be comfortable with that and move towards it.”

The question of what religious life will look like in the post-COVID world is one NAVFD is preparing to face head on. Over the past year the association has held workshops and webinars on the topic and the upcoming conference will be another opportunity to compare notes across Canada.

NAVFD treasurer  Br. Denis Claivaz says while things have been difficult in many ways, as individuals and as a Church, he is confident that God never gives challenges without providing the resources and graces to overcome them.

“COVID has been sent to us as a grace,” said Claivaz. “That’s my interpretation. We have to react to the Lord’s will and the Lord’s grace in a certain way or not react. I think He’s leaving an awful lot up to our discretion because none of us have a template that we can refer to. I think we have a lot to learn and a lot to express and we should do it proactively and not wait to see what happens.”

Among the speakers and presenters is first time keynote Dr. David Deane of the Atlantic School of Theology who will explore the baptismal life as a life lived in relationship with the Holy Spirit. Other keynotes include Sr. Margo Ritchie of the Sisters of St. Joseph who will explore the concept of The Adjacent Possible and Fr. Dan Horan who will speak to the teachings of Pope Francis as it relates to discernment in the lives of all the baptized.

NAVFD executive director Sr. Nancy Sullivansays the virtual experience has expanded the reach of the event that already has registrants attending from Europe and other parts of the world. Workshop leaders and keynote speakers are also being pre-recorded and translated into French.

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