Rolheiser calls for a 'culture of vocations'

  • March 16, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - Two hundred people gathered to network and talk about fostering a culture of vocations at the National Association of Vocation and Formation Directors bi-annual conference March 14-17 in Toronto.

The “Let our Lives Speak” Vocations Alive Conference welcomed representatives from close to 150 religious groups and several lay groups — namely the Serran Foundation of Canada , the Catholic Women’s League , Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry and Catholic Christian Outreach . NAVFD’s focus in the past two years has been on encouraging its members to help young people discern not only the priesthood and religious life but also the married and single life.

“Even married people live a counter-cultural life. You know people who stay married a long time and are committed to each other and work hard in their marriage is a counter-cultural thing today,” said Sr. Maureen Baldwin, NAVFD executive director.

People living out their vocation and especially those leading people in discernment really need to be in touch with how they celebrate their own lives, Baldwin said, “Because if I’m not a happy person, if I don’t portray joy or the spirituality that I have in me, then it’s not attractive to anybody else.” 

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I., a lecturer, writer and president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, gave the keynote address March 15 and outlined the needs for creating a culture of vocations on a personal level, on a community level and on a level than transcends ideology and theology.

“We need to call people to vocations, but we have to have the sort of lives that give us the authority to call,” said Rolheiser, who also writes a column for The Catholic Register.

Mother Teresa, he said, called people to the religious life and they responded because of the integrity and honesty of her own life.

“A trail guide doesn’t say ‘go over there and you’ll be safe’ without going there himself. You’ve got to point the way (and also lead it). Jesus always led the way and the disciples followed.”

Rolheiser said communities need to create that authority to call by fostering personal integrity, vulnerability, obedience to something higher, self sacrifice, prayer, health, empathy and compassion, a preference for the poor and a capacity to carry the tension of being both human and divine through Christ.

He said communities also need to learn, like Pope John Paul II, to oppose cynicism and challenge young people by calling them to something better by appealing to their romantic imagination.

“Religious and priests have to believe in the meaning and the valour of their lives, and that’s more than the individual — the whole community and diocese need to radiate that. You have to be a healthy family.”

One of the biggest things hindering that health, and a drawback to vocations, is the tension between liberal and conservative “tribalism” within the Catholic Church, he said.

“Communities should be defining themselves both as conservatives and liberals and say we’re a community around Jesus and we’ll draw in anybody who sincerely cares about Jesus. Catholic is both.”

Sr. Dorothy Schweitzer, CSJ,  said Rolheiser’s talk was a good reminder to become a more integrated person. Furthermore, attending the conference and attending the various workshops was a refreshing opportunity — as a vocations director for her community, she said, the support of other vocations directors is necessary especially as they shift towards promoting all vocations.

“I think it’s a privilege to work with people who are really trying to deepen their relationship with God. It’s a challenge for me in that it’s not necessarily going to lead them to the religious life and that’s something I have to let go of and help them in whatever way I can,” she said.  

The next NAVFD conference will be hosted in Edmonton in 2012. To find out more, visit .

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