1. Vocation Ministry in the Church

49. Vocation ministry is the special and complex activity of the Church community by which, in close union with the overall pastoral ministry, it undertakes the task of awakening, receiving, accompanying and providing adequate formation to new vocations. Through this activity, the Church creates conditions enabling each Christian to maturely and freely opt for a specific form of following Jesus, in accord with the God’s will for his or her life.

1.1. God’s call and human collaboration

50. Vocation is the event whereby God, under the initiative of the Holy Spirit,66 calls whomever he wills, however he wills and for whatever he wills.67 Every call, even though it involves the reaction of a human being, proceeds first of all from God, who takes the initiative.68 Hence nobody can give a vocation to himself or herself, or give a vocation to another.

51. Persons perceive the voice of God in their own conscience. This perception is usually prepared for by some singular life experiences until it is clearly grasped. The human response to it is usually a process that properly takes hold from the moment when persons become aware of God’s call.69 This process has its distinctive stages and dynamics, as well as its difficulties. Hence, although those who are called are the irreplaceable agents ultimately responsible for their vocation, they nevertheless need to be enlightened and accompanied in it.

52. In issuing this call, the Holy Spirit acts in history through human intermediaries. The Church, as an instrument of God’s calling, is a living call.70 Its action can be understood as the help it offers its members so that they can respond perseveringly to God’s call, transforming it into a fundamental option.71 This truth of the theological order must be continually carried out in a visible and operative way in the existential order.

1.2. Vocation ministry in the evangelizing action of the Church

53. Vocation ministry is set in the Church’s evangelizing action as an essential dimension. It cannot be understood except in intimate connection with the salvific action of the Church, because all vocations are gifts of the Spirit for the upbuilding and realization of the Kingdom,72 as a prolongation of the mission of Christ.73

1)   It is a permanent task and priority in the Church’s action, because every Christian life has a vocational thrust.74 And among those called to the faith, the Lord calls some to a style of being and living, and to a concrete mission within the overall mission that the Church carries out in the world.

55. The Church spurs on the birth of a new “vocational culture,”75 by means of the consistent and witnessing action of the Church committed as a whole. This culture:

1º   Cultivates deep-seated vocational attitudes: the formation of consciences, a sensibility to spiritual and moral values, the promotion and defense of the ideals of human fraternity, the sacredness of life, social solidarity and civil order.

2º   Promotes a culture of the spirit, creating conditions that enable human beings to rediscover their true selves by reclaiming as their own the higher values of love, friendship, prayer and contemplation.

3º   Invites everyone to learn how to acknowledge and accept our deepest human aspirations, leading us to discover that Christ alone can tell us the whole truth concerning our life.

4º   Reacts against a culture of death by promoting a culture of life, which constitutes the basis for a new life of gratitude and gratuity, of trust and responsibility.

5º   Is, in its very root, a culture according to the will of God, who grants us the grace to appreciate human beings for their own sake and to work untiringly to reclaim their dignity in the face of whatever might tend to oppress them in body and in spirit.

6º   Commits our mind and heart to discern what is good for ourselves and for others, helping us to discern with a critical spirit the ambiguities of progress, false values and artificiality that encumber some civilizations, as well as the temptations that come from materialism or from transient ideologies.

56. Vocation ministry is set in the context of the Church as an element of the Church’s human collaboration with God, aimed at raising up vocations within the Church and accompanying them until they reach maturity. Several consequences derive from this:

57. 1º Vocation ministry is born of the Church’s witness. Vocation ministry is not just recruiting vocations or propaganda. The witness of a Christian life fully lived in family, parish, educational and other circles, is what gives rise to vocations.76 The in-depth living of our own vocation is, then, the first invitation to others to discover and live their own. Hence, each and every member of the ecclesial community, on their own level and in their own setting within the Church, should be spokespersons and interpreters in proposing vocations to others.

58. 2º It should be oriented toward all vocations with which God enriches his People. Each person, as a singular, unique and unrepeatable being, has been graced by a particular action of God who, out of love, has called him or her into existence in order to know Him, to be reached by the Son, and to be indwelt, possessed and vivified by the Spirit. Since this call is universal, vocation ministry should promote all vocations. In this way it will avoid any kind of elitism, oversight or mistrust, and will not fall into the trap of blurring or leveling identities, or of being scattered in the way we set out our vocational proposals.

59. It should be a common endeavor,77 an action of the whole Christian community in its diverse expressions.78 Therefore:

1)   It calls for a new mentality concerning the common co-responsibility of all regarding vocations. Thus, everyone should feel urged in a particular way to spur on and support the ministry of priestly and religious vocations. And they should do so above all by leading a life of coherent witness that generates a true vocational culture.79

2)   It requires the active collaboration of pastors, religious, families and teachers, and it moves on from a vocation ministry carried out by a single agent to a ministry that expresses a joint commitment of the whole community, avoiding any exemptions or delegations.80

3)   Of its very nature it should be understood not as a specific ministry, but rather as a dimension of all pastoral action. This means that the vocational dimension should be encouraged and explicitly involved in all settings (ministry of the Word, liturgy and charitable action) and sectors (children, families, educational, social and others), without limiting it exclusively to youth ministry, although that is where it finds its natural place for privileged consideration.

1.3. Characteristics of vocation ministry

60. Among the characteristics that typify the Church’s vocation ministry, the following stand out:

61. 1) It should appear as a stable and coherent expression of the maternity of the Church, ever open to the designs of God, who begets life in her.81 Hence vocation ministry is not just a side effect of the crisis and scarcity of vocations.

62. 2) It should be centered on each person, so that he or she may come to discover and discern God’s design for his or her life, and thus be able to formalize a vocational option. Normally one does not reach sufficient maturity in faith to make one’s vocational option without the aid of other believers. They help to unveil the mystery of God and the demands of his Word, and they provide the special climate that only personal relationships can guarantee. Vocational help should always take into account the reality of each person, their social context, their concerns and their needs, in keeping with their present developmental stage.82

63. 3) We have to help each person to find their own truth, their own personal and specific vocation. In effect, God calls each person in a unique and unrepeatable way. The mediation and ambience of the call can be group- or community-related, but the vocation itself is quite singular. Hence specific vocation proposals should be made, without reducing them to generic or merely all-purpose ones. Without these specific vocational proposals to diverse ministries and charisms, the ministry as a whole will be neither complete nor integral.83

1.4. General pastoral ministry and vocation ministry

64. General pastoral ministry should explicitly issue direct and clear vocational proposals, following the practice of the Lord himself in calling his apostles,84 and of the apostles themselves in calling others to the ministry and following of Christ.85 A pastoral ministry that does not directly address or deal with the Lord’s call would be woefully insufficient, because vocation ministry is the vocation of all pastoral ministry.86

65. Vocation ministry is the unifying category that must be present in all pastoral ministry.87 It cuts straight across it and orients it. There is a permanent flow between general pastoral ministry which should issue in animating vocations to favor a vocational option, and vocation ministry which should in turn remain open to other dimensions and become involved in them. In this way it is not a ministry apart from or parallel to ecclesial ministry. Neither is it and appendix to or final culmination of just one of the pastoral actions of the church community, however important that may be. It is more than a sectorial ministry, such as one aimed at youth, family, work or other ministries. Moreover, it should not be diluted in general pastoral ministry or set on its margin, much less contradict it. Consequently, vocation ministry should necessarily be present in all forms of pastoral dedication.

1.5. Vocation ministry and youth ministry

66. Youth ministry is an action of the church community that should always be present in the overall pastoral plan. It aims at accompanying and helping young people, both as individuals and in community, to discover and follow Jesus Christ until they are mature enough to assume commitments based on Gospel values and to make an option in the Church for the lay, ministerial or consecrated life.88

67. Youth is the period when persons begin to assert themselves, and become more mature and aware of their own identity. Since it is the time for making options that will condition and determine the rest of their life, it is also a fitting time for facing a vocational option. Hence, although vocation ministry is not exclusively youth ministry, it finds a privileged place in youth ministry.89

68. A youth ministry that is well organized and specifically articulated with vocation ministry is basic for promoting vocations.90 Both forms of ministry enable young people to have a personal experience of Jesus and a strong religious experience of Christian community. Both ministries present them with vocational proposals that are sincerely offered without any attempt to impose them, but rather with a view to helping them with personal, group, spiritual and vocational accompaniment.

69. Youth ministry should aim at forming young people and consolidating:

1)   Their faith life: Welcoming the Word of God, listening to it, meditated on it and transforming into prayer; living in the midst of their everyday tasks; celebrating it in their liturgical and sacramental life as a gift of God received in Christ through the Spirit.

2)   Their sense of belonging to the Church, a community of life and mission with which the young should feel connected and increasingly identified.

3)   The sense of living their life within the Church and immersed in the concrete world of today’s men and women. Youth is the living context in which they discover their own vocation and personal mission as believers and as citizens. This is the moment when they can become aware of what each of them can and should do in order to make their own life meaningful.91

1.6. Vocation ministry and vocation guidance

70. Vocation ministry covers a broader range of tasks than those involved in vocation guidance. The proper mission of vocation guidance is to sow the seed, accompany, educate, form and discern the vocation of candidates. This ministry is integrated within vocation ministry. It is important to distinguish the two on the operative level. Everyone should be involved in vocation ministry, but not everyone can be called to work directly with the candidates.

2.   Claretian Vocation Ministry

2.1. Nature and aim

71. Claretian vocation ministry is the action that the Congregation promotes in order to raise up and accompany the vocations that the Lord grants the Church and, in particular, the Congregation. It is based on the conviction that the way of prophecy, despite the contradictions and crosses it entails, is attractive and arouses people to admire and follow it. It involves an initial proposal that is forthrightly Claretian, and also the vocational accompaniment of those who feel called to our Congregation.92

72. The aim of Claretian vocation ministry is to contribute toward helping people to discover their proper vocation, to mature in it, and to lead those who feel attracted to the Claretian community to make a personal option for Christ and to grow in their vocation of service to the Church in accord with the Claretian charism.93

2.2. Situation of vocation ministry in the Congregation

73. Vocational map. For years, now, the vocational map of the Congregation has been changing. In fact, the vocation situation is enormously diversified. One can perceive a clear increase of Claretians in Asia and Africa, stability in Latin America and a decrease in Europe and North America. Hence we can state that there is an obvious vocational displacement toward those regions of the world where the Congregation is youngest.94

74. Vocations to the Brotherhood and Diaconate. As for vocations to the Brotherhood, the statistics and outlook are somewhat pessimistic95 as regards numbers. However the evaluation is positive as regards the new profile of Brothers who are entering the Congregation.96 Vocations to the permanent Diaconate are practically nonexistent in the Congregation.

75. Diagnosis of the current situation of vocations. We note a rather split set of data.97 On the one hand, we find the existence of numerous vocations in some places in the Congregation, which presupposes an invitation to be grateful for them, to welcome them and to accompany them responsibly. On the other hand, we find an alarming vocational picture in not a few Organisms, occasioned, among other reasons, by the following:

    A dominant social system characterized by strong changes in values.

    A lower birthrate in countries that traditionally abounded in vocations.

    A higher valuing of other forms of Christian life and commitment.

    Difficulties that arise when the time comes to undertake a lifelong commitment.

    An insufficient missionary witness.

    Hesitancy to present the topic of vocations, and shifting the obligation to do so on others.

76. Overall evaluation. Overall, we can say that the Congregation is in a state of neither abundance nor want. The present historical moment favors our understanding that deep down, vocational ministry spurs us on to the right kind of change. It is an invitation to98 and a wager on a quantitative, but above all a qualitative growth in vocations.99

77. Our vocational commitment. In view of this panorama, it is necessary for us to reactivate our vocational commitment from the standpoint of new attitudes,100 and to move on:      

   From an emergency vocation ministry to a ministry that is the normal and continued expression of the maternity of the Church, which always begets life by the power of the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life.

    From an obsessive concern to fill our own vacancies to a sincere concern for all vocations. Either we grow in Church communion or nobody grows.

–    From a work limited to those who are near us (those who are in our groups) to a vocational proposal addressed to everyone, for the Lord can be calling where we least imagine.

–    From an attitude of fear and timidity to one of joy and conviction that the power of God never abandons his community and can make a tiny mustard seed grow into a tree where all the birds of the air may nest.

–    From mere recruitment to a ministry that accompanies persons closely and treats them with profound respect.

–    From a vocation ministry that is run only by a few to one that is taken up as a task for all, although only a few may be dedicated expressly to working to awaken and closely accompany those who are called.

–    From a basically weary and resigned tone to one of simple, hopeful and creative witness.

2.3. Characteristics of Claretian vocation ministry

78. We can consider the following as distinctive characteristics of Claretian vocation ministry:

2.3.1. Ecclesial

79. Since it is set organically within the Church’s pastoral ministry,101 Claretian vocation ministry is a connatural and essential dimension of the Congregation’s ministry, life and mission,102 and not just a separate, secondary or sectorial one. Hence it is fitting that we:

80. Vocationalize the pastoral ministry of the Congregation, so that all its evangelizing actions are carried out in a vocational key.103 

81. Incarnate and differentiate our vocation ministry. It should be integrated into all the pastoral areas where our missionaries are working, thus contributing to raise up a vocational culture.104

82. Promote, with the greatest care, the formation of the laity in the awareness of their responsibility regarding the problem of vocations. More particularly, Claretian vocations should arouse decided interest among those sectors of the People of God who benefit from the witness and apostolic action of the Claretian Missionaries.105

83. Open our vocation ministry to all vocations with which the Holy Spirit wills to enrich the Church, and collaborate with that same Spirit, who calls whomever, however and whenever he pleases.106

2.3.2. Cordimarian

84. In the origin and development of the Congregation and of each missionary vocation, there is an effective action of the spiritual maternity of Mary, through which the Spirit conforms us to the image of the Missionary Son of the Father.107 The Congregation grows more by the generation of divine life than by recruitment. In this dynamics, the maternal presence of Mary in vocation ministry is utterly indispensable.108 The Heart of Mary, Mother and Mistress of our Missionaries, shows her presence by inspiring the vocation ministry of the Institute.109

85. Mary impregnates our vocation ministry with apostolic charity, orients it toward the cultivation of an inwardness that listens to, receives and incarnates the Word, making it a kind of forge in which our missionary vocation is tempered and shaped. Our vocation ministry must always have Mary present as a point of reference in welcoming and accompanying vocations, to whom the Cordimarian dimension of the Congregation must always be presented.

2.3.3. Claretian Congregational

86. In raising up and promoting vocations for the Church, Claretian vocation ministry should always expressly present the Claretian vocation, stressing the essential traits of our charism: the missionary service of the word with its prophetic dimension, the urgency of evangelizing, its reference to community and Church, and its Cordimarian identity.110 In every vocational proposal, it should be stated explicitly that the vocation of a Claretian Missionary can be lived as ordained ministers (missionary priests and deacons) and as consecrated laymen.111 In doing so it should make used of adequate and sufficient materials.

87. Likewise, it should take as a norm and inspiration the typically Congregational methodology proposed in the Constitutions, according to which vocations are to be discerned by listening to the Word, prayer and fraternal dialogue.112 From yet another point of view, Claretian vocation ministry should maintain a thrust of openness and availability for the universal mission of the Congregation, without allowing it to enclose itself within localism or provincialism. Moreover, it should take into account both communicating and collaborating within the cultural and provincial diversity of the Congregation.113

2.3.4. Connected with youth ministry

88. Vocation ministry should also be connected in a particular way with youth ministry as a constituent part of it. Youth ministry is complete if it leads young people to consider their vocation before God. This demands that youth ministry always have a vocational outlook in a broad sense.114 Therefore, from the standpoint of a painstaking vocational accompaniment,115 it should prepare for the most adequate moment to present all young people with the different vocations of the Church and the Congregation, and to make a more personal proposal to some of them, whether it be Claretian or otherwise. This supposes, on the part of those responsible for this ministry, a certain boldness in setting forth this proposal, a capacity for accompanying and orienting candidates in the progressive discernment of their proper vocation, and firmness in demanding of them the fidelity due to the Lord.

2.4. Conditions for Claretian vocation ministry

2.4.1. A prioritized task

89. The task of promoting vocations should be a priority in each Province and community, and even for each and every Claretian, because the process of evangelization will not be complete until each local Church reaches its full development as a community of communities that can rely on its own native clergy, on its own consecrated vocations and on its own committed laity. Hence, not preparing personnel to animate vocation ministry or to form vocations should be regarded as a serious defect.116

2.4.2. Adequately oriented and organized

90. It should be well oriented and organized through a vocational project that is well articulated with the pastoral ministry of the Province. This will guarantee its continuity and efficacy. Each community should translate this project into its community planning, in its prayer for vocations, it the services it programs and in the actions it carries out.117

2.4.3. Centered on the person

91. It should be centered on the person and should always offer the personal accompaniment that the candidate needs in order to make a mature option. Without neglecting organizational aspects, special emphasis should be laid on personal relationships, on the inward listening of the candidates and on the experience of grace as the basis for making a vocational option.118

2.4.4. Dynamized by the Word

92. It is indispensable that the vocational proposal be made through the Word. There is an unspoken word that works by way of presence, and a spoken word that works by way of an explicit proposal. In any case, it does not aim at imposing or downplaying reality, but rather at exercising our prophetic mission by proclaiming the Gospel of vocation,119 the Christian meaning of vocation and the concrete proposal of the Claretian vocation. Hence each and every agent of vocation ministry should act with an orienting and educative thrust,120 and should proclaim the vocational word of the Master to all members of the People of God, thus awakening a response to the gifts and charisms with which the Lord enriches them.121

2.4.5. Actively proposing

93. The very nature of vocation ministry implies going beyond a merely passive ministry of waiting to one of actively proposing a vocation. As such it should be bold and provocative, prophetic and missionary. At the same time, it ought to be sensitive to creating a favorable impression, to avoiding imprudent pressures and to respecting church criteria for discernment.122

2.4.6. Demanding

94. Vocation ministry should also be demanding in its statements and procedures. It must be careful in the judgment that it has to make after the process of accompanying, checking and selecting vocations. Hence it should always proceed with great responsibility, following the criteria of the Church and the Congregation, which deem that a healthy rigor is necessary for the good of the candidates themselves and that of the Church and the Congregation.123

2.4.7. Spurred on by all adequate means

95. Vocation ministry is a priority that ought to be spurred on by all adequate means. A privileged place should be given to those means which, without being proselytizing, serve to propose the Lord’s call to more persons and have a greater range of action, above all in the field of the communications media and of computers.124

2.5. Objectives of Claretian vocation ministry

96. The objectives are the following:125

1)   To stir up a decided interest in vocations among all sectors of the People of God with whom we are related, mainly through our apostolic action.

2)   To awaken in all Claretians an awareness of their responsibility regarding vocations and to spur them on to commit themselves to vocation ministry within their abilities and in the framework of the mission in which they are working.

3)   To enhance a youth ministry which includes a vocational dimension and which, by means of a discernment process, promotes an option for the Claretian life.

4)   To propose a clear, complete and realistic image of the missionary vocation as realized in the Claretian Family, and to invite individuals to follow it.

5)   To care for and accompany persons and groups who desire to live our experience of missionary life, helping them to make a conscientious response to the call of God.

6)   To carry out a high-quality, attentive, careful and demanding process of selection.

2.6. Phases of the Claretian vocational process

97. The process of discovering, clarifying and deciding on one’s vocation appears, pedagogically speaking, in the course of several phases that ought to involve interaction between the pedagogical efforts of those in charge of vocations and the response given by the candidate.126 The main phases are:

2.6.1. Proposing with a view to awakening

98. This is a matter of creating and unfolding a favorable environment that allows the young man to discover his vocation based on his human and faith experience, and on the challenges and realities that surround him. This entails the following pastoral actions:

99. 1st. Initiation into Christian life, which involves:

1º.  Presenting the proposal of the Christian life as a dialogue with God who calls, and the believer who responds individually and in community.

2º. Providing the necessary means for a continued deepening in faith, with an initiation into community life, prayer and sacraments, commitment to and living of the Gospel, especially through a catechumenal process.

100. 2nd. Awakening a vocation. This means that throughout this whole process we should simultaneously insert a catechesis of vocation in general and of the Claretian vocation –priestly, diaconal and lay—in particular. This explicit presentation should run throughout the whole process of Christian initiation, and should be tailored to the person’s catechumenal stage. This entails a real and not merely marginal integration into the said process.

101. 3rd. Making an explicit proposal. This means making a proposal to a candidate who has received his catechesis “in a vocational key” and has shown signs of a vocation. The proposal is a personalized invitation to consider the possibility of his being called by the Lord to a specific vocation. His consent will open the way to a personalized process of vocational clarification, so that he can make an educational response to his vocation.

2.6.2. Accompanying with a view to clarifying

102. This is a matter of achieving a close, ongoing relationship with the candidate in order to help him clarify and gain an in-depth knowledge of his vocational leanings. This accompaniment is carried out through encounters, interviews and correspondence with the individual, visits with his family, knowledge of his surroundings, presenting our Claretian missionary charism to him, offering him contact with apostolic groups and specific helps to overcome obstacles and difficulties. We can distinguish three moments in this process:

1st. Search, or the moment for identifying the candidate’s vocation. Accompaniment should help him to discover and interpret the vocational signs of his personal history,127 offering him procedures for gaining self-knowledge and keys for interpreting it (readings, identity models, prayer).

2nd. Inner attraction, or the moment in which the candidate, after discovering the meaning of Jesus’ call and finding signs of a vocation in his own life, gradually feels more struck and captivated by them. This is the apt moment for discerning, purifying and consolidating his vocational motivations, orienting his attitudes toward serving and offering him concrete means for detecting and facing vocational temptations that characterize this moment of the process.

3rd. Stating and preparing for the option. This is the moment when we strive to verify the candidate’s degree of docility and availability to God’s call, his capacity for facing vocational difficulties and resistances, his level of decision and his identification with the traits of the Claretian vocation and spirituality.

2.6.3. Helping with a view to deciding

103. This supposes that the candidate has kept maturing gradually and at his own pace, and has reached a decision. Finally, this is a matter of admitting the candidate into one of our forms of welcoming him or of helping him to continuing to clarify his vocation in other ways.

104. In case the candidate’s duly motivated and discerned decision points toward the Congregation of Claretian Missionaries, it is fitting that his decision be made known to his family and that he should receive, in keeping with his age and circumstances, some complementary helps to give him a better knowledge of our Father Founder and of the Congregation, and to complete his human and Christian preparedness before his entry.