187. The settings for Claretian vocation ministry are those privileged places of pastoral action that afford the possibility of unfolding a pastoral ministry that is organized, incarnated and differentiated in favor of vocations. The Congregation has opted for a decisive kind of action on behalf of a vocation ministry, an action that proclaims the Lord’s call to all members of the People of God and seeks to awaken in them a faithful response to the gifts and charisms with which the Lord has enriched them. Here, the Claretian charism finds one of its own original dimensions, since it proclaims to everyone the Lord’s call inviting them to follow Him.227
188. Privileged places for vocation ministry are those in which children, adolescents and young men can develop and mature in their faith and in their Christian life: parishes, basic Christian communities and other small Christian communities, families, apostolic movements, catechesis, youth communities, youth groups and movements, and educational centers.228 For this reason, vocation ministry has to be present in all these settings.229
1. The Christian Community
189. In each setting we should take advantage of its pedagogical value as a place in which persons can rightly aided to uncover the ultimate meaning of existence and to achieve maturity in faith by discovering their own vocation in everyday life and in the Church. In some sectors, these surroundings are put to the test by a culture of individualism, by spontaneous association, or by institutional crises.230
190. The Christian community, which of its innate makeup is a mysterium vocationis, is at the same time a begetter and educator of vocations.231 In its bosom, vocations normally arise out of an experience of community and are oriented toward a commitment with the universal Church and with a determined community.
191. The community promotes vocations above all by the witness of its Christian life; vocations are an evident sign of its vitality. A community without vocations is like a family without children.232 The Christian community—pastors, theologians, educators, families, young people—is called to cultivate in-depth vocational attitudes that give life to an authentic vocational culture.233 Attitudes like these—of gratuity and gratitude, of confidence and responsibility—remove the obstacles that are opposed to vocations: consumerism, a hedonistic view of life, the culture of evasion, exasperated subjectivism, the fear of making definite commitments, a vague lack of projection toward the future.234
192. If Christian communities are to be fruitful in Claretian vocations, they must be:
– Lively, dynamic and missionary communities, in the world and for the world, in service to the Kingdom of God.
– Communities consolidated around the model of a Church of Communion and Mission, in which they take upon themselves the evangelizing options and preferred recipients of the Claretian Mission.
– Communities that live the spirit of Claret and bear witness of an authentic faith, joyful hope and operative charity.235
– Communities that are prayerful, fraternal and serviceable, especially with the poor of humanity.
1.1. The Christian Community and Signs of the Kingdom that Call forth and Call together
193. The Christian community is shaped around four dimensions, which are signs of the Kingdom announced by Jesus: the sign of diakonía (service of charity), the sign of koinonía (ecclesial community), the sign of martyría (testimony and announcement of the Gospel) and the sign of leitourgía (sacraments, celebrations and prayer). These four dimensions should always be present in any Claretian community serving the same Kingdom.236
194. Every Christian community that lives these signs of the Kingdom:
1º. Calls forth a new kind of universal love, a new way of fraternal living together, a word that is credible, a witness that brings hope, and a whole ensemble of symbols that express new life.
2º. Calls together those who live these values of the Kingdom to form part of the community of disciples who follow Jesus and to make their own the thrilling project of his Father’s Kingdom as the primordial value of their own life.
1.2. Vocational Dimension of the Christian Community’s Itineraries
195. In turn, the signs of the Kingdom become true itineraries that gives the Christian community a markedly vocational thrust.237 From a vocational viewpoint, these itineraries allow the vocation of each person to become securely engaged to the service of the Church community and to the universal mission of the Church. Vocational discernment and maturity take place throughout the course of these itineraries. By bringing these itineraries to life in a systematic and committed way, each believer and each Christian community vocationalize their pastoral ministry and create a vocational culture.238
196. 1º. Diakonía. This is the royal road for discerning one’s own vocation, because the experience of service that is well-prepared, oriented and grasped:
– Becomes an experience of intense humanity, sensitive to the needs of others, making its own God’s compassionate and merciful view of the world.
– Facilitates the discovery of God’s will for one’s life and impels one to live one’s vocation as service.
– Awakens the sense of self-giving inherent in the missionary dimension of every vocation at the sight of human suffering.
– In any case, beyond any specific vocational option, it will always be a vocation for the Church and for the world.
197. Diakonía is something that is lived in the pastoral spheres of social action, solidarity, charitable action, promotion and development, justice and peace, and the safeguarding of creation.
198. 2º. Koinonía. The definitive communion of men and women with God and among themselves is a way that helps us:
– To experience the community dimension of vocation.
– To learn, through dialogue and collaboration, that all are co-responsible for the vocation of each one.
– To discover the harmony and complementarity of vocations in the Christian community.
199. Different types of teams and groups, communities, houses and youth centers, pre-vocational reception centers, encounters, community days and other events can stimulate this dimension. So can personal accompaniment, pastoral dialogue and helpful relationships.
200. 3º. Martyría. Prophetic announcement of and witness to the Kingdom, along with the commitment of our life for the cause of Jesus, is another way in which to discover one’s own vocation. It allows the Christian:
– To welcome the gospel ideal and vocational calls embodied in witnessing, by which the witness himself feels deeply challenged.
– To announce the Kingdom with a missionary spirit, bearing witness to one’s own faith.
– To commit oneself to the Kingdom by following Jesus, even at the risk of one’s own life.
– To awaken our responsibility for universal evangelization and for sharing the gift of faith with others beyond our borders.239
– To accompany and discern the Lord’s call in each child, young person or adult, so that they may find their place in the world and in the different ministries and charisms of the Church.240
201. In this context we find an influential vocational place for the Blessed Martyrs of Barbastro, who bore witness to Christ the Lord by laying down their own life. The martyrs’ witness of their commitment to the missionary vocation continues to be admired by many and it has shown a surprising efficacy in attracting vocations.241
202. This dimension is spelled out explicitly in evangelizing and catechizing groups, especially those preparing candidates for Confirmation, as well as in groups of pastoral agents, popular missions, missionary groups, centers for biblical and theological formation or vocation preaching, and in significant Claretian places. This dimension is lived in a relevant way by those missionaries who, by their silence, work, suffering and even martyrdom, bear testimony to their fidelity to their own vocation.
203. 4º. Leitourgía. As the memorial of Christ our Savior, who becomes present in the Christian community, and as an encounter with God and our brothers and sister, it is a splendid vocational pathway, because it calls us:
– To acknowledge and praise God as Lord of life and history, and as Father of those who are called.
– To associate ourselves with the intercession and salvific action of Christ and of his Church on behalf of humankind.
– To live in a permanent attitude of prayer,242 conversion and search for vocations.
– To seek the presence of Christ in order to be with Him, to receive his words, to be nourished with his life and to be sent out to spread his Kingdom.243
204. The surroundings in which this dimension is expressed are: liturgical celebrations of the whole Christian community, especially the Eucharist; prayer groups, movements and associations; altar server groups, liturgy teams; groups for prayerful and vocational Bible reading, such as Word-Mission; discernment retreats and vocation encounters, desert days, experience of contemplative life and manifestations of popular religiosity.
2. The Parish
205. The parish is the normal setting where a Christian’s vocation is born, nourished and grows along with faith.244 In it, vocation ministry should be an essential key for its pastoral action. Our concern for vocations should not be a marginal activity; rather, it should be fully integrated into the life and activities of the parish community. Hence it should offer those pastoral services that are necessary for discerning and accompanying vocations.245
206. The Congregation considers parish communities to be a normal place for orienting vocations. In them the animation of Claretian vocation ministry should be a criterion of ministerial authenticity.246
207. In parishes it is indispensable that we raise up and form laypersons who are seriously committed in vocation ministry, a ministry which is so vital for the Church and the Congregation.
3. The Family
208. The family, which is the riches school of humanism, is also meant to be the first seminary.247 It is called to be a wellspring of vocations in service of the Church and a support in the difficult moments through which every spiritual itinerary passes.248
209. In order to be a source and reservoir of new vocations,249 the family should:
1º. Provide a favorable environment in which the children may listen to the voice of the Lord in a life illumined by faith, respond to it and persevere in their response.
2º. Teach by the example of their life that the Christian’s first vocation is to follow Jesus.
210. Since vocation ministry is an essential dimension of family ministry, every pastoral action should:
1º. Help the family to become aware of its fundamental role in awakening and maturing vocations that entail a special consecration.
2º. See to it that family ministry is connected with vocation ministry and stays in close relationship with it.250
211. In the Congregation’s promotion of vocations, the family has always held the preferential place that the Church has accorded to it. The family maintains its full importance as a transmitter of life and culture, as the place par excellence for the true development of the person, as an educator in faith, as a community of persons where the deepest human bonds are established and as a source of vocations.251
212. Vocation ministry should take into account the problems that can especially affect families today:
– the variation in the number of members,
– the redefinition of family roles,
– the early freedom of children to make their own options,
– the politics of birth control,,
– the instability of many couples,
– the relativization of the institution of marriage and the family,
– the attitudes of dominion and imposition regarding children,
– the descent in the birth rate and the phenomenon of the only child,
– the opposition of parents to the vocational decisions and perseverance of their children,252
– the smaller number of Christian families,
– the various special family situations that have a repercussion on vocation ministry and require special pastoral attention, such as separated couples and single mothers.
213. Pastoral channels. It is important to carry out a family ministry that gradually educates parents to be the first animators of vocations.253 To achieve this it is fitting to keep the following pastoral channels in mind:
1º. Prebaptismal family ministry, which makes it possible to give a first vocational catechesis. The preparation of parents and godparents for the baptism of children stimulates their commitment as the first ones responsible for their children’s education in faith and as formators for their vocational choice.
2º. Family catechesis on the occasion of the Eucharistic initiation of children, with the support of other pastoral agents. This is a renewed form of family ministry, which involves a process of evangelization of adults, which in turn becomes a means of cultivating vocations.
3º. The School for Parents’, because of its evangelizing character, helps them in their task of educating and orienting vocations.
4º. Occasional catechetical interventions by members of the family can provide moments for proposing vocations.
5º. Belonging to family groups and movements can deepen their faith and educate their vocational awareness, so that they can give witness as Christian spouses or parents.
6º. The ongoing dialogue between parents and adolescent children can turn out to be very important, because this stage of development marks the beginning of the process of autonomy, which is closely linked to a choice of vocation.
7º. Finally, there is the preparation of engaged couples for the sacrament of matrimony, the deepening of the sense of motherhood and fatherhood, the formation of authentic love, the accompaniment of spouses in their first years of marriage, and the deepening of conjugal spirituality.254
4. Basic Ecclesial Communities
214. In broad areas of the Church, basic ecclesial communities (CEBs) appear as a sign of vitality, as an instrument of formation and evangelization, and as a valid point of departure for a new society founded on the civilization of love. Because basic ecclesial communities provide an intense living experience of Church, they are also an adequate place for proposing vocations. Seen in this way, they are a channel for vocation ministry and a leaven for vocations.255
215. Basic ecclesial communities project broad vocational perspectives, insofar as they intensely promote Christian life from the standpoint of interpersonal and fraternal relationships, unfold a diversified service from the standpoint of communion and participation, offer channels for a faith-filled reflection on reality, and emphasize its transformation based on the criteria of the Kingdom.
5. Educational Centers
216. The Congregation’s centers for Christian education should explicitly undertake and authentic education and vocational orientation of their students. In their educational project they should pay special attention to the promotion and accompaniment of priestly and consecrated vocations, setting forth the Claretian vocation in the context of the different forms of Christian life.256
217. The task of education and vocational orientation is part and parcel of the specific Christian initiation of the Claretian school. It unfolds throughout this whole process on all levels and through all its structures. Within the Project of Christian Initiation in each center there are moments and structures in which the matter of vocations can and should be set forth in a more intense and systematic way. But above all the vocational dimension should be present throughout the catechumenal process from beginning to end, educating the students for a vocational option.257
218. In the context of shared mission, vocation ministry should also be shared. Hence, one of the educational center’s important works of missionary and vocational orientation will consist of making all the members of the educational community sensitive to vocation ministry and forming them in it. This means professors and educators in the faith: catechists, professors of religious formation, animators and assessors of youth/vocation ministry.258 They must take up the commitment and responsibility for raising up, proposing and accompanying vocations, and among them, vocations to our Congregation.259 The school must also be concerned with sensitizing and helping parents in their responsibility for the vocational orientation of their children, especially as regards to Claretian vocations.260
6. Church Movements
219. In reaction to situations of secularism, atheism and religious indifference, and as a result of the longing and need to return to the sacred, movements and associations of the laity have arisen. These have appeared as a sign of the times and have already produced many good results in the Church.261 These movements attach a fundamental importance to the Word of God, prayer in common and special attention to the action of the Spirit. In some of them the experience of shared faith has led to the Christian sharing of assets as a sign of solidarity.
220. The vocational power of these new movements lies not so much in the apostolic proposal that they make as in the way of spirituality and the mystique that they offer. The movements offer opportunities for vocational catechesis. From the standpoint of a sound ecclesial openness, they characteristic dynamism of these movements can develop process for awakening, accompanying and discerning vocations that entail a special consecration.
7. Youth/Vocation Ministry
221. Youth ministry is the pastoral action that accompanies young people in discovering and following Jesus Christ, and in helping them to commit themselves to Him and to his message. These young people, transformed into new men and women, integrate their faith and their life, and become protagonists in the building of the civilization of love.262 Youth ministry is conceived along vocational lines, because it is in this stage of life that young men and women discern their vocational option for the future.263
222. Claretian youth ministry in turn contributes toward helping all young people to be accompanied on their way to growth, maturation and Christian commitment, in order that:
– they may discover Jesus, the Missionary of the Father, may have an in-depth encounter with Him, and may follow him as disciples and apostles in the style of Claret;
– they may be incorporated in the Church by living the following of Christ in a community of disciples that is participative, community-oriented, missionary and inculturated;
– they may opt for a Claretian style of life;
– they may become protagonists of the New Evangelization.
223. All of this presupposes that we develop a Youth Ministry Project that is:
– organic, since it must be bound up with out other pastoral projects;
– pedagogical, with stages and methods that are very clear in their unfolding;
– all-inclusive, embracing the period of youth that runs from adolescence to the beginning of adult life;
– and Claretian, explicitly reflecting the typical traits of our missionary project.
8. University Ministry
224. The ministry that we carry out with university students, either in our own pastoral centers or in those outside the Congregation, also offers great possibilities in relation to vocation ministry. Vocation ministry among university students should start from their own concrete situation, and in particular from that of the confrontation between faith and culture that is operative among them, so as to present them with the person of Jesus, to propose their adherence to him and to invite them to follow him.
225. Given the broad range of apostolic initiatives that university ministry entails, and the distinctive pedagogy that is called for in the area of personal accompaniment, we should take special care, when talking of vocations, to question university students about the Christian thrust of their own life and about their personal vocation.264
9. Itinerant Service of the Word
226. This ministry has many forms of expression in the Congregation. Among them are renewed popular missions, mission campaign communities, retreats, nove-nas and other similar forms of announcing the Word.265
227. This service is an opportunity to sow the word of vocations everywhere, in the hearts of everyone, without preference or respect for persons. The missionary announces and generously broadcasts the seed of vocation without enclosing himself within the usual bounds, but rather moving into new surroundings, venturing into unaccustomed places, speaking to each person he comes across. The collaboration of young missionaries (students, brothers, deacons and priests) makes it easier to propose vocations from young people to young people. They are the first and immediate apostles and witnesses of vocations among other young people.266
10. The Corps of Volunteers
228. A corps of volunteers is a sign of the present times that we should pay special attention to. It is the expression of a culture of gratuitousness, of compassionate solidarity, of commitment seeking to transform reality and, above all, of ling love concretely in service of the Kingdom. When young believers take up this path, it becomes a true milieu for broaching the subject vocations and an effective channel for discovering, orienting and discerning them.
229. The values that motivate volunteers make it possible to openly reveal the diverse vocational horizons of Christians. The service of volunteers opens the spirit of young people to the universal and integrating outlook of the missionary vocation. The varied experiences offered in the corps of volunteers make it possible for volunteers to ask themselves where, how and with whom they will best be able to serve the Gospel, as well as those who are poorest and neediest.
11. Pre-vocational Residences
230. These are welcoming centers in the broad sense for persons who want to properly orient the future of their life. They are offered to those who are sincerely seeking to find out the right vocational choice and are striving to discern their proper vocation at the same time that they are continuing their studies or their work.
231. Similar to these are centers of vocational information, which are set at the disposal of possible candidates in order to explain to them their vocational possibilities and options.267