Vocation ministry and the discernment of vocations have taken many forms in the religious life. In our Congregation, General Superiors and Chapters, ever since the time of our Fr. Founder, have kept establishing criteria, conditions and requisites that candidates must have in order to enter.
I. First Period: 1849-1870
1. Fr. Founder
The concern for accepting and admitting new vocations in the Congregation dates back to the time of our Fr. Founder. Besides the works and writings that he published on vocation and seminary training, he kept giving vocation and formation guidelines to the Congregation, in keeping with changing circumstances, by way of letters, sketches and notes.1
1) From the outset, before accepting new members to the community, Claret paid great attention to the fitness of candidates and took the greatest care that inadequate persons should not be admitted. He was mainly concerned that candidates should be very carefully selected.2
Fr. Xifré was concerned with the expansion of the Congregation, and wrote to the Founder about the fitness of admitting students to it.3 In reply, Claret suggested that whenever Xifré saw a well-disposed young man he could admit him, even if he was not yet ordained a priest or even a lesser cleric, so long as he was advanced in his studies and showed solid signs of persevering.4 The economic straits of the Congregation troubled Fr. Xifré, because it made it hard to accept young men who had not yet finished their studies.
In another letter to Xifré –a letter full of evangelical spirituality and trust in God’s providence— Claret encouraged him as follows: “Don’t hesitate to admit subjects whom you consider suitable in learning and virtue and [hold out some] hope of being useful, even if they are young and have received no Orders at all.”5
During this period, our Fr. Founder referred only to persons well advanced in their studies, with good dispositions and a will to belong to and persevere in the Congregation. At any rate, it was a momentous step that would change the future shape of the Congregation.6
2) After the 2nd General Chapter officially approved the entry of students in the Congregation,7 our Founder told Fr. Xifré that we need to make people and insisted that the General do all he could to promote vocations. He told him that he mustn’t doze off, but should waste no time in gathering and forming young men, and that if this meant building, he should feel quite free to do so, without worrying about costs.8 In 1867 he suggested that he should admit young men who had not yet begun their priestly studies, so long as they showed positive signs of a vocation. In view of some difficulties that Fr. Xifré mentioned regarding the admission of students, our Fr. Founder offered him several solutions, among them the possibility of admitting students who had a good disposition, a vocation and a promise of well founded hopes, who could complete their humanistic formation in the Congregation.9
In 1869, while he was in Rome for Vatican Council I, he wrote a very interesting Note on Vocations.10 It dealt with awakening vocations by fostering the formation of altar boys in churches and parishes. These boys would be taught Latin, rubrics, plainchant, etc., while remaining in their own towns. All of our Missionaries should assume responsibility for this task when they were out giving missions or staying in our own houses (where someone would be in charge of this matter). Our Fr. Founder stated that experience in some dioceses had been positive, since some of these altar boys “are good seminarians today.”11
Given the scarcity of missionaries and the many requests for their services, Claret was constantly stressing the need to pray to the Lord of the harvest, asking Him to send laborers into His harvest.12 In his Autobiography he recommended the recitation of the Little Office of Blessed Virgin, so that “Mary would provide the Congregation with all the vocations it needs in order to grow, spread and endure.”13
2. Fr. Joseph Xifré
In 1862, with a view to publicizing the Congregation, Fr. Xifré wrote a Most Important Instruction for Aspirants to the Congregation of Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.14 It was the first document of the Congregation for promoting vocations and Fr. General expressed this aim in the Introduction, where he presented it in brief to the Congregation:
“We have seen fit to offer this notice in order that both the aspirants and their directors may act with a knowledge of our cause. And that they may know what they must hold to, let them attentively read the inducing motives, advantages, requisites and impediments not only for missionaries, but also for students and brothers.”15
In order to regulate and facilitate the discernment of vocations by those in charge of examining candidates, another Instruction in the form of a questionnaire was published in 1864.16 This instruction served as a basis for Chapters XVIII-XX of Part One of the 1865 Constitutions17 and of those that followed until the renewal promoted by Vatican II.18
II. Second Period: 1871-1899
1. Fr. Joseph Xifré
1) In 1876, following a suggestion by the Founder and based on the fact that some aspirant boys and adolescents had already been admitted in the house of Barbastro, Fr. Xifré wrote a first Special regulation for admitting individuals as aspirants in Residences of our Congregation.19 In it he authorized Superiors in their respective houses to admit on an interim basis those postulants who met the gifts and requisites prescribed in the Constitutions, in keeping with some concrete instructions. Thus:
“2nd. We authorize the admission of twelve year old boys who know how to read and write expeditiously, who show a goodness of life, health and talent. Those under this age will not be admitted unless they have some extraordinary gifts besides those mentioned.
3rd. Those boys who at fifteen years of age have not begun their Latin studies can only aspire to the class of Coadjutor Brothers, unless they are proved to have both extraordinary virtue and talent.”20
2) Along the lines of the “Most important instruction” and with quite similar contents, though differently arranged, was the “Interesting account of the origin and object of the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Motives and requisites for entering it,” which was published in 1883,21 followed by different editions of the ”Summary account of the Religious Institute of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”22 In these vocation documents, written at first by Fr. Xifré and continued by the following Superiors General, explicit reference is made to requisites for the admission of “boy postulants” and of “postulants.”
In the various regulations of Fr. Xifré there is also mention of the criteria and requirements for the admission of candidates in the moment of entry, as well as the circumstances for dismissal during the period of formation.23
1.2. Criteria and Requisites for admission
Among the criteria for selecting vocations of future missionaries, we should highlight the ones that remain constant in the documents published during these years. Summing up, the candidates:
1) Should be in good physical health (robust health, good constitution), without any notable illnesses or deformities, with a good outward appearance and clear pronunciation.24
2) They should come from legitimate families and should be sons of honorable and sound parents, that is, without pulmonary illnesses or serious mental conditions.
3) They should have an inclination to the religious state and a decided vocation to remain forever in the Congregation. In fact, only those would be admitted who were deemed to have a vocation and a sincere will to remain in the Congregation until death.
4) They should be well behaved, docile, devout and intellectually apt. This intellectual aptitude must be shown in talent and memory sufficient for their studies.
5) Some particular requirements were demanded of those who were directly entering the Novitiate:
– If they were entering as students, they must certify the studies they had completed earlier (schools, seminaries), with the grades they had received for talent and application, or whether they had been approved in courses of Latin or Rhetoric.
– If they were entering as brothers, besides good and robust health, they must be of good character and sound judgment, good conduct and a spirit of obedience and collaboration, hard working and sufficiently well instructed.
– If they were entering as priests, besides permission from their Prelates, they should have a firm will to exercise in the Congregation whatever ministry or office they might be assigned to, without any complaint or exception.
– All of them, whether priests, students or brothers, were require to have, as a fundamental criterion, an “apostolic spirit.” In general, those entering the Novitiate must have a “decided vocation for the religious life and apostolic spirit.” In particular, students and brothers must have a “decided vocation and apostolic spirit,” and priests must have an “apostolic spirit, good pronunciation, and physical and moral aptness.” The apostolic spirit would also be a determinant for discerning vocations during the years of postulancy. For the good management of formation centers, Fr. Xifré stated that they must get rid of postulants who for various reasons “would not be of used for the apostolic ministry.”25
1.3. Call to fidelity to our vocation
One of Fr. Xifré’s great concerns was to stimulate fidelity to vocation. In his circular letter on Being Faithful to our Vocation,26 as well as in his Spirit of the Congregation,27 he exhorts all to fidelity and gives some guidelines to help his brethren overcome vocational difficulties:
You should be ever faithful to and grateful for the grace of the vocation which you have received from the Lord, following the advice of St. Paul (1 Cor 7:20)…. From this you may infer how grateful you should be for the grace of your vocation, how faithful you must be to it, and how perfect you must be in fulfilling your exalted ministry.”28
2. General Chapters
1) Among the various matters that the 5th General Chapter (Madrid 1888) dealt with regarding vocations and formation,29 we will highlight those dealing with the selection of vocations.
The Chapter asked that postulants be diligently examined before entering the Congregation, in order to see whether they met the conditions prescribed by our Constitutions.30 It is very important to discern the “character and conduct” of candidates, so that those who do not show signs of “vocation and good spirit” might not be approved for the Novitiate.31
The Chapter also insisted that “the highest, painstaking care” be taken in the discernment and vocational selection of novices. Hence it asked that Superiors and Novicemasters:
– Should observe the temperament and inclinations of novices, their submission, piety and perseverance, their reactions under humiliations and during recreations, etc.
– That they correct the defects they observe. And if they see no favorable change, they should “gently and with good manners” persuade such novices to leave the Congregation.
– Finally, that they should apply the questionnaire prescribed in the Congregation, based on what the Constitutions stipulate regarding the gifts that the novices must have.32
2) The 6th Extraordinary General Chapter (Cervera 1895)33 recommended in a special way that besides the health certificate required of the postulants before entering the Congregation, they should be examined again before entering the Novitiate, in order to detect possible hereditary illnesses, which could sometimes be fatal.34 It also decided in future not to admit to profession any novice whose parents were poor and needed his help.35 Regarding the admission of Brothers, they established the following:
• As a general rule those who were not yet fifteen years old should not be admitted as aspirants to the Brotherhood.
• Before these aspirants were accepted, they should have tried in the virtues most essential to a religious.
• The state of their health must be assured. Hence, besides the certificate of health that they had to present on entering, they must also submit to a new examination by another doctor.
• In case there were any doubt on their readiness for profession, their novitiate could be prolonged for six months, after which they should either be admitted or “irrevocably dismissed.”36
3) Finally, the 7th Extraordinary General Chapter (Santo Domingo 1896)37 delegated that local superiors delegated by provincial superiors would be in charge of admitting or expelling postulants, following the norm in force at the time.38
III. Third Period: 1899-1922
1. Frs. Clement Serrat and Martin Alsina
In the various Regulations for Schools of Postulants which were issued in succeeding years for the formation centers of the Congregation,39 criteria and requisites were set for admitting candidates who were entering, along with circumstances for their dismissal during the period of formation. Given the variety of documents that appeared after the Regulations of 1900, the requisites were gathered in an Appendix, titled Bases for admission and questionnaire for Postulants, published with a view to assuring complete unity of criteria at the time of admitting Postulants.40
1.2. Criteria and requisites for admission
In the Appendix of the Regulation of 1900, it is categorically stated as a point of departure that our schools are centers in which Latin and Rhetoric are taught “only to those young men who feel called to the state and profession of Missionaries.”41 Hence, no candidates should be admitted if they did not have a vocation or if they did not wish to remain in the Congregation. Among the criteria and requisites, we would single out the following:
1) An inclination to the religious state, with a decided will to remain always in the Congregation.
2) Devotion, docility and good conduct.
3) Sufficient talent and memory.
4) A good and robust physical constitution.
5) Being between eleven and fifteen years of age.42
1.3. Love for and fidelity to vocation
From Santo Domingo de la Calzada on his name day in 1902, Fr. Clement Serrat sent out a fine circular letter to the Congregation on “The Religious Vocation.”43 In it he warmly exhorted the brethren to remain faithfully in the vocation to which they had been called.
For his part, Fr. Alsina, seeing that some missionaries were not very happy in their vocation, encouraged them to live it gladly and joyfully in his circular letter “Remedies for Discontent in the Religious Life.”44
2. General Dispositions
In 1900, the first General Dispositions were published,45 so called because they were addressed to the whole Congregation. They constituted an organized and systematic compilation of the general norms of the Congregation. They were updated and partially modified in 1905,46 190647 and 1912,48 after the General Chapters held in those years.
The criteria for admission are found in Chapters XVIII-XX of Part One, where reference is made to the Constitutions (nn. 64-65).
IV. Fourth Period: 1922-1966
1. Fr. Nicholas García
In his teaching office, Fr. Nicholas García dealt broadly and deeply with the theme of vocations. In his circular letters he dwelt on the urgent need to raise up abundant vocations and on the overall need to cultivate the gift of one’s vocation in order to remain faithful to it and to advance on the way of perfection.
1.1. A grave problem for vocations
After the 1937 Chapter and after the persecution and martyrdom of so many missionaries in Spain –which involved a major shrinkage of personnel—he wrote the circular letters On some Chapter Accords (1937)49 and The Missionary Vocation (1938).50
To face the urgent need for personnel, Fr. García turns to the idea of our Fr. Founder and of Fr. Xifré. On the one hand, he proposes that Major Organisms should organize and multiply Postulancies, Prepostulancies and even houses where they could receive boys and young men to prepare for the Postulancy; on the other, he traced out the main lines of a plan of action for vocation ministry.51
1.2. Criteria and requisites for admission
Fr. Nicholas addressed the fact that those who were planning to enter the religious life must have a vocation. They need a vocation in order to realize themselves as persons and as religious, an in order to avoid frustration. It would be a very grave risk to enter without being called by God or to refuse to enter if God indeed did call.52
The discernment that must be made before entering the postulancy also demands a proper environment: a climate that favors vocations by providing for their special cultivation, fostering a life of piety, and avoiding vocational dangers.53
Fr. García appealed in general to the criteria of Canon Law and of our own law in order to orientate the choice of vocations to the Congregation.54 In his teaching, he highlighted the following points:
1) The suitability of candidates must be adequately discerned, since the signs of a vocation are sometimes only in a germinal form in them.55
2) Among those who should not be admitted to the Congregation are persons who are sick or have family problems, in particular those whose parents or grandparents may have had some hereditary defects, especially of a mental sort. Hence it is important to focus on the physiological heredity of young men, and to examine their family background.56 Moreover, in keeping with the tradition of the Congregation, illegitimate boys should not be admitted, even if they have been legitimated by a later marriage.57
3) Candidates must have a good Christian education and sufficient intelligence, with good inclinations and an open, flexible and cheerful character. Character is something that deserves special attention. Harsh, intractable, unsociable, withdrawn, violent and sad characters, as well as those who are distrustful of Superiors, should not be admitted, and if they have been admitted, they should be dismissed.58
4) We must always prefer quality to quantity, even if the Congregation is in need of many vocations. Nevertheless, the mere quality of vocations is not enough. The main criterion that he always insisted on was to look for the “loftiest” vocations, “select vocations,” that is, men of high quality, with the mettle of saints and the capacity for great apostolic works. These are the vocations that the Congregation needs in order to carry out its mission within the Church.59 Hence, the Congregation should make itself deserving of them by raising the level of its missionary life.60
1.3. Taking care of the gift of our vocation
It is not enough just to receive the gift of vocation from God. We must cultivate it painstakingly in order to remain faithful to it and to advance in the way of perfection. This gift, which appears as a seed, must develop until it becomes a complete and perfect plant. It is a most singular grace that can be lost unless it is faithfully cared for and corresponded with. It must receive a continual cultivation, beginning at the first moment in which the signs of a vocation appear, and must last throughout our life.61
2. Fr. Peter Schweiger
One of Fr. Peter Schweiger’s main concerns was for vocations and for the quantitative growth of the Congregation. In this sense, he addressed to the Congregation a circular letter On choosing, selecting and fostering vocations, and on esteeming the gift of our own vocation (1955).62
2.1. Means for fostering vocations
For Fr. Schweiger, too, the fostering and promoting of the growth of the Congregation by all means possible was a need that could not be put off. Our feeling with the Church, the breadth of our apostolic mission, and the insufficient number of missionaries of the Congregation to fulfill its mission, were the motivations that should urge the Congregation to work more intensely for vocations.
Fr. Schweiger calls attention to two dimensions: spiritual life and apostolic generosity. A spiritual life that leads us to live our distinctive missionary identity –vere nominemur et simus—will be blessed by the Lord with new vocations. Apostolic generosity in our members, communities and provinces will be recompensed by the Lord of the harvest and will also be a source for attracting young men to our vocation.63
2.2. Criteria for selecting vocations
The urgent need for abundant vocations should not lead us to admit persons who have not been called by the Lord, that is, persons who do not have a vocation. This would be quite detrimental to the Congregation. Even as we strive to have a quantitative increase, we should be most careful and diligent in searching for a qualitative increase. Hence in the process of discerning vocations we must keep the following general criteria in mind:64
1) We must strive not to proceed lightly in admitting candidates.
2) It is important to make a first selection that should be “painstaking and rather rigorous.”
3) It is necessary to investigate “with all diligence” whether the candidate is truly suited to the Congregation for the work of striving for God’s glory and the salvation of souls.
4) In the first instance, the vocation promoters should carry out the dialogue with those who feel called. Nevertheless, in the second instance, in order to verify the initial selection, the Prefects and Confessor should intervene by reason of their office.
2.3. Reception of vocations
For Fr. Schweiger, a primary vocational selection is not enough. Vocations to our Congregation should be received and formed with solicitous care.
The formation center should be like a second family to the postulant. Hence the atmosphere he lives and breathes there should be a family-like environment that makes living together and staying in the Congregation attractive.65
2.4. Fostering esteem for our own vocation
One of Fr. Schweiger’s most painful concerns was the “decreasing esteem for one’s vocation” that had been growing during recent years. To counteract this situation, we must, among other things, strive for a painstaking selection of vocations and demand an increasingly solid and complete formation from the very first stages.66
3. General Chapters
1) The 12th General Chapter (Vic 1922)67 recalls the following criteria for the admission of candidates:68
– That in principle, we should not admit persons whose parents and grandparents may in time be in need of them. Those who are subject to parental rule need permission from their parents or guardians.
– That upon admission, the candidate must make a written declaration, clearly and freely accepting certain conditions proposed by the Congregation.
– That his declaration should also make clear that in case he leaves the Congregation before professing, all that he gave over when he entered will be given back to him; but that if he professed, though only for the first year, it will all become the property of the Congregation, except for patrimonial goods.
Finally, the Chapter declares the sense of the questionnaires that candidates must answer on requesting entry to the Congregation. These are aimed at a better knowledge of them in order to facilitate a better selection and formation.
2) The 14th General Chapter (Albano 1937),69 speaking of the passive side of formation,70 recommended intensifying the screening of vocations, for which it also gave various criteria. Concretely, it ordered:
– That illegitimate children should not be admitted, even if they had been legitimated in a later marriage.
– That their blood be checked in order to detect “sickly conditions that often develop over the years” and render persons unsuitable for the religious and priestly life.
– That a study be made of the unhealthy past of their grandparents and even their uncles.
– That those candidates who show no signs of vocation, taking into account their stage of development, should be dismissed in good time.
– That those candidates who have gone through probation but still remain unclear on their vocation should not be admitted to the novitiate.
3) One of the constant concerns in the deliberations of the 15th General Chapter (Castelgandolfo 1949)71 was the “scarcity of personnel,” which was hampering the opening of new missionary fronts and the establishment of new organisms. In dealing with the theme of Brothers, the Chapter lamented the lack of vocations72 and praised those who were working in promoting their vocation. To remedy this, the Chapter stressed fostering and increasing vocations and came to the following conclusion:
“In order to attain these goals, the Work of Vocations should be founded in Provinces, with the cooperation of the Claretian Collaborators, and the Secretariat for Vocations should be established in the General Curia to organize and press onward the movement of propaganda.”73
The Rule for the Work of Claretian Vocations was published in the Annales of 1950.74 The Work itself was installed in the Curia and at the same time the Secretariat for Vocations was created within it. An important point was that the Claretian Collaborators were to act “as the powerful arms of the Work.”75 In 1951 the Directorship of the Work printed a small treatise, The Vocation Recruiter, with very exact guidelines for promoting vocations.76
As regards admission, the Chapter first confirmed the dispositions of the Codex Iuris Additicii (CIA) on the admission of postulants and novices,77 and added the following points:
– As a general norm, postulants (students) who are incapable of continuing their priestly studies should not be admitted as brothers, except after a time of probation in their own homes.
– Brothers should not be allowed to make the postulancy before they are 15 years old. There can be pre-postulancies for those between 15 and 17 years of age, where they can receive religious and cultural instruction, as well as an apprenticeship for their duties. And at 17 years of age they can begin the Canonical Postulancy.
– In order to enter the novitiate, young men who have not celebrated their 18th birthday should not be admitted.
4) The 16th General Chapter (Rome 1961),78 which studied the crisis of vocations among students and brothers in the past few years, the statistics on their perseverance and the causes for their defection, made many suggestions aimed at solving these problems.79
– It urged all the Sons of the Heart of Mary to fidelity, and to forming “an enlightened and effective, felt and persevering awareness of their vocation.”
– Besides the General Government, which should dedicate “maximum attention” to the increase and painstaking formation of personnel, everyone (individuals, communities and major organisms) must feel that they are promoters of vocations.
– The first vocational effort should be addressed to native vocations from each country. No organism should rest content with just enough vocations for itself; all must seek vocations for the whole Congregation. Economic investments should be primarily geared toward those countries that have a greater present and future potential for vocations.
– We should seek vocations mainly in our own apostolic works (colleges, schools, parishes, associations, the Missionary Union and among the “Claretian Collaborators,” etc.). It is necessary to organize Claretian propaganda for vocations and to offer promoters a Handbook with concrete norms and vocational guidelines.
– To achieve a good index of perseverance, we must take care in the selection of candidates. In promoting and selecting vocations, the quality of the candidates is more important that the quantity. Consequently, there must be a prior examination of their personal qualities and family conditions, of their sufficiency and, if it seems necessary or very suitable, there should be a time of pre-postulancy in order better to observe the candidates. As regards the admission of Brothers, candidates who are ignorant or of bad character must not be accepted.80
1962 saw the creation of a new Secretariat of Claretian Vocations which, it seems, tended to improve on what had been done before.81 Its very brief Rule, alluded to the rule of the Word and drew on Fr. Peter Schweiger’s circular on vocations (1955) often cited in the preceding Chapter and on the conclusions of vocation encounters held at the time.
V. Fifth Period: 1967-1999
1. General Superiors
1) Fr. Anthony Leghisa stressed the importance of the maternal presence of Mary in vocation ministry, both in vocation promoters and in the adequate presentation of the Marian aspect of our charism.82
2) Fr. Gustavo Alonso stated that the future of the Congregation demands that we increase our vigor in the work of promoting vocations, which has surely had a good experience in the Congregation during the last decades, despite the objective difficulties of the moment. New vocations for the work of evangelizing will above all be the fruit of the new missionary enthusiasm with which we set ourselves to face this future which is already overtaking us.83 Nevertheless, we must have a well thought-out and articulated phase of receiving vocations by means of communities of persons who are joyfully living their own vocation.84
Fr. Alonso also stressed the maternal action of Mary in our vocational life. Many of our Claretian brethren have expressed their personal testimonies to the maternal presence of Mary inspiring and guiding them in fundamental moments of their life, such as the birth of their vocation, their spiritual growth during their years of formation, the overcoming of crises, etc.85
3) On the occasion of the beatification of our Martyrs of Barbastro, Fr. Aquilino Bocos asked that we commit ourselves even more in working for the qualitative and quantitative growth of the Congregation. If we want to fulfill the testament of the blood of our Martyrs, we must take up the pressing task of promoting and caring for vocations.86
In commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Founding of the Congregation, he asks us to respond bravely, lucidly and hopefully to the great challenge of the lack of vocations.87 In view of the scarcity of vocation in some areas of the Congregation, he issues a call to serenity, discernment and a search for new ways and new attitudes. We need to approach this reality with another thrust, with another mentality. The time has come for us to rethink our vocational commitment from a standpoint of new attitudes.
In Claretian vocation ministry personal relationships are more important than plans, the care of inner life is more important than the accumulation of external actions, and the experience of grace (“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you”) as the basis for an option (“behold the handmaid of the Lord”) is more important than all human calculations. Hence Mary must hold a privileged place in our vocation ministry. She inspires us, assists us and encourages us in our vocational crossroads. She opens us up to mystery, helps us to discern from the standpoint of faith, gives us her witness in decision and reveals to us her joy in serving.
2. General Chapters
1) The 17th Extraordinary General Chapter (1967) dealt in great depth with vocation ministry and profoundly renewed it. It issued some complete and updated guidelines for organizing vocation ministry throughout the Congregation, most of which are still in force.88
As a necessary element in the vocational process, and as a way of collaborating with the action of God’s Providence, both the Church and the Congregation should intervene with their judgment in the process of checking and selecting vocations. This judgment should be made with great care, with a sense of grave responsibility and with sound rigor. Hence there is a need for a fitting knowledge of the candidate’s family and personal history, even making prudent use of the psychological testing services of the Congregation or those of other religious institutes or laypersons of proved religious and technical formation.
The following must be an object of special study: a right intention on the part of the candidate, his full freedom in choosing this state, and the qualities required not only for the priestly or religious life in general, but also for our Congregation (CC 1922, I, 139,2). He must have not only the requisite spiritual and moral qualities, but also the requisite intellectual, psychological and physical qualities as well. The influence of any hereditary factors must also be taken into account. This study should be made in all seriousness, although always using supernatural criteria. The candidate himself should cooperate with all interest and sincerity, in the conviction that this cooperation will be most pleasing to God.89
2) The 18th General Chapter (1973) coincided with the crisis of vocations. Hence it stressed the problem of vocations as one of the most important challenges facing the Congregation at the time and called on all members and communities to a greater commitment in vocation ministry. As a point of orientation, it confirmed the lines of the previous General Chapter as being fully valid in the field of promoting vocations and offered the Congregation some immediate lines of action to be put into practice as soon and as competently as possible.90
During this period, the theme of the crisis of vocations would again be reflected on and evaluated in the Assembly of Costa Rica.91
3) The 19th General Chapter (1979) dealt with the single theme of our apostolic mission at the present moment (MCT), and within that theme it gave various guidelines regarding the problem of vocations.92 All of our major organisms must be demanded to make a serious effort to promote priestly, religious and lay missionary vocations within particular churches, both for the local Church and for the Congregation.
On the one hand, the apostolic lifestyle must be a clear and effective proclamation by means of which the Lord may call together new missionary vocations. On the other, the proposal of a shared mission project should be not only a core element in promoting new Claretian vocations, but also a principle of discernment, pedagogical animation and experimentation for the whole process of incorporation into our Institute.
4) The 22nd General Chapter (1997) developed the prophetic dimension of our vocation as servants of the Word (IPM). In this context and after a brief analysis of our vocational crisis, it offered some guidelines for our vocation ministry.93
As a basic statement of fact, vocation ministry questions the prophetic dimension of our ministry. Prophecy, when it is lived sincerely and radically, should be a source of attracting vocations to our Congregation. In discerning the meaning of our scarcity of vocations, we must avoid the temptation to nostalgia, disenchantment and merely numerical considerations, putting our trust instead in the Lord of History. Vocation ministry should be a priority in each Province and community, and for each Claretian, striving to awaken a vocational culture in the Church.
3. The Claretian Vocation Directory
In 1994 the General Plan of Formation was promulgated and published. It included the fundamental guidelines of the Congregation on vocation ministry (chapter VII). In the wake of social changes, conciliar and postconciliar renewal, and the General Plan of Formation, it was fitting to deal more amply with the theme of vocations. In this way formation in the Congregation and our formation project would be adequately rounded out with a Vocation Directory of our own.
During the month of January 1999, an International Commission appointed to draft the Claretian Vocation Directory (CVD) met in Rome. It was made up of Frs. Antonio Santillán (Argentina-Uruguay), James Kananthanam (Bangalore), Juan Carlos Martos (Bética), Angel Esteban (Castile), Marcelo Ensema (Equatorial Guinea), Angel Ochagavía (Philippines), Carl Quebedeaux (USA-East) and Jesús M. Palacios, Prefect General of Formation (Rome).
The commission drafted a text which was entrusted to various experts and to a reduced commission for study and revision before it was presented to the General Government for approval. The newly revised text was approved for publication at the General Government’s session of 15 February 2000.
Jesús M. Palacios, CMF
Prefect General of Formation
15 February 2000