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Bishop Anthony's Letter: Vocations on the up?

Seminarians John Sultana, Thomas Hien Bui and Charles Nwaorgu.
Diocese of Parramatta Seminarians John Sultana (left), Thomas Hien Bui and Charles Nwaorgu.

Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, Catholic Outlook, August 2010

To my delight we have a new Marist community in Harris Park, with a vibrant group of religious consisting of Brothers Anthony Robertson, Tony Leon, Anthony Robinson and Michael Callanan.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of Parramatta has 10 seminarians, and some other Australian dioceses are also doing relatively well for vocations.

Please pray for our seminarians: Deacon John Watkins, Peter Kuraya, Arnulfo Tolentino, Nino Canete, Alfredito Dalogdog, Anthony Saliba, Galbert Albino, John Sultana, Thomas Hien Bui and Charles Nwaorgu.

Recently, I attended a number of conferences and meetings overseas and took the opportunity to visit my Dominican confreres.

The Irish Dominicans have had only a trickle of vocations in recent years. Yet amidst the outrage and dejection occasioned by the sexual abuse crisis, when ordinary human wisdom would tell us to expect a collapse in vocations, 13 novices entered this year!

They are fine young men who fill me with confidence for the future and they have lifted the spirits of the whole Order and the Irish Church.

In New York I found that the Eastern Province (one of four provinces of Dominican friars in the US) has 21 novices this year alone – the biggest number in decades – and many more students for the priesthood further advanced in formation.

In Nashville, Tennessee, where the Dominican Sisters were celebrating their 150th jubilee, I encountered more than 50 young nuns in formation, including two Australians – bright, articulate, fun-loving, God-loving women.

And on the day I returned to Australia three new novices and two new students joined the Australian Dominicans.

What’s going on?

What’s going on here? Why, in a secular age, when faith and religious practice are waning; in a consumer age, when people are frequently valued only by what they own and control; in a non-committal age, when self-sacrifice is unpopular and life-vows seem impossible – why would vocations be on the rise in some places?

The principal answer, I am convinced, is divine grace. Vocations are a pure gift. No matter what we consciously do to promote them – or what we unconsciously do that undermines them – God makes the call.

Right now we need more vocations and God is clearly calling more young men to the priesthood, more women and men to consecrated life. God knows our need, He cares, and He responds. Mostly our job is just to get out of the way and let God work His magic!

That said, we must also cooperate with God’s grace. We must do what we can. That means being open to the possibility that it’s one of our own children or grandchildren, family members, friends or fellow parishioners who God is calling to priestly or religious life.

Daring to suggest a vocation to someone we think might have one. Praying for those who are discerning their vocations and those who are trying to live them out faithfully. Encouraging our existing priests and religious.

For young people it means being open to the possibility that God is calling you. Asking God for wisdom and courage, for a big heart and small fears. Seeking advice from wise people. Talking it through, thinking it through, praying it through.

Daring to take the first step by searching the net, talking to the Diocesan Vocation Director (Fr Paul Roberts), attending a discernment day or vocations retreat. Daring, in turn, to take the plunge. And being confident that God wants you, loves you, has great plans for you.

Some people have a nagging sense that God wants them to preach the Gospel, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, lead and minister to God’s people, teach or care as His vowed collaborators.

No thunderbolts, no angelic visitations, just a growing clarity that this is where they could be most happy and do most to help others to experience ‘life to the full’.

Some take a good while to sort out that this is right for them. Some seek a kind of mathematical certainty they’ll never have or want the approval of everyone around them, which is unlikely to come till much later. Some delay for too long making up their mind and ‘go off the boil’. Some join ‘the Order of Perpetual Discerners’.

That’s not what we need here in Parramatta. What we need is young men and women of faith and daring, willing to embrace God’s call with full heart.

No priests means no Eucharist means no Church – simple as that. No religious means no spiritual heroes, no hidden service, no one totally consecrated to God and His people.

But with more priests and religious we will do great things in Western Sydney. Join me in this great adventure! Our seminary is waiting for you...

Visit the Vocations for the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta site

One year to WYD2011 Madrid

This month it is one year to World Youth Day in Madrid. There’s no better place to explore your vocation than on pilgrimage with two million other young people!

I ask every parish, migrant community, school and movement to do what they can to encourage their young people to join one of the Diocese of Parramatta’s pilgrimages to WYD2011.

Some young people will need our financial sponsorship; others need simple words of encouragement from us to dare to go. The rewards are enormous for every young person who attends World Youth Day and for those to whom they return. There might even be some vocations amongst them.

For more details, see our World Youth Day page on the Diocesan website.

Eucharistic Adoration at St Patrick’s Cathedral

Starting from next month we will have Eucharistic Adoration on the first Thursday night of each month in St Patrick’s Cathedral, specifically to pray for our young people and to pray for vocations.

For further details, see the Vocations feature in August Catholic Outlook. Please support this initiative by your attendance and prayers.

O God, you wish all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of your truth: send, we pray, labourers into your harvest, and grant them the grace to speak your word with all boldness, to offer your sacraments with all reverence and to guide your people as true shepherds; so that all people may know and love you, the one true God, and the One whom you have sent, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

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