Vocation leaders are servants of an encounter with Christ and we always walk in the Church and with the Church. It is therefore urgent to open ourselves to the awareness of being animators of vocations that feel and walk with the whole Church, the community of the con-voked.
There is a song 🎶 by the Kairoi group that marked me a lot in my youth and it is called “It is never easy to start 🏁” (“comenzar nunca es fácil”). I transcribe the stanza of the chorus: “It is never easy to start, you know, the important thing is wanting to walk and forge dreams day by day. Your voice, our voice will unite; your voice, our voice will unite”. Now I am 37 years old, almost 15 as a friar and 10 as a priest, and I continue to listen to this song with great pleasure. Therefore, I will rely on the lyrics to add music to a brief reflection on vocational animation. But first, let me set the context.
When I began to take my first steps 👣 in pastoral ministry, to be specific, in youth and vocation ministry, I was asked, since I had recently graduated from university and had fresh knowledge, to make a brief proposal of where I believed the vocations ministry should go. On a cloudy autumn afternoon in 2011, I sat down in front of the computer 💻 and began to shape a proposal as a decalogue that, from my point of view, could mean a relaunch of vocation ministry.
On the day 📆 of the meeting, after having proposed the work plan for the day and having commented on some adjustments in the general organization, I was given the floor. It was my first intervention in a work team after having left the House of formation and professional studies, for which I believed it was important to take care of the details and open new horizons with innovative proposals. I began to speak with enthusiasm. But at the time of getting feedback on my proposal, looking for a reaction in the looks of my brothers, I began to perceive disinterest and boredom in them.
Once the presentation was over, two of the participants commented with realism, frankness and a certain cruelty: “more of the same”, “that has already been said”, “you don’t reveal the world to us…”. Those words felt like a bucket of cold water 😵. As a result of that experience, which for me was apparently negative, I decided to read everything 💪 that was in my power on vocation ministry. I felt the inner demand to verify whether or not it was true what my brothers and co-workers, who already had many years of experience in the field, had said.
The first thing I did was read all the documents of the Church’s journey from the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) to the present moment. Those days were very fruitful, as I can trace the progressive path of the Church in reflection, pedagogy and practice of vocation ministry. Then I came across books, articles, magazines …, and my understanding and vision of things expanded. The more I read and had in front of me about what had been worked on the animation of vocations, the more amazed I was and I said to myself “how did I not know all this before” 🤔.
Curiously, in the successive work meetings I learned that I was inexperienced and a novice in the field and that my situation was that of an apprentice, especially from the experience of those who had already spent many years struggling and giving an all-put effort in the field of vocations. I only discovered a detail about vocation ministry that I thought was very well known in theory but that in practice nothing had been done, at least in the context where I found myself. It was about the importance of joining the diocesan vocational pastoral teams of the dioceses where we have Augustinian Recollect communities 😌.
On my own initiative I knocked on the doors of the diocese. At first they put me off…, until the diocesan vocations delegate, finally granted me an interview. Once again it was a surprise for me to know the enormous work that was being done in that diocese for the animation of vocations 😮. There was a well constituted, trained and organized vocational team, made up of diocesan priests, committed laity, and many religious. So, the proposal to have one more religious was well received. Years of sharing, learning, growing together and walking as a Church went by.
A couple of months ago of this year 2018, in a meeting of vocational animation teams, I lived an experience that inside gave me a lot of grace 😇. I´ll tell it briefly. Recently, new religious brothers joined the work of vocation ministry where I am now, coming from different contexts and circumstances. While we were discussing various issues, there were those who with all the enthusiasm in the world proposed what we should do to remove the animation of vocations from its continuous crisis. I remembered a lot of those phrases “but that has already been said.” Although in this case I just thought about it …
In the field of animation of vocations, “the important thing is wanting to walk”
Now I go back to the song from the beginning. Where it says: “It is never easy to start, you know…”. I agree that getting started is never easy. But the terrible thing is to believe that you start from scratch. And what is truly dramatic is being convinced that it is up to you, from the outset, to make a difference without knowing and understanding what has been done. In the field of animation of vocations, “the important thing is wanting to walk” 🎯 It is a delicate and wonderful service to evangelization “to help to forge dreams day by day”. That is, accompanying others to discover where God wants them and where God dreams of them so that, giving the best of themselves, they may be fulfilled, and they become happy…
Although I say it clearly, for me the most important thing is that of “Your voice, our voice will unite; your voice, our voice will unite”. In the animation of vocations, we make a journey with the Church, as a Church and to serve the Church, the People of God, the community of the baptized. God’s voice can and must be heard through his Word. And the Word of God becomes life, it is incarnated, it is translated as a lifestyle in the events and vicissitudes of history, the culture that makes it concrete and the people who live and transmit it. For me this is now an inalienable certainty: only through encounters, listening to each other and telling various stories of following Jesus Christ in the various forms and paths of Christian life, we´ll be able to find an answer to the challenge of continuing to encourage vocations in the Christian community.
Therefore, I conclude by saying that, more than a need, 🎯 it is an urgency to open ourselves to the awareness of being vocational animators who feel and walk with the whole Church, the community of those called to live and celebrate the faith. Yes, outside the Church there is not serious vocation ministry, up to the demands of the historical and cultural moment, that is capable of responding to the call of the Spirit to animate vocations in the Christian community. Definitely: WITH THE CHURCH …