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A culture of vocations

Published: 
Sunday, August 13, 2017
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Vernon Khelawan

Vocations—a word I have heard since I was a little boy, but it did’nt mean much to me. Today, however, it has taken on a greater meaning given the state of the society of which we are a part. And moreso, the realisation that we need many more priests today.

In recent decades, the Roman Catholic Church has suffered severely from the lack of priests. Its dwindling numbers are as a result firstly, because the missionary priests have either died or become too old; secondly, because many of our local priests have aged or become too ill to work; and thirdly, and probably most importantly, the lack of vocations. So serious has it become, that three weeks ago, the church’s hierarchy organised a “Vocations Conference” at the Emmaus Centre in Arima.

Bishop Robert Rivas of Castries and Head of the Antilles Episcopal Commission (AEC), speaking at the closing mass, said he was optimistic the conference would “open doors again in a new way”.

Theme of the conference was “Building a Culture of Vocations” and it is a phrase which would be repeated during the ordination of Bishop Clyde Martin Harvey in a beautiful ceremony on July 29 in St Georges, Grenada.

Bishop Rivas is convinced that “God continues to call and sow good seed,” and that is why a few young men have decided to say “YES” to God’s call. So much so, the seminary at Mount St Benedict is now reopened after an absence of close to five years and now close to a dozen young men from throughout the Caribbean are now studying towards the priesthood.

Bishop Harvey, in his first sermon, found it important to devote part of his ordination homily to vocations.

But if we spend some time to carefully analyse what new Bishop Harvey said, we will almost surely find out why the church is now suffering from such a great lack of vocations to the priestly and religious life. From what he is advocating, and he was formerly a vicar for the clergy in the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain, it would seem the church has been using the wrong approach in getting young people attracted to the religious life.“Rather,” he said, “The church must create a culture of vocation which will enable them to seamlessly enter into the religious life.”

Bishop Harvey insisted that there was a necessity for “a church culture in which everybody who is Christian believes that every moment of my life the Spirit of God is stirring me up to do His work”.

He also surmised that “Unless we do that, we are going to get a whole set of people wanting to be priests and nuns as part of a hierarchy.

The days of that type of hierarchy, I suspect, are dying.” He said former Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II had repeatedly called for a hierarchy of service as opposed to one of office. “Therefore, what we have to do is from baptism, the child must learn how to listen to the voice of the Lord. Is not how much money I could make from this. It is what is God calling me to do.”

And then speaking recently at the ordination of Fr Simon Peter Ango in Port-of-Spain, Archbishop Joseph Harris welcoming him as a “new labourer into “the vineyard”, renewed the call for young men and women to look closely at the religious life as a true profession.

In an interview following his ordination Fr Ango said he believed the church was doing enough to encourage vocations, but insisted that parents and relatives need to do their part in encouraging the process.