Youth groups play a role in fostering vocations

Going down memory lane, some of us may remember the “good ole days” when
our parish church and school were the center of our spiritual and social activities.
In those days the visible presence of our parish priests and sisters was taken for granted. And to be called to the priesthood or religious life was considered a great
blessing.
        While we live in a different time, there still are many fertile seeds in
parish life for fostering a climate that nurtures vocations. One of these is the cultivation of vibrant youth groups. The potential is as enormous as the
imagination, resources and energy put into it. For sure, it requires the dedicated and well- balanced leadership of both youths and adults. Young people know what works for them and what misses the mark, what they’re willing to put time and energy into and what holds no interest. They have their own particular perspective on just about everything, including family, church, religion, politics and what they know in their hearts they want their future to be. Usually, they can articulate their questions and identify their fears. To do this they need a safe, trusted environment in which they can work out these questions and express these fears. It becomes the responsibility and challenge of the parish—pastors, parish ministers, parents—to make youth their priority, to work with young people to provide this environment.
      It is my experience of young people that they are looking for something worthy of
their lives. They are open, seeking and generous. In this regard they are greatly in need of authentic models and committed witnesses. “Do what I say, not what I do,” just doesn’t work. Rather, it disappoints all hope and expectation and gives lie to
the message. Only real human beings, who themselves are trying to live faithful, committed lives and who are willing to partner with the less-experienced, can lead the way. What a difference in openness to a religious vocation can be affected
by a priest or sister who obviously loves his or her vocation; and even more, is absolutely in love with Jesus. Could there be a better way to invite someone to consider the priesthood or religious life?
     Active parish youth groups are a promising environment in which to examine and
appropriate the meaning of Christian discipleship, to ignite a desire to know Jesus
personally and to follow him wholeheartedly. This happens slowly in a variety of
ways, e.g., Scripture study/lectio Divina, discussions, participation in liturgy, shar-
ing of personal stories, friendship, the formation of a real community, and service
in relation to concrete needs. Since the Eucharist is the heart of our life in Christ,
it has a place of singular importance in our growth into Christ. Young people learn to
love the liturgy through an active participation in liturgical ministries. Eucharistic
adoration as prayer for priestly and religious vocations has already been established in our archdiocese – a good practice to build on to raise consciousness of the
need for vocations and openness to the possibility of one’s own call.
Author: Sister Anna Mary O’Meara,OCSO

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