There is a must-read essay in the February, 2011 edition of Homiletics and Pastoral Review that I will be distributing to everyone I know: Why Vocation Programs Don't Work. The author is Fr. Damian J. Ference, who is currently a professor of philosophy and member of the formation team at Borreomeo seminary in Ohio.
Here's a taste:
The root of our current vocation problem is a lack of discipleship. Of course, a disciple is one who encounters Jesus, repents, experiences conversion and then follows Jesus. All too often those of us in positions of Church leadership presume that all the folks in the pews on Sundays, all the children in our grade schools, high schools and PSR programs, all the kids in our youth groups, all the men in our Men’s Clubs and all the women in our Women’s Guilds, and all the members of our RCIA team are already disciples. Many are not. (The same can be said of staffs and faculties of Catholic institutions.) Our people may be very active in the programs of our parishes, schools and institutions, but unfortunately, such participation does not qualify for discipleship.
First, an important principle to keep in mind is that disciples beget disciples. In other words, if we are really serious about fostering better marriages, holier priests, more devoted religious, and generally a more faithful and dedicated Church, then those of us who are already married, ordained, and consecrated, and who identify ourselves as Catholics must take a good, hard look at our own lives and evaluate how our discipleship measures up. How long has it been since we last experienced real conversion and transformation? How often to we repent of our sins? Do we really allow Jesus to rule our lives, or have we fallen into the ancient trap of Pelagianism, ultimately believing that we save ourselves? Do we really know Jesus? Do we allow him to really know us? These questions are important ones, for unless we as a Church can offer true models and exemplars of discipleship with our own lives, very few will seriously consider living the kind of life we live.
Second, we need to reevaluate how our parish groups, ministries, and programs operate. We have to ask if these groups are truly fostering discipleship, or if they are simply social groups that happen to meet on parish grounds.
And there is so much more.
Read the whole thing. Pass it on. Tell us what you think.
H/T Katherine Coolidge