Vocations Congress Enkindles Hope, Passion for the Future

Monday, April 22 2002

(Montreal – April 22, 2002)… More than 1100 U.S. and Canadian delegates to the Third Continental Congress on Vocations to ordained ministry and consecrated life found their hopes re-kindled and their resolve enlivened when they gathered in Montreal on April 18-21 to listen, share stories, celebrate, pray, and plan. The Congress concluded with the celebration of the 39th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

“God will give young people the courage to be fire, to embrace Jesus’ passion for a transformed world,” said Sr. Marie Chin, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She urged participants to “listen with different ears so we can hear the vulnerabilities, and see with different eyes that all humanity is more connected than we can ever imagine. God will raise up vocations in our Church where our deepest gladness meets the needs of the world.”

Speaking on the issue of mission and future of the Church, Rev.Gilles Routhier, a priest of Archdiocese of Quebec and theology professor at Laval University, insisted that the Church must show great creativity in fostering vocations using methods that mobilize and evangelize people today.

The Church must not just wait for candidates to come knocking on the doors of seminaries and religious congregations, but it must also keep on inviting and calling young people with persistence even if the first invitation is refused. “The present times are calling us to take risks and go out into the deep despite the possibility on encountering waves and of being shaken by the wind,” he said.

Scripture scholar Rev. Donald Senior, CP, challenged those entrusted with fostering vocations “to be sacraments of hope for a wounded church.” In today’s situation, he said, “The Easter lesson is that paradoxically from death can come life – a renewed priesthood, new forms of consecrated life, new possibilities of collaboration and mutual respect between ordained and lay, more transparent accountability at all levels of the church.”

Other speakers included Oblate General Counselor Rev. Ronald Rolheiser, “Vocations: The Cultural, Ecclesial and Biblical Moment;” sociologist Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, “A Portrait of Young Catholics: Their Hope and Promise;” and representatives from the Vatican.

Moved by the message and spirit of the Congress, the 130 young adults present met to ponder the meaning of vocation and to articulate their hopes. They found the Congress to be “deeply personal, ultimately sacred and legitimately awesome.”

In an April 21 statement, they said, “We desire a covenant relationship with our church.

Everything we ask of the Church we will offer in return. We will remain faithful to Christ and the Church by living out our vocations, promoting a culture of life and joy, while living in hope and love. We strive to be saints of today, and come to cultivate saints of the next generation.”

They asked those in consecrated life and ordained ministry to “offer us authentic joyful witnesses to your way of life, that we may experience the passion of your service. Invite us to share your excitement and deep love of Christ and the Church. Together we can build a fire that is ignited by Christ.”

Recommendations from the Congress will be developed into a Pastoral Plan for the U.S. and Canada. Delegates will serve as catalysts in implementing the plan.

More than 10,000 persons from both countries participated in 220 diocesan and regional dialogues leading up to the Congress. It was held at the request of Pope John Paul II. Two earlier Congresses were held in Latin America in 1994 and in Europe in 1997.

Delegates included people actively involved in vocation work and youth ministry, young adults, educators, parents, Catholic associations, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, members of secular institutes and more.