By FR MORGAN BATT
“GO out to the whole world”.
Reflecting on the Gospel for October 17, Pope Francis encouraged us to not be afraid of going out and engaging in the world. Surely this is also the message behind our universal Church’s Year of Faith that has come to a close in celebration but the message goes into the deep – to launch out into the deep with the Christian message of Jesus Christ.
The Archdiocese of Brisbane Vocations Office this year has not been afraid of launching into the deep by engaging with 8000 young people in schools, colleges, universities, parishes, deanaries, youth groups, movements, in fact where ever young people gather we have attempted to be there encouraging people to “Ask the Question” about their call in life.
The vocational call is highlighted by the reflection on the 2011 Australian Census conducted by Robert Dixon and Stephen Reid, from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Australian Catholic University.
According to the census Catholics comprise 25.3 per cent of the population, with “no religion” making up the second-largest group at 22.3 per cent. Of the Australian Catholic population the largest ethnic group is now from the Philippines, the largest Catholic age group are the 10-19-year-olds, and the largest Catholic group engaged in employment are from technical and trade colleges.
While these are interesting facts the more revealing statistic is the growing number of Catholics becoming disaffected with the Church. This makes the community engagement and the work of the Vocations Office even more vital.
The growing of a vocations culture in our archdiocese and the need to mentor and encourage people in life-giving vocations is crucial for the life of our Church.
How do we affect people again?
The Vocations Office has numerous effective programs and community engagement points that seek to reconnect people with the call in their life and the mission of the Church – the office is not a solo voice but a voice within the choir of the Church’s mission. This mission voice is heard by the six young men who entered seminary formation in 2013. Next year it is estimated that eight men from the Brisbane archdiocese will enter seminary formation.
The Archdiocese of Brisbane House of Discernment is already engaging with eight young men seeking to enter Canali House for 2014.
Combining 2013-14 together the interest in female religious life has risen to six young women entering formation and more considering and being mentored into consecrated life. Weddings are still celebrated with joy in the archdiocese and we continue to celebrate and acknowledge the married life through our Marriage Jubilee Masses and other programs. The permanent diaconate program has re-commenced and there are number of men seriously considering this call.
The single life of the Catholic is and will always be celebrated in numerous ways within our archdiocese.
All this leads to an increasing vocational awareness within the Brisbane archdiocese.
Pope Francis in his first apostolic exhortation writes – “We are not asked to be flawless, but to keep growing and wanting to grow as we advance along the path of the Gospel”. Vocation is not so much about growing in perfection itself but moving deeply toward the One who is perfect and who shares that grace with us.
In the light of this, Pope Francis, using the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II, writes in Pastores Dabo Vobis that we have “a call which God causes to resound in the historical situation itself. In this situation, and also through it, God calls the believer”.
God called Our Mother Mary to share in the vocation of Grace, and God calls each of us to also share and be enlivened by the vocational call. The response is the need.
Fr Morgan Batt is the vocations director of Brisbane archdiocese.