17 Sep 2020
Message of the Provincial | September 17, 2020
I would like to share with you some of the findings from the NRVC/CARA 2020 Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life. You can find the complete study here.
Approximately 70% of new entrants considered religious life before age 21. Most:
– Accessed a wide array of print and online resources as they discerned;
– Talked to their pastors; attended vocation-related events; and
– Received encouragement from religious, family, friends, parishioners, and campus ministers.
Therefore, the average age at entrance was 28. From before 21 years old when a young person might consider religious life to 28 years old when he or she actually enters! That’s seven years on average thinking about it!
As Salesians, I feel we need to pay attention to these bits of information. Since we are in contact with thousands of people younger than 21, we see the importance of giving joyful witness and proposing a vocation to religious life and ordained ministry. While I think we’re doing ok with this, what about the seven years that follow? Here is a more serious challenge for our province: In what significant ways are SDBs accompanying young adults through their 20s toward vocational discernment?
The Church views this very issue as a priority today. In 2018 there was the Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment. In preparation for this Synod, young people from around the world had the opportunity to make their voices heard through the online survey and the pre-synod meeting. After the Synod, the Pope wrote Christus Vivit. Not only was the theme very Salesian, but Salesians were involved in a variety of roles throughout this synodal process. The message and the process of the Synod were carried forward into GC28. If the Church and the Congregation have put so much energy into young people, faith, and vocational discernment, each confrere in our province has to ask himself “what am I doing?” again. More specifically, if we know from the NRVC/CARA survey that young men and women are making their vocational choices in their 20s, we have to ask ourselves, “How are we accompanying young adults toward vocational discernment?”
In addition to the small groups of young adults and SDBs that I wrote about last week, Fr. Dominic has some specific proposals in the plan of animation for vocations, which are part of the province strategic plan. These proposals can easily become components of the SDBs community vocation plan. Moreover, Fr. Dominic suggests joining young adults in prayer, faith sharing experiences, Lectio Divina, and missionary experiences with shared reflection on the experiences, personal and communal spiritual direction, retreats, catechesis that connects faith and life, and guided reflections on book spiritual reading.
All religious orders today feel the urgency of vocation promotion. We Salesians have tremendous opportunities before us to journey with young adults as they consider God’s call in their lives. Let’s make sure this kairos moment does not pass without our generous response and humble cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the young.
Fr. Tim Zak