An ecological or systemic change approach to Vincentian Family Vocations
Fr. Tomaž Mavrič writes to the Vincentian Family:
In my letter of 25 January 2017, at the beginning of the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism, I invited every member of the Vincentian Family to take one very concrete step; that is, every member is to bring one new candidate to one of the branches of the Vincentian Family.
These words came to mind when I read someone using the concept of ecosystem to connect the simultaneous celebration of Earth Day and World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Part of me thought “Huh?” Yet, another part of me thought: what an apt analogy.
I never thought of a “culture of vocations” in terms of an ecosystem. But St. Paul did long before the words “ecology” and “ecosystems” entered our vocabularies. Recall his concept of the “body of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and how parts are interconnected and at the service of each other. He writes to say that all parts of the system have contributions for the good of the whole.
A Forgotten Truth
Within the Vincentian Family, especially in many well-developed countries, we are aware of the ”greying” of many branches of the family. When I entered the Eastern Province of Congregation of the Mission some sixty years ago we were upwards of 400. Today we hover around the 100 mark.
For many, there has been a tendency to double our outreach programs and focus our vocation efforts on a particular age group, men or women… always with a view to our own branches of the Vincentian Family.
It seems to me Fr. Mavrič (and Pope Francis) seem to be calling for a systemic change in our approach to vocation. They are asking us to look at the ecosystem of the Vincentian Charism manifested in the Vincentian Family. It is something like Jesus asking a group of tired fisherman to “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” He is asking us to be vocation directors for one another, not just our own group.
As I think of this, it may not be something new but rather the expansion of something that I often heard of in my early years. When listening to the vocation stories of men who served in the Congregation of the Mission in the last century there was often a common thread. “It was a Daughter of Charity who pointed me to the Vincentians.”
What is perhaps new in Fr. Mavrič’s call is the expansion of this call. I read it as a call for every member of every branch to invite people across the board to consider engaging in the charism to “bring Good News to those who are poor.” Maybe we have put too much emphasis on Vocation Director and not enough on ourselves. And maybe we have put too much focus on our own particular group.
I don’t think Sr. Rosalie Rendu thought of herself as a Vocation Director for the Daughters of Charity. What she did so simply and humbly was to invite people to walk alongside in her more than 50 years ministering in one neighborhood. She engaged people in the actual bringing of Good News. Thanks to her we had a whole new branch of the Family which today numbers in the hundreds of thousands.
Ecosystem of the Vincentian Charism
The Culture of Vocations means an environment in which all people can discover and rediscover their reason for being on this earth, the meaning of life, the mission they are called to fulfill, the call they are invited to answer. The Culture of Vocations puts Jesus in first place, no matter if it is as a layperson or a consecrated person.
We carry in our hearts a deep desire to pass on to future generations the charism and spirituality we have been given. Prayers for new vocations are brought incessantly before God, along with so many initiatives and efforts. The beginning of the fifth century of the Vincentian Charism gives us another opportunity to make renewed efforts toward a Culture of Vocations. This is also very much in tune with the theme of this year’s Synod of Bishops, which will take place in October in Rome, “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”
Putting all in the hands of Providence, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, the Saints, Blessed, and Servants of God of the Vincentian Family, we repeat the encouraging word to each other, the word Saint Vincent de Paul used when he was asked what else could he do in life, and he responded “more.”
Your brother in Saint Vincent,
Tomaž Mavrič, CM Superior General
Consider his concluding questions:
- How have I responded to this invitation so far?
- How active have I been in the first half of the jubilee year in this area?
- Did I encourage someone to become active in one of the branches of the Vincentian Family, either in one of the women’s or men’s Congregations of consecrated life or in one of the lay branches?