VATICAN CITY, JUNE 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II encouraged the flowering of vocations to the priestly and consecrated life that the Church is experiencing in Colombia.
“A sign of hope” for the Church in that country, is how the Pope described the phenomenon when he received a group of Colombian bishops in audience today.
The growth of vocations to ecclesiastical communities “is an expression of their vitality,” the Holy Father said.
In some Colombian regions, “rich in priestly and religious vocations,” the seminaries are “a special blessing for the Church, as the priests who come out of them not only serve in your local Churches but, in addition, some do not hesitate to go and collaborate in more needy areas,” he said.
<br> The Pope encouraged the Colombian prelates to “continue on that path, without neglecting an assiduous pastoral vocational program for the future, conscious of the irreplaceable role of every ecclesial community in this task.”
John Paul II said vocations depend on two fundamental elements. First, “incessant prayer to the owner of the harvest that he send workers to the harvest” is needed.
Second, the Holy Father said, children and young people must be educated “to face the challenges of Christian life,” also presenting to them “the conditions to hear the divine call to follow Christ on the path of the priestly or consecrated life through the evangelical counsels.”
“Take my greetings to young people, called to be ‘morning watchmen’ of this new millennium, hope of the Church and of the nation; in particular I am thinking of Colombian youths who are preparing for the priesthood or religious life in seminaries and houses of formation,” the Pontiff said, before bidding the bishops farewell.
In 2001, there were 4,960 students of philosophy and theology preparing to be diocesan or religious priests in Colombia — an 85% increase since 1985, according to data in the Church’s Statistical Yearbook.