Bishops Urged to Collaborate With Religious

Study Shows Need to Promote Consecrated Vocations

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 18, 2009 ( Bishops are being encouraged to cultivate relations with religious orders in their dioceses in order to collaborate in the promotion of all vocations.

Holy Cross Brother Paul Bendarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocations Conference, issued this appeal to the U.S. bishops’ conference today at their fall general assembly in Baltimore.

He affirmed this after presenting a report on a religious vocations study, which was commissioned by his conference and carried out by Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, explained that this study was designed to help the prelates in their role as «chief shepherds» in the task of promoting vocations to the consecrated life.

Brother Bendarczyk stated that until now, there has never been such an extensive study on religious vocations, including the demographics of the people who are currently entering the consecrated life, and the characteristics of those congregations that are attracting and retaining new members.

The results are «sobering,» he reported, as in general men and women religious are a «shrinking and aging population.»


However, the brother expressed the hope that these numbers will soon increase, and that this report will help to put a vocational promotion strategy in place.

He noted that in recent years, «younger people are beginning to look at religious life as a viable option.»

One concern that the director mentioned to the bishops is that many people who have recently pursued religious vocations reported that they received the least encouragement in this decision by their parishes and priests.

Thus, he urged the bishops to make vocations a priority by speaking publicly about the consecrated life and not just the priesthood.

The brother appealed to the prelates to meet with the major superiors of the congregations in their dioceses to discuss the results of this study. He noted that the vocations conference has posted on its Web site, along with the report, a list of questions that can help in this discussion.

Brother Bendarczyk asked the bishops to provide direction through their diocesan vocation offices to those people wishing to pursue forms of consecrated life, and to share in the responsibility for its promotion.

«Young people need someone in Church leadership who can call forth their talents,» he said, and challenge them to give their gifts to serve Christ.


«We are all aware of the tensions that sometimes come between the hierarchy and the religious in this country,» the brother said.

He added, however, that it is a question of «collaboration, not competition,» and appreciation for distinct role each plays in building up the Body of Christ.

«Let us be a beacon for the young people,» Brother Bendarczyk urged. «For the good of all, let us invite a new generation of priests, sisters and brothers.»

Let us be united by «our love for Jesus Christ and the Church,» and «may our mutual efforts be blessed,» he concluded.

In an earlier session on Tuesday, the bishops affirmed their priority commitment to foster vocations. They approved a plan proposed by their vocations task force to foster a «vocations culture within homes» through concrete projects such as the creation of a new interactive Web site.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, stood up at today’s session to express support for all that religious brothers and sisters have given to build up the Church in the United States.

He affirmed: «Sisters and Brothers, we are with you. We need you to be faithful, because without you the Church will not be strong.»

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On the Net:

National Religious Vocations Conference report:

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