Priests for the 3rd Millennium

New Vatican Document Gives Guidelines on Vocations Work

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 25, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Congregation for Catholic Education today released a 27-page document with guidelines on how to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The text, “Pastoral Guidelines for Fostering Vocations to Priestly Ministry,” is made up of three parts that examine the state of vocations in today’s world, the vocation and identity of priesthood and suggestions for the promotion of vocations.

The guidelines are based on the results of a questionnaire sent out worldwide after the 2008 plenary assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education and was written with input from the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Eastern Churches, for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and for the Clergy.

The key to understanding the text lies in the idea that «fostering vocations to the priesthood is a constant challenge for the Church,» said Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The final text was approved by the Holy Father on March 25, the 20th anniversary of the apostolic exhortation «Pastores dabo vobis».

The document describes the current situation of priestly vocations as “good and bad.” It notes how consumerism, falling birth-rates and a fall in religious practice have led to a decline in vocations and an increasingly elderly pool of priests to serve the Church.

A new situation

“In traditionally Christian countries, the worrying fall in the number of priests, the rising of their average age and the requirements of the new evangelization are shaping a new situation for the Church,” the document states.

«In the light of those difficulties,” said Cardinal Grocholewski, the document «lays down the conditions necessary to ensure that the grace of the call finds fertile terrain in the Church, and openness among young people to the priestly vocation.” This includes «creating a fruitful soil for Christian life in the ecclesial community; … the irreplaceable function of prayer; … the importance of integrated pastoral care; … a new drive to evangelisation and the mission; … the central role of the family; … a coherent and joyful witness of life on the part of priests; … the educational effectiveness of voluntary work; … and the importance of schools and universities».

The guidelines note that young people are more open to God’s call when they are presented with a strong example of Christian life in the home, or wider community. Moreover, young men often feel encouraged to consider a vocation as a result of the “joyful witness of the priests” they have encountered in their lives.

“The Church, aware of the need for vocations to the priesthood, recognizes that they are a gift from God and prays to the Lord with incessant and trusting supplication that he will be generous in giving them,” the guidelines said.

“The most favourable environment for vocations to the priesthood is every Christian community that listens to the Word of God, prays with the liturgy and gives witness with charity. In this context, the mission of a priest is most clearly perceived and recognized,” the document concludes.

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