The concept of vocation is central to the Christian belief and in particular Catholic Church. Even though today vocation is seen in a broader sense of the use of ones gifts in their profession, family life, church and civic commitments for the sake of the greater common good. But we talk about it in its strict sense of Catholic clergy’s understanding, ‘a divine call to serve the Church and humanity through particular vocational life commitments to consecration as a religious, ordination to priestly ministry in the Church and even a holy life as a celibate.’
The concept of vocation has always been very close to my heart. I must confess that I am of the opinion that this belief of God’s call to serve God and people in an extra ordinary way has taken a beating. I shall share with you an incident that took place some years back. I was called to deliver a talk in a vocation camp organized by the religious congregation of nuns. There were participants from different parts of India. I did present a beautiful view of dedicated life from the point of serving people through established ministries and hard life of those involved in the direct evangelizing ministries. After the talk I noticed that the organizers were not happy with my presentation even though I saw glittering lights in the eyes of the participants.
One of the organizers took me to the exhibition of the ministries of the congregation in the adjoining room. It was really a splendid collection of photographs of huge school buildings, colleges, health services, convents and formation centres depicting various activities of the organization. It looked like a well established multi national business empire. I remember the caption, “Come and See, we serve millions throughout the world.” At the end of the exhibition I asked her, “I think that you did not like the talk?” She smiled at me and said, “We do not face any problem in our ministry, we are basically teachers and nurses. We are recruiting girls for this ministry. If you speak to them about problems then they will not join the congregation.” You may not know, these days children are looking for better career options." She concluded her conversation saying, "It is not my view, we had a long discussion in our Chapter on this issue." In her conversation she also told me that it is very difficult to find personnel for social apostolate because a good number of them feel that they will loose their colour if they walk in the sun for long. It was a new information for me.
I realized that the teaching of Lord Jesus on the beatitudes, the witnessing sacrifice of Lord Jesus on the cross and his warning to his disciples to be ready for suffering and even unto death, his message of poverty etc. has began to loose fervour even among the dedicated persons too. The Church had monopolized the social work and charity through Churches and convents till the religion and state got separated in the West. The social apostolate has slipped from the hands of priests, nuns and religious brothers to the laity. It has come to a stage that none needs to be a nun or priest or religious brother to do acts of charity or social development works. It is a fact that we have best of lay persons to manage educational institutions, health care services and developmental works. So the question comes before us, what are we offering to the youths to get attracted to the dedicated religoius life?
If we go a bit deeper into the subject we might be prompted to ask a question, are these organizations recruiting the youngsters to be dedicated men and women prepared to help people to find God in the path proposed by Lord Jesus or CEO styled men and women to manage the institutions? It also gives a feeling that these organizations are looking for free personnel to run the mighty empires. This feeling becomes stronger in us when we evaluate the different activities carried out by them.
The final statement of the FABC symposium on “consecrated life” held in December 7, 2009 stated, “We, consecrated persons feel…that in some ways, our credibility in the Church, especially in the eyes of the lay faithful, and among members of the larger community has been affected.” I am impelled to say that if we do not fall back to the message of Christ we may have many Churches and convents locked up in five decades because Christian Vocation to dedicated life is a call to help people to find God through the path proposed by Lord Jesus.