Marist Brother Sean Sammon gave a wonderful, week-long retreat to the retirement community as well as the residents here in the main building. From everything I heard from the men, they appreciated his simple, straightforward presentations.
Here is a synopsis of his talk on Thursday, offering us the Virgin Mary as the model of discipleship.
There is a dying and rising that we must be about, individually and as an institution. Renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to get out of the way.
While the future may be with the Laity, there are still people called to exclusively religious life. The 1960s may have been an aberration with regards to numbers of vocations. We must look back over a whole century to get a more realistic view.
Many young people do not know a priest, Brother or Sister personally.
Young people have more choices than we did a few decades ago.
Some congregations have made a conscious decision to die. This is a shame because the congregation does not belong its members, but to the church.
We can create a fatalistic atmosphere or be open, inviting and welcoming.
The younger generation has not been catechized as we were.
They live in a world filled with questions.
The young are not conservative or traditional. They do not really know the past as we know and lived it. We must enter a dialogue with them.
A cross-section of young people show the same range of opinions as we have.
We must keep an open mind about views different than ours.
Imagine what parents think about the realities of religious life.
Each of us and our lives are the best advertisement for religious life.
Mary is a model of vocational discernment. She pondered these things in her heart.
Jesus is the ideal vocation promoter. "Come, follow me."
Vocation is tied up in our life dream. On whom or in what do you place your heart?
Most young people don't feel worthy of religious life.
Young people have a great respect for priests and religious.
Mary at the Annunciation:
Growing awareness that the call comes from God
Leap of faith.
A vocation is not a one time call, but a life-long conversation.
For some it begins in the high school years or university.
First reaction: let's hope these feelings go away.
The persistence of the Lord.
What can we do to change the perception?
Prior to Vatican II we knew who we were.
There was reinforcement for making this choice.
We began to ask: what makes us different?
Families became less sure about who wears.
What encourages young people to join today?
Zeal for mission
Love for people
Love of God
Spirit of welcome and hospitality.
Young people prefer priests, brothers and sisters who are personable, approachable, outgoing; less comfortable with those who seem remote or stern.
Retreats and "come and see" programs are effective.
It's a mistake to wait till after a prospect is post college graduation.
Families are smaller now; young people make commitments at a later age, they have more choices.
Celibate chastity doesn't make sense to a number of young people.
Target specific age groups (high school and university age students).
,Be a living example of God's Good News.
Young people are looking for answers, stability, rediscovering traditional practices of faith.
They believe in external signs. (Habits, crosses, tattoos [I added this to see who's paying attention.])
Talk to individual young people and resist temptation to stereotype or generalize.
They are looking for active community life and a vibrant life of prayer.
Are some of our present structures and attitudes doing more to discourage vocations rather than promote them?