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Preaching the Vocation Gospel
27/04/2011 Omi Lacombe

Fr. Ken THORSON, the Vocation Director of OMI Lacombe Province, gives some food for thought for the Oblate Family throughout the world.

At the end of January, ten women and eight men attended a retreat, hosted by our pre-novice candidate Bradley Clark and me, and three Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. These eighteen people came to Discernment House, run by the Presentation Sisters, serious about knowing God’s will for their lives, curious about religious life, and open to it as a possible vocation choice. Over the weekend, these young adults learned a little about our vows, our community life and prayer, and they learned some good discernment methods, and we Oblates, along with the Sisters, learned something about the possibilities for collaboration.

Since that weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about our provincial approach to vocation ministry. In the last two years we have worked hard to lay some good foundations: the opening of the vocation office in Ottawa; vocation contacts in each district; the development of literature for candidates; the vocations website, numerous discernment weekends across the country, etc. While significant foundational work remains we are at a point where we need to begin asking some serious questions about the future of vocation ministry in our province.

As I speak with Oblates and Associates across the country it’s clear to me that most of us still want men to enter our community. At some point in these conversations however, my question is, “Why do you want that?” and although the answers vary from Oblate to Oblate and Associate to Associate, most can be summed up in this way: “We want men to enter the Oblates, because the world still needs the Oblate charism”. If we believe this then we obviously need to heighten our vocational efforts, and find new energy and means for inviting those gifted with our charism to join us.

But how will we do this? While we are not yet at the point of answering this question, we are working on it. In the meantime I want to encourage Oblates and Associates to be zealous in looking for opportunities, large and small, to promote vocations. Some examples of what each Oblate and Associate might do:

  • Commit to inviting one young person per year to consider taking in a discernment retreat.
  • Pray daily for vocations to the Oblates.
  • Reflect upon and write your own vocation story, and experience of ministry and community life and how you’ve come to know God in it. Send this to the vocation office for use in various promotional efforts.
  • Preach or speak publicly at least twice a year on the subject of vocations. Tell your vocation story – people love to hear our stories. Invite your hearers to share their stories and start a conversation about how God works in our lives.
  • As appropriate invite potential candidates to join you in your ministry, and to join you at your table and in your chapel. Let them get to know you.
  • Finally, reflect on your life as an Oblate or Associate. Where are you living your commitment well, and where is there room for change and growth? Recommit to the non-negotiables of community life.

St Francis famously said to his brothers, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” This is good and inspiring advice, but when it comes to vocation ministry it is not enough. To be sure we must live lives that are themselves a joyful invitation, but if we believe that the church and the world still has need of our charism today we must all of us be explicit about inviting people to join us… and in this work of invitation, words are necessary.