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What is a Culture of Vocations?

Jul 20, 2023

We use this term a lot in Serra. Creating a Culture of Vocations in parishes and dioceses is our primary strategy to achieve our Serra mission. But what does it mean? How do we know we have achieved it? What are the signs that a Culture of Vocations exists in a parish or diocese? Unless we can clearly articulate the answers to these questions, Serrans cannot be sure of our success in fostering and affirming all priesthood and religious vocations. Let’s start with the word “culture.” It means a set of shared values, attitudes and behavioral norms that bind a community of individuals together

For Catholics, these shared values, attitudes, and behavioral norms are defined by the teachings of Jesus Christ. It begins with the belief that Jesus Christ is God—one of the three persons in the blessed Trinity—and that we are formed in the image and likeness of God. Our God is a God of love, so too must we love one another. And Christ taught us that God must be first in our lives. And that means God’s will comes first. God’s will means, first and foremost, striving to know and put into action the special, unique purpose for which God created us–each day, each season of our lives and for our lives as a whole. A Christian community helps and supports each other in this goal. So what is a Culture of Vocations? It is about priesthood and religious vocations but also much more. It means a Christian community where God comes first. And because God comes first, each member of the community strives to do God’s will— not our own will or what someone else wills for us. That means every person in the community striving to discover and act upon the special purpose for which each was created by God and supporting others to do the same. How do we know a Culture of Vocations exists in a parish or diocese? Look for signs that God comes first. One of the best signs is regular Eucharistic Adoration—especially Adoration for multiple hours at a time. Adoration is not obligatory and shows that God does come first in Catholics’ lives. Another is long lines and many hours set aside for confession. Group rosaries are also evidence of God being first. A parish or diocese with a strong Culture of Vocations will be one where marriages are strong, where there is a Culture of Life, a culture of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and a culture of inclusion and forgiveness. It is only in this environment that we can be sure that every call to a vocation—whether it be to ordained ministry, the religious life, the married life, or the single life–will be heard and responded to by individuals who know they have the support of Christians in the community. They know because those Christians are on the same journey themselves, even if it be something other than those vocations which are expressly promoted and supported by Serrans. First and foremost, they seek to discover and do God’s will in their lives. For them, God comes first! This is what a Culture of Vocations means and what we strive for in Serra. It Starts with Each of Us Individually Christ’s calling is uniquely individual. So for Serrans, creating a Culture of Vocations must begin within each of us individually before we can change others. Each day we arise from sleep, we need to put God first and ask what is the special, unique purpose he has for us this day, for this season in our life and for all our life. This is what growing in holiness is all about. We must first ask of ourselves the same thing we seek from those called to priesthood or religious life—to put God first, to discover his will for us and to strive with courage to achieve His will for us. To grow a Culture of Vocations in our parishes and dioceses, we must first grow it in ourselves. God bless you!

Mike Downey, President, USA Council of Serra International