October 31, 2014

Religious Vocations Supplement

Promoting vocations and missionary discipleship

By Fr. Eric Augenstein

In addressing vocation directors from around the United States at a recent conference, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, shared what he believes to be the gift that Pope Francis is offering to vocations: the gift of missionary discipleship.

A missionary goes to a place where he or she is not wanted, and speaks a message people don’t want to hear. A disciple grows daily in relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer and service. These two realities come together in the vision that Pope Francis has set before the Church and the world: a vision of missionary discipleship.

While all Christians share in this missionary discipleship, priests, deacons and consecrated religious are called in a particular way to go to the outskirts of our communities carrying the message of Jesus Christ. We are called to live the alternative to the self-centeredness of our times and to be generous in loving all those we encounter. We do so grounded in prayer, rooted in community, and nourished by the sacraments.

This vision of missionary discipleship guides not only the lives of clergy and consecrated religious, but also the work we do in promoting these vocations in the Church. Cardinal O’Brien challenged vocation directors to broaden their engagement with culture in order to present a vision of ordained ministry and consecrated life beyond those who would naturally be drawn to these vocations.

Here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, we are trying to take seriously both the call to missionary discipleship that comes from Pope Francis, and Cardinal O’Brien’s challenge to broaden our engagement with culture and the young Church.

While we continue to offer regular discernment programs such as retreats, dinners with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and peer discernment groups, we also spend considerable time forming relationships and being a visible presence wherever the young Church gathers—at Theology on Tap programs sponsored by the archdiocesan Young Adult and College Campus Ministry, on college campuses and in our high schools, at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., and through various opportunities for evangelization and service.

Vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life grow and blossom in countless ways and at varied places—and we hope to be a presence and provide resources to families, parishes, schools and individuals at any point along the journey.

But we also need your help. Those of us who minister full time in vocations cannot do this task alone. We cannot reach all the places where the seeds of a religious vocation are being planted. We must work together as an entire Church to be missionary disciples who walk with one another along the journey of faith in discovering God’s call for each of us.

Parents, catechists, teachers, family members, parish leaders, youth ministers, priests, deacons and consecrated religious—both individually and as a community—can reach out to all corners of our culture to reflect the light of Christ and help to illumine the path to holiness. This shared missionary discipleship can hold up the variety of Christian vocations—marriage, priesthood, diaconate and consecrated religious life—as authentic paths to holiness.

Will you join me in being a missionary disciple? Will you join me in raising up the next generation of priests, deacons and consecrated religious for the Church and the world?

(Father Eric Augenstein is vocations director of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. For more information about the ministry of the archdiocesan vocations office, log on to www.HearGodsCall.com.)

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