By Fr. John Roche, SDB
Coordinator for Vocations
For the last six weeks, while so much of the world has observed shelter-in-place, I have reached out to more than 100 persons who have contacted me in the past three years. A vast majority of these men have been directed toward our Congregation as part of the Vocation Network “Vocation Match” test. I went through every single contact and reached out with an email about discernment at this desperate time on the advice of Andres. Andres found some interesting resources that some Congregations put on their websites. It was ironic that he made that suggestion while I was in the middle of crafting our own outreach. I sent a copy of that email to every Salesian in the Province.
In the email, I connected directly with the inquiring individual identifying the date on which I received their “Vocation Match.” In the back of my mind, I wondered if this effort was worth all the fuss since for many, in three, two, or even one year I had never received any further sign of interest. But I reached out hopefully drawing attention to this precarious moment in history and asked each one if discernment was still on their mind and heart. Then I gave them guidelines for discernment during the pandemic.
Never have a received such amazing response as I have in the last few weeks. I have received emails, phone calls, and texts with re-awakened interest. Many indicated that they had been in college and, now graduating, wanted to get back on track. Even now, there are at least two young men who are very interested. They have their four year college degrees and are at a point where they feel the need to investigate this calling more closely. I ask all of you to pray for these young men that they will have the courage to step forward.
There are many more who have begun open dialogues with me and are at varying levels of growing discernment. As I had promised in the email, I did write to every single individual on that list with a personal hand-written letter that echoed back for many of them their “Vocation Match” experiences of God, their desires for service, and some of their own dreams. This letter, too, had an amazing result. I have received many hand-written responses, emails, and phone calls. I have been continually at this desk day and night on the phone, sharing the process of application with many, and checking my emails and messages constantly.
I have also shared with each of them our Entrustment to Mary, Help of Christians Prayer which has also drawn much support and appreciation. These inquiring adults range from 17 to 36 years of age with varying backgrounds of work and experience.
At the moment, I am engaged with the Formation Commission in the designing of a Candidacy Program for such possible applicants. There are currently three men in process for next year. One has been accepted by the Assessment Team. Another is being prepared for ZOOM Conference Interviews by the Assessment Team. And another is preparing his document and weighing his options. There are still others, but they are still on the edge of making a move but not quite there yet.
So, much prayer is needed for these young men—both those applying and those seriously considering such a move in the near future.
Please include these men in your prayers in every community. I will not offer names until there is a firm commitment and the process of admittance is underway, but I hope to offer two or three or four names very soon.
Juan Carlos Montenegro has shared with me that Fr. Vaclav Clement has picked up the original email I sent for discernment during the pandemic and is using it to display vocation efforts in the world that are effective. That’s good news.
And if you know a young person in a parish, youth center, or school who should enter into this dialogue about serving as a Salesian, be sure to let me know!
I end by sharing the main points of the first email:
What should you do in the meantime?
- Keep praying
- Keep longing
- Pray for the world and those offering their lives to save others
- Reach out in any way you can to alleviate the suffering of others
- Take care of your health and be vigilant about your self-care
- Read Jeremiah 29:11-14 and believe the Lord’s promise there.
Thanks to Fr. Dominic Tran, we will be meeting with such interested men on our third “Virtual Vocation Session” ZOOM Meeting this weekend with two more to go in June. Many of those I contacted came to these conferences and were thankful for the virtual contact and discussions.
So, keep praying, please!