The current issue of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review has an outstanding article by Fr. Damien Ference entitled, “Why vocation programs don’t work.”
His thesis is that we don’t have a vocation problem so much as a discipleship problem. We can’t assume that everybody that has some connection to the Church is already a disciple–and thus a ready recipient of sundry “vocation programs.”
Fr. Ference points to the fact that most people do not discover their vocation from vocation literature, but from real-life disciples who are living witnesses of what it means to be a married person, consecrated person, or priest. Such disciples beget other disciples.
Also, it is true that the programs that we provide for young people (and older people, for that matter) are sometimes light in the discipleship department. Fr. Ference writes:
“Let us take the example of a parish youth group to serve as a microcosm for our current situation. A youth group has a similar structure to most parish groups, in that most parish groups identify themselves in four ways: spiritual, service-oriented, social and catechetical. For a parish youth group to be what it is supposed to be, the first priority of the group must be to make disciples of young people who do not know Jesus, and to make stronger disciples of the ones who already know him. Such a suggestion seems quite basic and even simplistic at first glance, but this is precisely the point. Far too often we as a Church have failed with the most basic principle of discipleship while loading up on service projects and social activities, and the parish youth group becomes just one more line on a young person’s college résumé, without ever calling that young person to real conversion.”
A lot of food for thought. To view the article in its entirety, click here.