God calls everyone. Let us respond to Hope!

Congress of the National Delegates for Youth Ministry

God has a life project for everyone! Yesterday as today, Christ calls men and women to respond to their personal “call from God”. In Tirana, about fifty delegates representing their Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, coming from 17 European countries, gathered at the invitation of H. Ex. Msgr. Ottavio Vitale, Bishop of Lehzë and delegate for the vocational ministry of the Albanian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, to talk about the beauty of the Christian vocation.

Based on the sharing in plenary and the working groups, it was possible to see the richness of the experiences lived by various ecclesial bodies to adapt the pastoral care of vocations to the challenges of a world in constant change. In fact, alongside the “traditional” pastoral forms (prayer meetings, Eucharistic adoration, school camps, voluntary service…) there are new experiences (videos, campaigns on the web …) aimed at witnessing the beauty of a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life.

According to H. Ex. Msgr. Oscar Cantoni, bishop in charge of  the EVS, the “Vocations” Section of the “Youth” Commission of CCEE who organized the meeting, “we do not start from scratch in vocational ministry, because we have abundant magisterial indications, fruit of a rich shared experience matured in the field in the various countries of Europe, also in the light of a significant document, of which we celebrate the twentieth anniversary: ​​ In Verbo tuo.”

Precisely on the basis of this Vatican document, Fr. Amedeo Cencini, a professor at the Salesian University and at the Institute of Psychology of the Gregorian University in Rome, proposed an analysis of the state of vocations in Europe. Figures show that it is not accurate to talk about a crisis of vocations in Europe today. In fact, if a negative vocational trend is perceived, as the result of a secular ideology that is becoming more and more global and general, this is true only for some vocations – those that we could consider the classical-traditional ones (priests, religious…). There are signs that show both the lasting fruitfulness of these vocations and the presence of new vocational experiences of consecrated life which extend the concepts of vocation, consecration, and call. Fr. Cencini recalls that the vocational proposal is basically a Kerigma, because it is a mystery of the calling God and of the caller who responds to His love.

Moreover, from the participants’ reports it was possible to notice a clear tendency to connect more and more the vocational ministry with other pastoral care, particularly with the youth ministry. This was also emphasised by Fr. Fabio Attard SBD, Adviser for the Salesian Youth Ministry, who presented the results of a survey carried out at five Catholic Bishops’ conferences in preparation of the next Synod. Many interventions underlined the important work undertaken by the individual ecclesial bodies to prepare for the Synod of Bishops on Youth, faith, and vocational discernment, scheduled for next October in Rome. Witnessing this bond with the Synod, we listened to the daily experiences of faith of a group of young people from different dioceses of Albania and from Germany.

In addition, the delegates’ reports have increasingly shown the awareness that the pastoral care of vocations is a responsibility of the whole Christian community. Hence the numerous activities that also involve other pastoral areas, first of all the family. This appears even more clearly when we are dealing with a vocation to ministerial priesthood, as recalled by H. Ex. Msgr. Jorge Carlos Patron Wong, Secretary for the Seminaries of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy. The vocation to priesthood is a gift that God gives to the Church and to the world, therefore it cannot be treated with an individualistic approach, but it needs the support of the whole community, since “this reference to the community will work throughout the priestly life.” Regarding the vocation to consecrated life, Sr. Nathalie Becquart, Head of the National Service for the Evangelization of Youth and Vocations of the French Catholic Bishops’ Conference, insisted on the importance of a “more marqued synodal” vocational ministry.

During the meeting, the delegates carried out a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Counsel (Patron of Albania) in Scutari, where they also visited the Museum-former prison (close to the monastery of St. Claire Sisters) of the Albanian secret police (“Sigurimi”) at the time of the Communist regime. The life of the 38 Albanian blessed martyrs, killed for their faith, is an image of a vocation lived in fullness and still testifies to the spiritual richness of a Church in a country that the totalitarian regime wanted to transform into an atheist nation.

During the meeting, fr. Michele Gianola (Italy) and fr. Filip Hacour (Belgium) have been elected EVS Vice-Coordinators for a one year mandate. They will guide EVS together with fr. Emil Parafiniuk (Poland).

Next meeting will take place during the first week of July 2019.

Other information (Programme, Photos…) will be available here.

The news release is available in Albanian, Catalan, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.