EVS - Vocations Section

The challenges of vocation ministry in Europe in the time of the pandemic

Annual meeting of the directors for vocational pastoral work

The annual conference organised by the European Vocation Service was held on 14 and 15 May. The online mode enabled some fifty delegates from twenty-two European Bishops’ Conferences to attend.

The introduction to the work by H. Em. Card. Angelo Bagnasco, CCEE President, renewed the awareness of the uniqueness of each vocation and its singularity in the service of the Church.

Father Valdemar Linke, a biblical scholar from the Passionists in Warsaw, gave the first talk of the morning. His profound analysis of the texts of the Apocalypse has oriented reflection on the following of Christ as the central element of every Christian vocation and the indispensable key to all pastoral work for vocations. The call to follow Christ is addressed to the Church, an eschatological community living in time but oriented towards the divine reality and which is realised in the commitment – in response to the call – within the historical, social, political and cultural reality.

The time of the pandemic – the second step that Ruth Holgate from the Jesuit youth ministry in London guided – was a creative opportunity to transfer spiritual direction meetings, individual retreats, liturgies and group prayers online. In addition to some limitations, it was possible to discover that the Spirit’s imagination offered new possibilities to carry on his work of calling young people to a deeper life of faith and service.

In the evening, thanks to a vocational vigil with testimonies from different individuals in countries across Europe, we were able to experience the communion that binds us together in the one body of the Church and, although we were far apart, the invocation to the Lord to send workers to his Mass rose vigorously and full of hope. The next day, saw a summary to recount what has been achieved in the time of the pandemic, what difficulties and what signs of potential have been encountered.

In the midst of all the pain and suffering of this year, the cry of many young people and adults thirsting – perhaps even more – for real words could be heard. The great questions raised by the pandemic call for words of the Gospel and the life of the Spirit. The risk of wasting this opportunity would be a further grave loss. No one has any solutions; it is a question of living through this time. The Church has been tested, but at the same time consoled by the Spirit and, as His Bride, by Christ. We have been stripped, disoriented, wounded. But this crucible to which history has subjected us must free us from old and spurious things so that the gold of the Lord’s presence can emerge and that it can shine through our communities, in the likeness of Christ.

The words of H. E. Msgr Oscar Cantoni, Bishop of Como and head of the CCEE Vocations Section, together with those of a number of other bishops who spoke at the assembly, instilled hope and renewed vigour in the passion for vocational proclamation and accompaniment not based on strategies and activities alone but anchored in the living certainty of the Lord’s Resurrection.

Link to Saturday’s prayer Vigil: