50 delegates from 22 European countries met in Rome, from 4 to 7 June, to attend the annual meeting for the heads of the vocations ministry of the Bishops´ Conferences of Europe which was entitled: “They spoke to each other of all the things that had happened ”(Lk 24,14). Questions and perspectives after the Synod. Three days of prayer, testimonies and reflections on the vocation to the Priesthood, to the male and female consecrated life, to Marriage in the light of the synod on the youth, the final document and the Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit.
The pinacle moment of the conference, the audience with Pope Francis who, in his impromptu speech, reminded the participants that a vocation “is not proselytism. It’s not looking for new members for this club. No! The work for vocations must move along the line of growth that Benedict XVI said so clearly: the growth of the Church is by attraction, not by proselytism.”
The challenge for the Church, the Pope continued, is “communicating with young people. Working with them requires a lot of patience. A lot of listening skills… It is necessary to understand their language, which is a poor language of communion, because although they know so much about contacts, they don’t communicate. We need to accompany, guide, and help the youth so that the encounter with the Lord will show them the way in life. Young people are all different; they are different in all places, but they are equal in their anxiety, in their thirst for greatness, in the desire to do good. They are all the same.“
In the course of the work, the participants then elected, for a second three-year term, Fr Emil Parafiniuk, of the Polish Bishops´ Conference, Coordinator of the European Vocations Service (EVS). He will be assisted in his service by Fr Michele Gianola, of the Italian Bishops´ Conference, the reconfirmed vice-coordinator and also by Sister Elaine Penrice of the English Bishops´ Conference, new vice-coordinator.
Finally, a programmatic commitment for the work to be done in the respective Bishops´ Conferences was outlined by H. E. Mgr. Oscar Cantoni, Archbishop of Como and head of the Vocations Section of the CCEE. In his conclusions he stated,
“In the current almost univocal cultural context vocations have diminished, but neither the enthusiasm of the proposal nor the certainty that the Lord will not fail in giving ministers to His Church has been extinguished; the call to a special consecration is still attractive and timely. Young people are the recipients of our commitment with a look of benevolence, esteem and trust; they want to be loved within so much loneliness that they experience. They are strict with the Church but if they find credible witnesses from within it then they are attracted to it. They want to be involved in the Announcement to become first witnesses for other young people. They must be accompanied so that they recognize the work of God in their personal experiences and are available to listen to God who asks something more of them.”