In a time when precision and order are desirable qualities within any endeavor under the sun, one would be hard-pressed to find such things in the world of vocation promotion and the ministry of ushering the next generation of priests and brothers into the Dominican Order and the Central Province.
Vocation work is just simply messy. Nothing goes as planned. What someone might think is a great idea for promoting vocations very often turns out to be a huge bust. No one shows up or no one responds to the great event that is planned. A candidate that you were sure was going to be in the next class of novices, suddenly, and without notice, drops off the face of the earth. When these things happen, and they will, one must not lose hope.
The vocation minister will succeed and fail many times over the length of the ministry assignment, but that’s the reality of this world. The long-term average of retention in religious life and seminary formation is fifty percent. Yes, half of all who start will make it all the way to final vows and/or ordination. So how does one maintain hope and sanity in a low yield ministry?
I have quickly found out that one has to be flexible and willing to adapt to change if one is going to succeed in this challenging, yet enjoyable, ministry of vocations promotion. More importantly, the vocation minister must be willing to be in this for the long haul and not waiver from being a constant gadfly to congregational members about their responsibility to be faithful witnesses to the world of a life worth living and a vocation worth exploring. That’s the work of a vocation minster. I am not here to be supported by the members of the Central Province; I am here to support the members of the province in their promotion of the Dominican vocation.
This is the reason we are having so much success in our province regarding vocations. Our members are manning our ministries in a way that makes our life attractive to young men who have many options open to them. In seeing and hearing our men preach the gospel in the many ways that they do, these men become inspired to explore our way of life, to attend a “Come and See Weekend”, or to join a discernment group on campus or in the parish. Then, maybe they will ask to go further to become one of us.
It’s a messy business. No two men discern the same way. No two men take the same amount of time to figure all of this out. But there is little doubt that the Holy Spirit is in charge. We are getting vocations. We are getting many inquiries. Everyday I usually have one new contact to respond to and to help in his discernment. And it never looks the same twice.
It may be messy, but it is a blessing to take the journey with these men. It is a blessing because this is an adventure that is the authentic work of the Holy Spirit!