This is a photo of the World Council of the Marianist Family (WCMF) taken at last November’s meeting in Rome. The members represent the leadership teams from the four different vocations in the Marianist Family: Marianist Lay Communities (MLC), the Society of Mary (priest and religious brothers), the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (religious sisters) and the Alliance Mariale (a secular order of consecrated women).
In my two terms on the MLC leadership team, I attended nine WCMF meetings. We gather as equals around the table sharing the current blessings and challenges of each of our branches around the world. In these conversations, I learned much about the global reality of the church, and the global reality of religious vocations. I wrote about this in my latest Prairie Messenger article, for a special issue on Vocations…
In my Marianist work and travels I have made many friends with sisters, brothers and priests of all ages and from all corners of the world. The ones who stand out are those who are, indeed, attractive witnesses. They dare to live differently in the world but not as strange otherworldly creatures that stand above or apart from others. Hierarchical mindsets and self-appointed exclusivity may be attractive to some, but not for most Catholics today.
The attractive witnesses, for me, are the religious women and men who embrace the joys and trials of community life for it keeps them grounded in their humanity. Collaboration with the laity is assumed and comes naturally, because the only way to be church is to be church together. They do not seek special status or privilege for they know that holiness and wisdom are not automatically conferred with vows or sacramental oils. Their holiness comes from their wholeness. Read more…..
On the first Friday of each month, the Marianist Family is called to pray the Magnificat for a specific social justice issue or project. This month we are united in prayerful support with the newest project of our Marianist Sisters in India. To fully appreciate the magnitude of this project, you have to realize that the Sisters are small in number (with only a handful of members in India), but truly audacious in faith!
Singhpur, is located in a poor rural area of northern India near Ranchi. The Marianist sisters there were aware of rising rates of infant and maternal mortality in childbirth, diseases and infections that could be easily treated if there was a local medical clinic. Through the support of Accion Marianista, the Marianist Sisters, and the Italian bishop’s conference, such a clinic became a reality.
The clinic serves 28 villages and 900 students of the Chaminade School sponsored by the Marianist brothers. Currently a doctor, nurse, laboratory technician, and two nuns work in the clinic. On the day the clinic opened, November 25, 2013, it served more than 90 people. Adult patients are asked to pay a nominal fee and students of Chaminade School receive free medical service. (From the Friday Magnificat, May 2, 2014)
Here is a video put together by Accion Marianista, a Marianist sponsored NGO and supporter of the project.
2 thoughts on “a Marianist experience of global vocation realities”
Thank you for another very well written article and for the opportunity to dialogue.
I don’t think a person has to travel very far from home to experience firsthand ‘the issues affecting the priesthood and vowed religious life’ in our culture. While waiting to go to confession at a chapel in a city near our home, run by vowed religious women; and as the priest was late in showing up at the indicated time – the confessional line grew as it snaked its way around the chapel and as I ran out to put more money in the parking meter. As I waited it became apparent to me how the lack of priests and vowed religious vocations would ultimately play out in time in very practical terms – no priests = no sacraments; no vowed religious would, in this case, mean no house of worship and no house of refuge for migrant women.
After some time and after some people left the line to meet other obligations, the priest finally showed up and apologized for his being late and explained the mix up in the time which was not his fault – he mentioned that he had just been hearing children’s confessions elsewhere. And he would be saying the mass that followed later that morning. Quite a work load for a Saturday for this elderly priest and undoubtedly a 24/365 work load for the aging religious women running the house and chapel – I sincerely wonder where the committed lay persons would come from to fill the void once these vowed religious and this priest are no more.
While it is valid to recognize “that holiness and wisdom are not automatically conferred with vows or sacramental oils”; it seems to me that empowered lay people alone will not be able to fill the void that will be left when there are no more priests or vowed religious with whom to ‘collaborate.’
While acknowledging the importance of the ‘way of attraction’ imposed on the vowed religious and clergy I have to wonder how that attraction will play out as there are fewer and fewer religious and clergy available to provide the “attraction.” And ultimately, who will provide that ‘attraction’ when all the priests and vowed religious are gone? As things presently stand; and based on the fact that ‘vocations to religious life and the priesthood have declined in North America and Europe’, it appears to me that the usual sources of ‘attraction’ in our culture have weakened and continue to disappear.
Some might see the present situation as a cultural evolution and as inevitable. Or maybe Jesus was right when He said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (her)”; and that just maybe we aren’t listening very well; or that maybe we lay people, by our lives, prayers and example, have to assist the Holy Spirit in creating the space for the listening to take place – and by recognizing that the priesthood or vowed religious vocation is a firstly a ‘call from the Holy Spirit’ notwithstanding that we ourselves, as committed lay persons, were not necessarily called to it?
Hi Paul! Thanks again for taking the time to partake of the dialogue….and with such thought. Your comments are a concrete nudge to face the reality. The reality is, and will most probably continue into the near future, that we have an increasing shortage of priests and religious. And, as you say, attraction is difficult if there is no one to do the attracting. I live in a rural community. In days past, religious sisters travelled during summer months to teach catechism to local children. Today, children can grow up without ever meeting a religious brother or sister. The priesthood, itself, is looked upon with suspicion because of the sexual abuse scandals. Priests can no longer befriend or mentor young men who might be considering a religious vocation.
What will the church of the future look like? God only knows. I personally hope that it isn’t a revitalization of the clericalism (both male and female) of the past. The young Marianist religious sisters, brothers and priests that I know here in North America are faith filled women and men with no presumptions of exclusivity. Most were formed in lay communities before they entered noviciates and seminaries. They are courageous to enter religious life at this time in our church’s history, and they give me much hope.
Thanks again for your thoughts!
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