Bishop John J. Nevins of the Diocese of Venice in Florida invites various priests, religious and laity every year for an Easter dinner at his house. I was fortunate to be invited this year. I sat next to a Carmelite priest at the table and we discussed various things including vocations. The Carmelite province that Father belongs to run a few Catholic high schools. They receive some vocations by staying in touch with students after graduation. However, most of their vocations in the United States come through the Internet, he assured me. I wasnt surprised.
The same is true for my community. Most inquiries come from the Internet. However, we do get some inquiries from "A Guide to Religious Ministries," also nicknamed the "Blue Book" as the cover is always blue. It lists religious communities of men and women for free along with descriptions and the book is updated each year. Now the famous "Blue Book" is online as well at religiousministries.com.
It is hard to beat an online vocation page, as compared to the same information in print. The cost of a vocation page is minimal and the reach is worldwide. Further, one can include multimedia information on it including pictures, audio and video clips. And a vocational inquiry is easy from the user end just send an e-mail. When we receive a vocational inquiry through the mail or by telephone we always refer them to the vocation page on the website for more information. We do have a printed vocation booklet and only use it when online access is impossible for a prospective vocational candidate.
A number of religious communities are struggling to get new vocations. This has led to more aggressive techniques. The Maryknoll Mission Society, founded in the U.S., has produced a TV commercial. I was visiting my elderly parents when I saw their commercial and I was impressed with it. Of course, they have a website at maryknoll.org. I have seen their paid for banner advertising on Catholic websites such as catholic.org.
The Vincentians Eastern Province recently revamped their website at vincentians.net and have seen a 50% jump in vocation inquiries coming from the U.S., Western Europe and South America. So successful has the website been that now it is being considered to represent the Vincentians for the entire U.S. On the website the "Vincentians in the News" link gives stories of ordinations, final vows, audio and video selections of Vincentians in action. Coupled with this are links on the page for "Discernment Resources," "Formation Programs," and "Questions & Answers." "The new web site highlights the members of our community who are making an incredible difference in people's lives," said Vincentian Fr. Maher. In the near future, the website will be available in Spanish as well, certainly needed in a growing U.S. Spanish speaking Catholic population. "Having a Web presence is a requirement these days," said Father John Maher, Director of the Vincentian Vocation Ministry for the Eastern Province, based in Princeton."
Now some of this growth in the Vincentian inquiries may be related to another technique being employed by them a business card-sized CD-Rom that has been distributed to college students at St. John's and Niagara, as well as to youth ministry programs in various Vincentian parishes in the Eastern Province. Images, video, and text provide information about the Vincentian community, its ministries, and those involved along with web links highlighting the world wide lay organizations. "The CD-ROM was devised with the help of a consultant with great expertise in this new type of technology. It contains what young people seek the most: a combination of information and inspiration," Fr. Maher said.
Now different approaches to vocational outreach is not limited to religious. In January of 1999 the Diocese of Providence began running T.V. commercials on MTV certainly a radical departure from normal avenues of recruiting vocations. This is an approach to reach young people where they are at, which perhaps could lead to a vocation or reawakening of vocation God has planted in their hearts.
The Diocese of Joliet has certainly cornered the URL for vocations at vocations.com. It comes up number one when searching for a vocation related to a diocese at google.com. Here you can explore the "Diocesan Priesthood: After the Heart of Jesus" link. Of course, there is information for those interested in religious life, the deaconate, lay ministry opportunities and secular institutes.
Do all internet inquiries lead to a vocation in the religious life or diocesan priesthood? Certainly not. But it is a way of casting the net on the Internet to begin or reawaken a calling in some people. God is calling people to these vocations. However, in the U.S., our culture does not encourage a vocation. Most families are small and parents want their children to marry for the joy of having grandchildren. I have been in Catholic countries where it is the pride and joy of parents to have one of their children become a priest or religious. (And poor as they are, unlike us in the U.S., somehow they manage to support large families!) Unfortunately, that sentiment has all but disappeared from a number of Catholic homes in the U.S. Even before the recent scandals, a bishop I know was encouraging a youth to become a priest and his mother responded, "God forbid he become a priest!"
Like the early Church that was driven out of Jerusalem by persecution, religious communities and dioceses must cast the net onto the Internet and other multimedia outlets to allow the grace of the Holy Spirit to reach the hearts of men and women of today to follow the calling of Jesus to "follow Him" in the religious life or diocesan priesthood. Jesus is calling Is His voice being heard?
One root problem of family life is the practice of contraception. This month let us look at websites related to this issue.
"The fecundity of marriage" and "The Gift of a Child" are covered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 2366 through 2379 at scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a6.htm.
Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VIs encyclical on the regulation of birth remains a must read for Catholic couples at vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html
The USCCB has a number of articles on this issue at usccb.org/prolife/issues/contraception/index.htm
Catholics Against Contraception at catholicsagainstcontraception.com has links to Vatican documents, bishops, canon lawyers, theologians, priests, philosophers and the faithfuls articles against contraception.
"From Contraception to Natural Family Planning: One Womans Experience" at http://faithleap.home.att.net/contraception_to_NFP.htm takes the reader on one couples journey with this issue.
Catholic Pages at catholic-pages.com/dir/contraception.asp has many links on this issue which are worth exploring. Of course, one can always turn to my online directory on this issue at monksofadoration.org/bcontrol.html as well.
Brother John Raymond welcomes
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