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By Fr. Adam MacDonald, SVD
They say that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Nowhere is this perhaps more true than in Vocation Ministry. After all, as a member of the Tri-Province Vocation Team, I’m the first Divine Word Missionary many people are likely to meet. I have the unique privilege of “introducing” people to who we are and what we do while at the same inviting them to consider joining our way of life – and all of that typically within a few brief minutes! It’s my hope that if nothing else, those whom I encounter gain a good first impression of the SVD.
Vocation Ministry involves several important components which I call the “Four C’s” – Calling, Cultivating, Companioning, and Collaborating. Allow me to briefly describe each one.
My first and primary task as a Vocation Director is that of calling and keeping in touch with prospective candidates. A typical day includes a succession of phone calls, emails, text messages, as well as Tweets and Facebook postings, the aim of which is to connect with young men who have expressed interest in learning more about the SVD and may be discerning a vocation to the religious missionary life. While calling and connecting with these prospects, I assess at the same time whether they are a good “fit” for the SVD community.
The second component my ministry in Vocations is that of cultivating opportunities to promote the SVD and to speak with young people about vocations. This involves preaching in parishes, speaking in schools, visiting college campuses, facilitating retreats and recollections, and representing the SVD at local and national vocation events like the National Catholic Youth Conference, the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry, et al.
My third task as Vocation Director is that of companioning young people who feel called to consider our SVD way of life by inviting and hosting them for a “Come and See” visit at Divine Word College. During this visit, the vocation prospect will attend classes, pray with the college community, and generally get a feel for life in the seminary. At the same time, I conduct a thorough Assessment of each prospect to determine whether he meets the criteria for admission to our formation program. If it’s determined that a prospect is admissible and in fact he decides to apply, I proceed to walk him through the application process.
A fourth and final component of my ministry is that of collaborating with other Vocation Directors in our common task of creating a “culture of vocations.” First and foremost, I work closely with the Vocation Director for the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters. At the same time, I’m actively involved in the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) at both the regional and national levels, and I regularly collaborate with my colleagues in the Dubuque Area Vocation Association (DAVA) and the Chicago Archdiocesan Vocation Association (CAVA).
No doubt Vocation Ministry has its share of challenges – from driving long miles to being on the go all the time to facing the frustration of the seeming decline in interest amongst the young in pursuing lives of service in the Church. But this is only part of the picture. For who else gets to spend every moment of the day promoting and inviting others to consider the vocation he loves? Who else gets to engage in conversations with young people about what really matters: who they are, who God is for them, what’s their purpose in life?
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
As I continue the ministry of introducing others to the SVD and our mission, my ministry as Vocation Director has impressed upon me the importance of calling, cultivating, companioning, and collaborating as a way of planting the seeds and reaping the harvest of future vocations.
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