Last week I visited Saint Mary's College High School in Berkeley and this week I'm at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco.
The visit to Berkeley included an evening meeting with the Brothers, a "Lunch with De La Salle" talk to about a dozen teachers who came over to the Brothers house during lunch for a talk about their "vocation" as teachers, and several visits to the UC Berkeley Newman Center where I met with "Fr. Charlie" - the young(er) Paulist priest who is in charge there.
Some of the items - suggestions, insights, strong opinions - picked up include the following:
- We should concentrate on those individuals who come from strong, Catholic backgrounds, since they are already disposed with religious sensibilities and believe in the idea of a vocation.
- Work more with, and for, Catholic families where potential vocations exist, since these would value both church and the idea of a vocation. Perhaps offer family retreats.
- If we want to participate in World Youth Day, get our schools to send some of their kids over there.
- Get those individuals (Brothers and others) who take groups of kids or young adults on trips to focus on the "vocation" aspect of their world, perhaps even making the challenge of a religious vocation part of the trip's focus.
In my presentations to the communities - for those who wish to have them - I tell them about the various aspects of vocation ministry this year. These include contact / accompaniment of those who have expressed interest in the Brothers, visits to schools and colleges as described above, and the development of resources for vocation promotion. This last area is one that could be wide-reaching, but for now I'm concentrating on developing a consistent style in new brochures, information sheets, and a pop-up booth for conferences, college fairs, and so on. For that purpose, I'm working with a professional designer and several consultants from within the District (Brothers & Partners) in order to have something that will communicate well and yet be versatile enough to last a good while.
I realize that none of these efforts are sure-fire means for attracting vocations, but I have yet to see a group that has such a means. Even the US Army recruiters are having difficulties making their quotas - and they're promising lots of things to impressionable kids while downplaying the downside (compared to getting blown up or shot, poverty, chastity, and obedience are a minor concern).