The Vincentian five-year provincial plan for vocation promotion

The Vincentian five-year provincial plan for vocation promotion

This strategic plan for vocations was created through a one-year process of consultation with membership of the Philadelphia-based Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission (commonly known as the Vincentians). The impetus for developing the plan came during a province-wide convocation to discuss community renewal and vocations spearheaded by a newly-elected provincial. The three-day convocation included national speakers, private and communal prayer, and both small- and large-group deliberations. During the convocation, the community decided to appoint a one-year ad hoc committee to create a provincial plan to be voted upon at an assembly the following year.

The ad hoc committee worked with a consultant who joined them for most meetings and phone conferences— an experienced vocation minister from a community that had gone through a similar process. The group began by surveying members on what they thought were the community’s strengths and weaknesses, whether they were comfortable in asking others to join the Vincentians, what they saw as the attractions and obstacles to joining, and their ideas for vocation promotion. The ad hoc committee analyzed the survey data and wrote a first draft of a vocation plan.

It was mailed to members, asking for their feedback—which 40 percent of them gave. Taking those responses into account, the ad hoc committee hammered out another draft in time for a province-wide assembly. Confreres discussed, amended and approved the strategic plan during the assembly. And now the whole province is involved in putting the plan into action. For more information about this plan or the process of creating it, contact John T. Maher, CM at jtm@cmeast.org.

Preamble

The purpose of the Congregation of the Mission is to follow Christ evangelizing the poor. So that a new generation of vowed Vincentians might follow our own, the members of the Eastern Province gathered in convocation in June of 2000 and resolved to develop a new provincial plan that would focus primarily upon fostering vocations to the congregation. The convocation’s resolution read:

“We the members of the Eastern Province who participated in Convocation 2000, hold the following convictions:

  • “We believe that we are called to be prophetic voices involved in the struggles of the poor so that we inspire others to follow Christ evangelizing the poor.
  • “We believe that God calls young men to follow Christ in the Vincentian Way and that every Confrere has an obligation to pray and to take concrete steps to assure, with the help of God’s grace, that there will be a next generation of vowed Vincentians.
  • “We believe that young men of diverse cultures and backgrounds have a desire for a deeper spirituality, a sense of belonging in community, and significant service to those who are poor.
  • “We believe that we are impelled to continual conversion in our vocation—mission, common life, and spirituality—which in turn will attract young men to our congregation.”

This provincial plan attempts to concretize this resolution. May God richly bless our efforts to encourage a new generation of vowed Vincentians to follow Jesus Christ, Evangelizer of the Poor.

I. Individual confreres

• Each confrere, regardless of age or assignment, will ask at least one young person per year to consider a vocation to the Congregation of the Mission.

• Each confrere will pray daily for vocations. Each confrere will offer one mass per month for the intention of vocations to the Congregation of the Mission, especially the Eastern Province.

• After prayerful reflection, each confrere will write/ record his vocation story and experience of living and working in the congregation. With the permission of the confrere, these will be used by the vocation minister in various publications.

• Each confrere in active ministry will preach or speak at least once per year on the subject of vocations. • Each confrere will participate in the creation and implementation of a localized vocation recruitment plan.

• Each confrere and house will recommit to the “non-negotiables” of community life, particularly community prayer, common recreation, simplicity of life, and faith-sharing, as specified in the community plan of each house.

• As appropriate, and in consultation with the members of their community, confreres will invite potential candidates to join them in their work with the poor, their meals, and their common prayer.

II. Localized vocation plan

Each house (or regional groupings of houses if they find it useful) will create a localized vocation recruitment plan. The universities and parishes we sponsor will be asked to create a similar plan. These plans may take whatever form the group wishes, and should be creative, ambitious, and contain measurable and specific outcomes. The local superiors, two university presidents, and respective pastors should initiate the process. (Appendix I proposes the method and criteria the houses should use to undertake this task.)

III. Provincial Vocation

Plan Provincial Committees

The 2000 Convocation committed the province to undertake a process of conversion around the areas of the renewal of community life, listening to youth, and making ourselves more sensitive and welcoming to men of varying cultures. Toward this end, the provincial Community Life Committee, Youth Committee, and Racism Committee will be asked to design a process that helps us examine each of these areas of concern, throughout the five years of this plan. Year 1 primarily focuses on making the houses more friendly to various cultures and races, and diminishing existing individual and corporate racism. Year 2 will focus on listening to youth. Year 3 will focus on the renewal of community life.

The Formation Commission will undertake several new initiatives, which include strategies for providing multicultural formation for our seminarians; possible establishment of discernment houses/programs; investigation of alternative models of formation; providing for the language and documentation needs of candidates; and engaging the seminarians in new ways of promoting vocations. The commission will also disseminate information about the formation process, so that confreres can explain it to potential candidates.

The Racism Committee will develop a self-evaluating audit for houses monitoring how open or inviting our houses are to other cultures. The committee will also provide ongoing educational materials for houses regarding racism and cultural diversity.

Provincial and Council

The provincial and Council will contract a communications consultant, as needed. This individual would assist the vocation minister in the following ways: improve the vocation Web site; create and implement an advertising plan; and create new vocation literature.

The provincial and Council will consider the “potential to interact with youth” as an additional criterion for the acceptance of, or withdrawal from, works and for the assignment of personnel.

The provincial will assign a coordinator to oversee the implementation of the 5-year plan.

So that the province might become better educated about vocation recruitment, each year the provincial offices will fund volunteers from each region of the province to attend the workshops or national convocation of the National Religious Vocation Conference.

Accountability

Working with the implementation coordinator, the provincial and his council will enter into annual discussion with those who have created localized vocation recruitment plans, reviewing their plans, asking the houses for regular progress reports, and providing a form of accountability by which the plans might be well designed, updated, and implemented. The implementation coordinator will also work with the provincial committees in carrying out the plan.

In formal house visitations, the provincial will ask each confrere to describe what he is doing for vocation recruitment.

At the annual superior’s meeting, the superiors will discuss concretely the efforts and success of their localized recruitment plan.

The provincial will report periodically on the province’s vocation efforts.

Vocation minister

The vocation minister will assemble a Vocation Advisory Board to advise and assist him in his work.

The vocation minister will assemble a group of confreres to create a “Book of Ideas” as a resource for the houses and confreres to plan their own vocation recruitment strategies. This book will contain examples of what other congregations and provinces are doing, practical suggestions on what individuals and houses can do, possible talking points for presentations on vocations, prayer services, and eventually copies of the localized vocation recruitment plans.

The vocation minister will keep houses aware of each other’s initiatives and progress, as well as pass along helpful information by writing a regular column in the provincial newsletter. Additionally, the vocation minister will purchase and mail helpful materials to the houses or confreres from time-to-time.

The vocation minister will support houses, regions, and works in their efforts to create vocation recruitment plans (e.g. visit houses once/twice a year, videos, speakers, review of house plans). He will also insure that all houses have current vocation literature in appropriate languages.

The vocation minister will create strategic initiatives with other Congregation of the Mission provinces, dioceses, other congregations, and the wider Vincentian family.

Implementation coordinator

Working with the provincial and his Council, the implementation coordinator will be responsible for organizing ways to motivate the province’s efforts to create a culture of deep vocations. (These might include such initiatives as helping confreres appreciate the good that their lives have contributed, giving personal testimonies, using community feasts and gatherings to focus on the future, publishing a newsletter that keeps confreres informed of each others’ vocation efforts and successes, among others.)

Appendix 1 - Localized vocation plans

Each house (or regional grouping of houses if they find it useful) will create a localized vocation recruitment plan. The universities and parishes we sponsor will be asked to create a similar plan. These plans may take whatever form the group wishes, and should be creative, ambitious, and contain measurable and specific outcomes. The local superiors, two university presidents, and respective pastors should initiate the process.

Recalling our own Vocation Story

When the groups first meet, we ask that you begin in prayer and then spend time telling your vocation stories, recalling the ways in which your own hearts and imaginations were touched and drawn toward this vocation, and why you still find this vocation meaningful today. Only after this has been done should the group proceed to create a plan together.

Criteria for the creation of a localized vocation recruitment plan

• How will you (individually and as a house) develop more contact with youth (20 percent of your collective time)? What works, jobs, and projects will you give up so that you can spend more time with youth?

• How will you develop better contact with youth, enabling you to know them well and them to know you well?

• Who will you ask to work with you? (e.g., lay colleagues, parents, parishioners, members of wider Vincentian family, etc.) What will you ask of them? If you ask for assistance from the wider Vincentian family, how will you in turn collaborate with them?

• What is your specific, numerical recruitment goal this year? (e.g. number of youth personally asked to consider a vocation, number of youth who attend discernment weekends, number of youth who enter into one of our formation programs, etc.)

• How will you educate yourselves to better know and understand the youth of today?

• How is your plan welcoming, comfortable and targeted to youth of varying cultures and races? How will you know if your house is welcoming to people of varying cultures and races?

• What commitments will you make to improve in depth and quality the attractiveness of your community life together?

• How will you continually petition God for the vocations we desire?

• Annual evaluation: at what point in the year will you assess this plan?

Who will do what by when? How will individuals be held accountable?

Appendix 2 - What, who, when

The following chart lists the major initiatives discussed in the proposed plan, assigns responsibility, and proposes dates of completion.

PPC     Provincial Planning Committee

VM      Vocation minister

CC       Communication consultant

Prov    Provincial

PC       Provincial Council

 



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