Fr Pat Visanti. Photo: St Columbans Mission Society
On the 4th Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday – the universal church celebrates Vocations Sunday.
The word vocation means “to call”. Every baptized Christian is called by Jesus to follow him in a unique way whether that be living the single life, marriage, religious life or priesthood. By living out our unique calling – our vocation – we experience deep fulfilment and joy in our service to others.
Pope John Paul II called the Church to have a Vocations Culture – “a culture in which each Christian is empowered to identify and respond to the mission to which he or she is called as a member of the Body of Christ, in and for the world.”
Columban priests, sisters, students and lay missionaries have received the call from God to leave our homelands and enter into different cultural contexts sharing life with the people among whom we live and serve. We discover where those most in need are and live in solidarity with them. We encourage people and walk with them on their faith journey and in their struggle to change the unjust structures that keep them poor and on the margins of society, as together we care for God’s creation. The source of our witness and actions is our faith in Jesus. We desire to mirror in our own lives the pattern of Jesus’ life, helping people of all faiths, or no faith, to gain their dignity as sons and daughters of God, loved by God. As Pope Francis says in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, we seek to listen to and heed the cry of Earth and the cry of the poor.
Columban missionaries have been welcomed into numerous dioceses around the world as we help to establish local churches, fostering in these churches an awareness of their missionary responsibility, principally in the areas of justice, peace and ecology, while promoting dialogue between Christians and those of other religious traditions, and facilitating interchange between these churches, especially those from which we come and those to which we are sent. We believe the local people themselves have the responsibility for bringing the faith alive in their culture but missionaries have a role to play in helping to set up the conditions which make such inculturation possible.
As we celebrate this year’s Vocations Sunday we pray that people will continue to respond to God’s call to join us on mission as Columban priests, sisters, students, lay missionaries, co-workers, benefactors and volunteers.
“Dear friends, on this day in particular, but also in the ordinary pastoral life of our communities, I ask the Church to continue to promote vocations. May she touch the hearts of the faithful and enable each of them to discover with gratitude God’s call in their live, to find the courage to say ‘yes’ to God.” – Pope Francis
Fr Kevin O’Neill
Peace, Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon.