First part: Congress on the Vocational Pastoral and Consecrated Life

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Article written by four sisters of the Cenacle who attended to the Congress:  Luisa CURELLI, Elisabeth STILLHARDNathalie ALBERT and Anne-Catherine SIMON, 

From December, 1st to 3rd 2017, the first International Congress on the vocational pastoral took place in Rome and gathered about 800 religious people from all over the world who were involved in the youth and vocational pastoral. 

Nathalie, Anne-Catherine, Elisabeth and Luisa were called to take part in the name of our Province Europe-Togo.


The objective of the Congress : to enable religious life to make proposals to the bishops’ synod on “The young, faith and the  discernment of vocations” which will take place in 2018, so that religious life is present and participant to this reflection.

On the occasion of this Congress, Pope Francis sent a long message to the participants. 
You can read it on the Vatican website 

We want to share with you in two steps what we have lived there. First, share about the subject of the Congress. You can clik here to see the detailed program.
Later, we will share our reflection with you: what the Congress let emerged, ideas, reactions, callings...
December, 1st:
The first day gave us an overview of the reality of religious life and young people.

Mgr José Rodriguez Carballo commented the gospel according to John 1, “come and see”. Vocation is  call to follow Jesus and the first criterion for discernment is to make sure the person searches for God, knowing that if we are able to search for God, it is because he first searched for us. God’s call is free and religious life should be a perpetual Magnificat because of the gift to live with Him.

Jesus passes, He sees, He loves and He calls. These verbs are all important in the youth pastoral. 

Conditions and manifestations of the following of Jesus:
Faith: if a young does not trust the Lord, he cannot follow Him. It is thus necessary to guide him in the path of faith.

Detachment: the call is an experience which enables to make the distinction between ‘before’ and ‘after’ and to take distance toward oneself, the others and material goods.
Following: the disciple is not judged with regard to what he leaves, but to what he finds (cf. the parable of the treasure Mt 13). Let oneself be made like the vessel.

Vocation is neither a “function”, nor a “do”, but it is about following Jesus, putting Himself at the centre of our whole life. This is a continuous conversion.


We shall change youth pastoral. The proclamation has to be a telling, a testimony of life. It has to be an explicit proposal. Jesus uses the imperative.
What are we called to live? The first thing to do is to love the young, because when they feel loved, they can accept radicalness. The crisis of consecrated life is a crisis of transparence.

We shall take care of the quality of consecrated life and remember that the young have another experience, different from those of their trainers. We shall listen to the experience of the young.
“The young and consecrated life” Pascual Villanueva SDB 
Religious life will never end because it is the following of Christ.

Religious congregations can end, but not religious life itself. We shall listen to the young who ask us to do so. Don Bosco said that the young have sensitive areas which can enable us to get in touch with them. We shall not stop on their starting point, which is always relative, but look at the point of arrival, the destination. The Church shall listen to them otherwise there is a risk to give answers to questions nobody asked. The disciples of Emmaus are a good image to say how to live in relation to the young people. The first announcement is essential, the kerygma. The young tell us: “do not speak about Jesus Christ, let us encounter Him”. Create experiences which lead to meet Christ and pass down the grammar of Christian life.

Villanueva asked: “how do the young see religious life?” According to him, we are considered as social service providers! We should thus wonder: do we try to share a charism or manage charities? He reminded us that we are not philanthropists but apostles. We shall show that the work of God is love. Thus change charities into presence. We shall develop a 
vocational culture; this is to consider any life as a vocation

“Cultures and consecrated life: possibilities and difficulties” Timothy Radcliffe, OP
Radcliffe shared with us his reflection from his own rich experience as general superior of the Dominican order. His mission enabled him to meet various cultures and to see the challenges. Religious life is a call to live (Dt 30); it is a call to “life to the full”. The main challenge for religious life,

according to him, is: how can our communities be lively places when life is expressed in so many different ways in the various cultures? The main difference is not in ethnic terms, but in generational terms. The media globalization is a reality all over the world. Being alive, for a young, is

being connected. But virtual communities tend to gather people who all think the same. Indeed, modern time is afraid of difference. The Internet

logarithm connects us with people who think the same and prevent us to meet those who think in a different way! So, how can religious life face this challenge? The risk of refusing difference is challenging religious life itself. The arrival of young people in our communities

enables us to discover who we are. We shall discover our identity, and meeting with other
cultures leads us to make this effort. Identity is not a choice; we become brothers and sisters from various cultures and generations. Let us let go small identity, since we belong to Christ!

The big challenge is: how do we support specific cultures in this pilgrimage and go beyond toward the Reign? Radcliffe gave 3 clues: understand religious life as a radical call to leave our home, follow Christ beyond our small worlds, and dare to face the timidity of our culture.

Support the young with a strong theology of the vows, knowing that the vows are a way to live free. We need a strong, creative and courageous leadership.

Trust the young, offer them tranquility and calm. Enable them to ‘cut their teeth’. Practice the art of conversation in order to be open and welcoming to other ways of thinking. Help the

young to become people who proclaim their faith with intelligence. This requires humble listening: I can learn from the other who has something to teach me. If we dare to learn from 
the young, we acknowledge their authority. And we get back respect. 

In the second part of the afternoon, we gathered in small groups, by continents, to share about the day and to identify the most urgent needs of youth pastoral.
December, 2nd
The 2nd day was placed under the presidency of Mgr Joao Braz, Cardinal de Aviz.
It started with the celebration of the Eucharist.

Then we listened to the presentation of various pastoral experiences about vocations throughout the world. In turns, each participant presented what is done in his country: we

went from Brazil to the Philippines, then Cameroun, France (with sr Nathalie Becquart, xaviere sister, directress of the national service for youth and vocation) and finally Northern


In Brazil: creation of a pastoral institute of vocations gathering 13 congregations to show the beauty of consecrated life.

In Vietnam: a youth hostel for students and young workers, as an alternative to houses of formation close to the parish.

In Cameroun: 10 regions, 2 languages, 50 ethnic groups! But a diocesan group for vocations shows the ordination sacrament and religious life.

In Assisi in Italy: with the Franciscan brothers, an orientation service for the young, based on three dimensions: evangelization, vocational call, individual accompaniment. Young people

expect us to spend time with them.
In France: You can click here to read the presentation of sr Nathalie Becquart. The national service for youth and vocation (SNEJV) is dedicated to all actors of evangelization. Evangelization of the young shall go through the young. We shall let them ‘shake’ us. What is the key for this pastoral is synodality (to listen together), and also missionary communion between various congregations. This is how we should promote all vocations. Various examples are given such as “the years for God” (a one-year-discernment program), the “house of vocations” in Lourdes.

In the USA: a survey is presented. We shall use social media to promote vocations and touch the young where they are. And we shall meet them personally.

After these various testimonies and sharings, we met in small group (the same as the first day) in order to share our own experiences in the field of vocations’ promotion. At the end, we

chose two propositions for vocational pastoral, which we consider as priority and realistic, and we send them to the dicastery.

In the afternoon, we listen once again to sharings of experience with a sample group “called to consecrated life” from all over the world. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri presented the Synod of October 2018, remembering the history. 
The last presentation of the day was done 

by Cardinal Beniamino Stella about the Ratio 2016 on the formation of the seminarian (Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis) and how we can adapt it to the formation to religious life: the care of the human dimension in the course of religious life.

This document focuses on life and human and affective dimensions of the young. In the priestly formation, studies are not the most important part, because what is first is the human structure. This is a persevering work which implies all the dimensions of life, lasts the whole life, and is an

unceasing course of discipleship during which man lets himself be led by Christ, prompted by the Spirit, through the radicalness of the Gospel. The

experience of faith is not a cloth to put on from the outside… at the risk of being “pagans with two slices of painting”! But it touches all the dimensions of the self.

Here are some important aspects of this human formation:

- Self-knowledge. Educate the person to be true with oneself, free… (n°63). Without being afraid of facing herself, at the risk of escaping from reality. Inner formation

implies various kinds of formation, combining both the trainer and the trainee. Put words on one’s weaknesses, needs, own history…

- Develop human virtues, self-knowledge, freedom of being oneself (n°93), inner and psychological freedom which helps being careful to the details in everyday life,

following the law of gradualness.

- Be able to have sane relationships, affective and sexual maturity. 
The day ends with a friendly dinner in Rome with other French participants.
December, 3rd
The 3rd day started with a prayer.
Then we had a review of the congress done by three young religious, in the spirit of the synod who wishes the young to be actors. What emerged are both convictions and challenges:

God is creator and creates new!

The Good News shall be proclaimed today with today’s words!

Vocation is nice.

Challenges: That the others see us as happy disciples following Christ. Know today’s humans.
Three subjects emerged from this presentation:
1) The vocational pastoral should lead the young to encounter with Christ. It shall be a pastoral for the young, with the young, enabling a personal encounter.

2) We need a change of vision, of ways of doing, and ways of speaking
a. Learn to know the young and be with them where they are

b. Know also the young members in our own communities

c. Change of mentality: without change, nothing can be new!
3) Hope : Fraternal community
a. A fraternal community, based on confident relationships. Move from life in common to community of life, rich of human relations, freedom, welcoming and dialogue, reflection of the life in the Trinity.

b. Interculturality

c. Radicalness: put Christ at first place.
The various geographic groups of the Congress presented their proposals to the Synod of bishops(p.18-20). Click her tosee them
Conclusion by Mgr Carballo as a Decalogue of the vocational and youth pastoral:
1)We cannot talk to the others about vocation if we do not take care first of our own vocation.

2) The vocational pastoral is inseparable from evangelization of families and the proclamation of the kerygma.

3) The focus is the encounter with Christ. The Lord calls and the young responds. We shall sow humbly and confidently, and Jesus will grow the seeds; thus, avoid “pastoral show” or


4) The vocational pastoral shall propose to the young the Gospel’s high requirement and not be afraid of being demanding.

5) Believe that Jesus can, even today, fulfill a life and give a deep sense to life.

6) Work to make religious life significant and evangelical. The vows should be understood not as renunciation, but as abundance of life. Fraternal life should make us more human, be the

starting point for mission, and thus become a vocational fraternity.

7) The vocational pastoral takes care of all vocations and there is a need to work together: consecrated people, priests and lay people.

8) The vocational pastoral requires that we put into practice the method of Emmaüs: provoke the young, interprete their questions from the experience of life, tell story, lead them to Jesus and the sacrament of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, talk with them, enable them to give a free and responsible answer. This is a method where they are actors.

9) The vocational pastoral also requires that we are experts in accompanying the young, making the journey of the young. We need men and women who build bridges.

10) Prayer is the first and the best service that we can offer for vocations.
We then concluded the Congress with the celebration of the Eucharist of the 1st Sunday of Advent.