Last weekend, the Catholic Church across the world held prayers for vocations in commemoration of Vocation Sunday, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Easter every year. To understand vocations in the Catholic Church, I talked to national youth chaplain Father Vincent Mwakhwawa. Excerpts below:
What is a vocation?
The word ‘vocation’ is often used in reference to the call to be a priest, sister or brother. But vocation is a broader term in the Catholic Church, which believes that every baptised person has a vocation to serve God and is thus called to be a missionary either as a married person, priest, brother, sister or a single person dedicating their life to serving God.
The church teaches that every baptised person, as a follower of Jesus Christ, has a duty to proclaim the message of salvation, which the Lord himself commanded: “Go to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature”. Therefore, in any state of life—as a married Christian, priest, brother, sister or a dedicated single person—one is called and mandated to proclaim the gospel of Christ.
Why is it important to understand vocation?
The Catholic Church, through the Pontifical Missionary Society (PMS) of St. Peter the Apostle, believes that if people understand that God calls them to different states of life, and if people understand the importance of vocations, they can ably take their lives seriously at any stage. Once people understand the importance of vocations, they will pray unceasingly for vocations and will financially contribute generously to the formation of future priests and the religious.
What are Pontifical Missionary Societies (PMS)?
These are the missionary arms of the Catholic Church, which include societies involved in evangelisation and charitable works throughout the world. These societies are also called the Pope’s organisations. They include the Society for the Propagation of Faith, the Society of Holy Childhood, the Society of the Missionary Union and the Society of St. Peter and Paul the Apostle. Preparation and promotion of Vocation Sunday is entrusted to the Society of St. Peter the Apostle. Its sole purpose is to teach people to understand the importance of vocations in the church. The church uses this society to promote missionary spirit and cooperation in proclamation of the gospel in the world.
What happens on Vocation Sunday?
The Church sets aside fourth Sunday of Easter, also called the Good Shepherd Sunday every year as a world day of prayers for vocations, commonly known as Vocation Sunday. It is a day when the church prays for vocations, teaches about vocations and also contributes money for the training of priests and religious and maintaining or building seminaries and other formation centres.
In the practice of the church, praying, teaching and contributing for vocations are pastoral activities done throughout the whole year, but setting aside a special Sunday for the activity shows the importance and seriously the church attaches to promotion of vocations in the Catholic world.
Why involve the youth in vocations?
Through the church’s practice and understanding human life, the best stage in life to choose or discern one’s state of life is when you are young. The Bible has interesting and fascinating stories of young men being called by God—Samuel in 1 Samuel 3: 1-18; Jeremiah 1: 4-10 and others. As such, the prayers on Vocation Sunday focus in praying for the youth to discern and accept the type of vocation God is calling them for.
However, apart from teaching and praying for the youth, on Vocation Sunday, the Society of St. Peter the Apostle teaches adults to continue praying for themselves and the vocation they chose. Adult Christians are encouraged to cooperate with Jesus Christ by taking the role of teaching their children in homes, at church and in schools the importance of accepting God’s call in becoming a priest, sister, brother or a married Christian. That is why the celebration of Vocation Sunday is important in the whole world.