Sr. Betty FMA
We as a community feel the presence of the voice of Jesus more than ever, resounding deep into our hearts and to become better disciples. We are determined not to give up and look for a new strategy of reaching out to the young in ways more relevant to them.
St. Bakhita Parish is 30 km from our community. Fr. Marko Oliha, the Parish Priest had always invited us in the past to go and animate for young people with the hope that one day we will get vocations, but we were not ready to visit the parish due to personnel shortage. Now that there are six in the community, we have started a journey with the youth from St. Bakhita Parish. The first time we visited the parish was on the 18th
of April. The community sent Sr. Teresa Rowskowska and me a vocation animation in that parish. We were astonished at the number of young people, children, and the different women groups in the parish.
The parish is well organized because the Parish Priest involves everyone and gives freedom to the Christians to serve where they can. He instilled in the community a sense of belonging and love for their church. The sisters were also astonished at the number of the faithful who received communion. Just before the final blessing, I was given the chance to greet the Christians and gave them some words of encouragement. I explained to the faithful the purpose of our visit and I encouraged the parents not to be afraid to give their children an opportunity to serve God when called. After the Mass, the parents and young people gathered and reflected on the call of God in a general way. Two of us animated the meeting, and many young people were able to spell out the obstacles which face them in answering God’s call. Most of the obstacles came either from the families or from the negative cultural practices. Sr. Teresa Rowskoska shared with them her vocational journey; how she had to make a tough choice, disappointing her parents because her elder sister had decided to join a religious congregation against the will of her parents. The young people listened to her attentively and asked questions.
On the 18th of
September, the community sent Sr. Celestina Pawa, Sr Teresa Rowskowska, and me again, and we continued with the reflection on vocations. This time, the Parish Priest organized it only for the youth, both boys and girls. I was given a chance before the blessing to speak to the parents on their role and the role of the Christian community in helping the young to respond to God’s call. We then met the young people after Mass and had a short dialogue and discussion with them. We expounded on vocation as a call and a response of love. The young people listened attentively and asked questions.
One of the problems that continuously comes up, as we do vocation animation, is the environment that puts pressure on the youth which makes them get lost before achieving their dreams. The society in which the life of youth is polluted with sex and drugs puts pressure on the young to follow the majority. In St. Bakhita Parish, although the youth take an active part in the life of the church, most of them do not finish secondary school. Girls get pregnant at a very early age. One of the parents speaking on this problem said, “Sisters, you do not understand the pressure that our young people go through! Even if one is a saint they will fall”. The church leaders constantly ask us to keep those girls who show signs of vocation with us as they complete their secondary school. They feel that we will be able to form them and prepare them to respond to their vocation. Of course, one may think that they might not become sisters. That is true, but at least we would have prepared someone for the society.
When I was in South Sudan, I visited one of the dioceses, and the bishop told me the same thing. He said to get vocations to the priesthood, he has built a minor seminary where the young boys who feel called come and study secondary school. Each year he receives fifty boys in the seminary and by the end of the four years, the formators select those who really show signs of a vocation to proceed to the Major Seminary. So, every year he sends between seven to ten boys to major seminary. His diocese is the only Diocese to ordain priests yearly. He said, “taking in boys at a young age helps us to shape their behaviors in line with what priesthood requires”. So, the message that I got is that if we want vocations, we should not be afraid to spend money informing and protecting the young girls.
Our next encounter will be in the month of October in our community with the girls who want to start a journey of vocational discernment. This journey will be done monthly during a weekend. We will organize a formation program for them and in this way, we shall teach them catechism, interact with them one on one and help them to discern their vocation. We entrust this journey in the hands of our mother Mary and St. Joseph our spiritual father that they may teach us the art of accompaniment.