Table of Contents
- Jesus commands each of us first, to love God, and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt 22:32-40). God calls each member of the body of Christ to a particular state in life, a vocation, within which to live out these commands. Each of us is responsible to listen for that call and to answer it with dedication and commitment. Whether our state in life is to be single, married, religious, or ordained, God gives us the grace to gain eternal life through that state.
- To say that every Christian is a member of the Body of Christ is not just a metaphor, but a description of the interdependence of all the members. “Let us profess the truth and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.” (Eph 4:15-16.)
- God told Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you … To whomever I send you, you shall go … Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you.” (Jer 1:5, 7, 8.) We know in faith that God has a plan for each of us and that we will receive the help we need to carry out God’s plan. There are many ways to do this.
- By our baptism, each of us is called to holiness, to a fuller participation in the life of the Holy Trinity. In Jesus we share the unique relationship He has with the Father. Through adoption we are what He is by nature, Son of God. We live out this unique relationship with the Father, united with Jesus our Brother, through the prompting of the Spirit who calls us to a particular state of life within the believing community and in the world.
The dedicated single person, the committed married couple, the single-hearted consecrated person, the faith-filled cleric: all respond in a particular way to living out the Gospel message and mission, and to Jesus who proclaims this Good News.
- There are women and men who are prompted by the Spirit to live out the Gospel message by a deliberate choice to remain unmarried “for the sake of the Kingdom” (Mt. 19:12). These faithful disciples choose to live without the formal support of the consecrated state or the clerical state, but rather as lay women or men, bringing about the Kingdom of God in the midst of the Kingdom of this world (LG, 31). Many of these people are our neighbors, people who care for children of family members, or for aged parents or relatives.
- “Just as of old, God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of marriage… Authentic married love is caught up into divine love” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), [GS], 48b). In his letter to the Ephesians 5:21, Saint Paul expresses the dignity of the married state by comparing it with the union of Christ with the Church.
Marriage was instituted by God in the earliest times: “God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:27) “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gen 2:24). The challenge of merging two distinct lives into one whole unit of love is possible only with the grace of God’s love. Married people join in commitment to carry out their vocation to live out the Gospel as one, to worship as one, to rear children who are spiritual beings, and to enter old age in lasting love.
The Church teaches that the sacramental marriage bond between husband and wife has two purposes: bringing each other to holiness, and rearing children to love God and their neighbor. In marriage and family life “the married partners have their ownproper vocation: they must be witnesses of faith and love of Christ to one another and to their children” (GS, 5c). They “are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving” (On the Family, 19, 21). “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring” (GS, 48).
- Religious life flows from the mystery of the Church. It is a sign of God’s love for us expressed in our time. Some people, sisters, brothers or priests, are called to dedicate their lives to Christ and His people as members of a religious order or an apostolic institute. Persons who surrender themselves to the God, whom they love above all else, consecrate themselves more intimately to God’s service and the good of the Church (CCC, 931). Moved by the Holy Spirit, and called to a more radical identification with Jesus through their vows, religious give themselves to God whom they love above all. They pursue perfect charity in the service of the Kingdom to signify and proclaim within the Church the glory of the world to come.
- Religious simply yet eloquently profess their love of God and God’s love for us through their living the evangelical counsels: consecrated chastity, poverty, and obedience for the sake of the Kingdom. Their communal lives, shared prayer, and fraternal support make their service effective. This service is expressed in a variety of ways, both in the works they do and by their very presence, living out the unique gift of their institute. In this way they enrich and strengthen the local church.
- In addition to religious life others may be called to live consecrated life in secular institutes wherein they live and work in the world, sanctifying it through their living of the evangelical counsels according to their particular rule of life.
- “The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, ‘each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.’ While being ‘ordered one to another,’ they differ essentially” (CCC, 1547). Bishops, and through them priests, are the successors of those disciples appointed by Jesus when he said to them, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’ ” (Jn 20:21-23.)
- Saint Paul emphasizes the significance of this way of life for all the faithful: “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!’ ” (Rom 10:13-15.) Vatican II speaks of the mission of those ordained to priesthood in this way: “…in virtue of the Sacrament of Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful, as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.” (LG, 28.)
- Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. Through Orders they are ordained for ministry and configured to Christ who made himself servant of all (CCC, 1569-1570).
- Recent [as of 1999] statistics describe the Diocese of Beaumont as having 87,604 members distributed across 44 parishes and 9 missions in seven counties of Southeast Texas. To serve our Catholics, there are approximately 32 diocesan priests in active ministry and 21 priests from religious orders assigned in the diocese. There are 27 permanent deacons. Four religious brothers and 52 religious sisters serve primarily through Church ministries in Catholic health care, in Catholics schools, in diocesan service and parish life. Countless numbers of laity give dedicated service to the Church in many ways.
- The survey Questions for Catholics of Southeast Texas: 1997 revealed that generally Catholics understand the term vocations to mean only vocations to priesthood and religious life. There is a need to emphasize that through baptism all are called and graced by God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to participate in the mission of the Church through the ministries of Word, worship, witness and service. We are called by God to develop the grace of our baptism as we mature. Each of us is to discern our own personal vocation and respond to God’s call to take up the mission of Jesus.
- Catholics are aware that continued celebration of the Eucharist in the faith communities of the diocese is dependent upon priestly vocations. Parishioners express respect for their pastors, appreciation for their homilies, admiration for their compassion and recognition of the challenges in addressing the needs of multicultural communities. They acknowledge the ministry of religious in the past and are concerned about the diminishing number of priests and religious presently available for ministry. They see few African-Americans and Hispanics attracted to priesthood and religious life.
- Catholics commend our bishop for inviting priests from other countries to minister within the Diocese so that they could be nourished through Word and sacraments. Bishop Galante’s daily TV message is widely appreciated, as is his presence at events throughout the Diocese and his openness to listen to the people.
- The restoration of the permanent diaconate by Vatican II has provided the diocese with a new pastoral ministry resource. Catholics appreciate the deacons’ ability to relate well with all the people, yet there is recognition that this new vocation calls for education, planning, and ongoing formation.
- There also is awareness of the vocation issues that face us. Demands made of the pastor in administration, facilities management and finances can be so overwhelming that there is not enough time and energy to exercise spiritual and pastoral leadership. Sometimes the gifts and expertise of the laity are not called forth or utilized nor have they been prepared for leadership roles in the Church. Vocations to priesthood and religious life are no longer widely promoted within Catholic families.
To address these challenges, the synod recommends the following goals and strategies:
Goal 27. Deepen your awareness of how God calls you and assists you to say “yes” to your vocation.
- Learn about, pray and reflect on the universal call to holiness and how you are carrying out this vocation within your particular way of life
- Recognize that a genuine attraction to a particular state of life is often the first prompting of God’s call and the promise of God’s help in responding to it
Goal 28. Recognize and continue to form members of the faith community in their vocation to holiness.
- Acknowledge and support the vocations to single life, married life, consecrated life, priesthood, and permanent diaconate
- Include a vocations component in the religious curriculum of Catholic schools and parish-based religious education programs
- Invite people to tell their personal vocation story
- Pray for vocations
- Sponsor seminarians through parish financial support
Goal 29. Promote understanding and support for each vocation in the Church as God’s call to live out the universal call to holiness through a particular way of life.
Goal 30. Expand the Diocesan Office of Vocations to become a team engaged in vocation ministry with youth and adults.
- Focus on promoting vocations to priesthood, diaconate, consecrated life, and the single life, since the Family Life Office addresses the vocation to marriage
- Address the special vocational issues of the various Catholic cultures within the diocese: Hispanic, Asian, African-American, and Caucasian
- Offer retreats and times of prayer for vocational discernment
- Invite youth to “Come and See”
- Advertise in many and creative ways
Goal 31. Provide initial formation and training for those called to the permanent diaconate.
- Seek vocations to the diaconate
- Begin preparing for a new deacon class as soon as possible
- Develop a pre-program to begin processing and screening applicants
An additional goal is related to Liturgy/Worship, Vocations, and Stewardship. Celebration of Eucharist and the other sacraments is essential to the life of the Church. In order to provide opportunities for as any people as possible to participate in the liturgy and receive the sacraments, the Diocese, in conjunction with the parishes, needs to explore possibilities for the future.
Goal 44. Continue to develop a plan to ensure the availability of priests to celebrate Eucharist and the other sacraments and for the best utilization of priests serving in the Diocese.
- Each vicariate meets to assess pastoral needs of the people and availability of priests and other ministers to meet those needs
- Dogmatic Constitution on the Church [Lumen Gentium, (LG)]. Second Vatican Council, 1964.
- Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes, (GS)]. Second Vatican Council, 1965.
- On the Family [Familiaris Consortio, (FC)]. John Paul II, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, 1981
- Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1992.