Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Religious Vocations in the Digital Age

What the Statistics

Last January I received two new assignments. The first was that of Vocation Director, the work of reaching out to encourage vocations for our community and working with those who approach us and need assistance in their discernment process. The second assignment was that of Formation Director, the person who facilitates the transition into contemplative monastic life in our community for new members and guides them as they consider the invitation to vows. To inform my efforts in these directions, I recently attended four meetings at the diocesesan and regional levels.

One occasion was the Bi-Annual Meeting of the Bishops of New York with Major Superiors sponsored by the New York Catholic Conference. This conference day was excellently organized and totally focused on vocaion development. The keynote speaker was Brother Paul Bednarcyk, CSC, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference. Brother Paul shared his personal experiences and viewpoints underscoring them with statistics gleaned from an on-line survey of young adults sponsored by the publishers of Vision , a vocation magazine. In the afternoon, a panel presented the results of their "Survey of Student Attitudes Toward Religious Vocations in New York City" sponsored by St. John's University.

This week I was able to hear Sister Rose Pacette, FSP speak about "The Digital Age and Religious Life: Call, Commitment and Community." This was sponsored by Region 1 of the National Religious Vocations Conference. Over 50 religious attended this presentation on a foggy Monday morning. Such was the level of interest among vocation directors and others. Sr. Rose is an expert on the social, cultural and spiritual impact of media in this digital age.

Here I would just like to share some statistics taken away from these experiences. They will give you food for thought and prayer.

* From the Vision Survey - What attracts you to religious life?

praying with community - 72%
devotional prayer 73%
ministry with others 63%
living in community 67%
habit 50%
justice and peace 64%
faithfulness to the Church 90%

* From the St. John's Survey

85% believe hat a religious vocation is a good thing

70% report that family never encouraged religious vocation and that friends are not supportive

9% believe that the Church tries to understand this group (young adults)

72% say they have never been approached to consider a religious vocation

89% say they have never participated in a recruitment program

Among all of the startling revelations about the ramifications of the digital revolution and the exponential increase in available information presented by Sr. Rose, came the following:

Current learners will have held 10 to 14 different jobs by the time they reach the age of 38 years.

Embedded in her PowerPoint presentation was Shift Happens, a six and a half minute presentation available on the Internet which shows how societal, cultural and intellectual shift (that is, change) is inevitable. Therefore we are preparing people for jobs, problems, situations, and cultural developments that are not even on the radar screen at this moment.

Among the Recommendations of the Speakers

* Communities need to ask themselves: Why do we want vocations? To have more workers; because we want to feel good; because the charism should survive, because we have something to offer?

* This is a moment for communal self-examination of the way we live our lives as consecrated religious.

* Reach out by every means possible to this generation in their milieu and their culture.

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