By Fr. Bong Borgueta (FIS) and Br. Joseph Cheung (CIN)
Don Bosco’s concern for vocations is known to all Salesians. However the vocations to the diocesan priesthood, religious or missionary life as well SDB vocation born at Valdocco or in personal touch with our Father are astonishing. The first generation of Salesians claimed more than 2600 religious and priestly vocations from Valdocco. All of those vocations were born during the 40 years of Don Bosco apostolic commitment in the Oratory of Valdocco. Unbelievable!
Many things changed from the times of classical Aspirantate, when junior high school students entered at 12 year and turned at 16 years of age into newly professed Salesians after finishing their novitiate. Even the Vietnamese style Aspirantate (weekly encounters and boarding houses) that focused on the university students is not anymore the best answer the future of Salesian consecrated life. Also in Vietnam the numbers of vocations are sharply dropping down.
You would remember a continuous invitation of the Rector Major to establish in our Salesian presences a Vocation Culture. Most recent strong invitation was the 2011 Strenna of Fr. Chávez: Come and See. (http://www.sdb.org/index.php/en/rector-major/strenne-en/520-strenna-2011-commentary-en) What is the requested change? Basically is the shift from ‘vocation recruitment’ into more holistic approach towards all young people to understand their life as a gift – vocation. The shift is from ‘fishing approach’ towards ‘vocation agriculture’.
Recently some of the EAO provinces are witnessing a renewed vocational spring or are trying to catch up with the vocation culture. Usually the driving force is the ‘Vocation director’ being assigned on full-time or the whole Youth Ministry team does focus on Vocations.
The Philippine South province organized last November 2014 Provincial Assembly that offers a “Seven Fruits of the Vocation Conference” to all Salesians:
Let vocation promotion groups visit the boys in our schools
Let the province put more resources to the vocation campaign
Let each community revisit the Salesian Educative-Pastoral Plan with regards to vocations
Organize our youth to pray for vocations as a community in all of our presences
Let us be more visible by wearing our religious attire (roman collar and polo barongs)
Each Salesian will ‘have’ one vocation
Let there be more Salesians in the schools present among the students.
FIS provincial vocation director Fr. Bong Borgueta with his team prepared this Assembly with a double survey – one was addressed to the youth in Salesian works (mirror of our attitudes and vocation impact) and the other one was given to all 100 SDB of the province.
On the other side, the China province (Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) is working in a completely different environment from the Catholic Philippines. Most of our 18 schools principals and even spiritual moderators are already lay mission partners. Br. Joseph Cheung (based in Hong Kong, Central Office of the Salesian Schools) after a joint study and reflection of the Salesian documents published in the Provincial Newsletter an article ‘How a Career Master can help promote Salesian Vocations in a Salesian School’. Br. Joseph is suggesting multiple interventions that promote the vocation culture in our school with majority of non Catholics:
Create a warm and caring atmosphere in the school with contribution of teachers and SDB
Explain to the students that God has a call for everyone. We are called to discover His dream.
Make sure the topic of Vocation and Salesian vocation is part of the religious education
Make sure the topic of Vocation and Salesian vocation is part of career-life planning lessons
The idea of Vocation is introduced into career assessment, especially for Catholic students
Learning from personal life experience – personal witness of Salesians and committed Lay
Possible invitation to a short life experience in SDB community
Personal and group planning sessions about Vocation and Salesian vocation topics
Personal accompaniment and group counselling about Vocation topics
Mentoring, accompaniment or peer advising arranged for those who show signs of lay vocation, priestly vocation, religions vocation or Salesian vocation.
All these materials of FIS and CIN province are accessible on the Boscolink:
FIS 2014 Provincial assembly on Vocation promotion: 6 files (Fr. ‘Bong’ Borgueta Medelino)
CIN 2015 Provincial newsletter on Promoting Vocation culture in our schools: 1 file (Br. Joseph Cheung)
Vocation agri-culture is about a patient and constant effort to witness personally a happy vocation life and never give up a prayer, invitation and accompaniment of the youth. Thanks to the daily effort of all vocation directors and their teams in all twenty-two EAO countries!