…Says to Priests and religious, “Follow the examples of Christ”
May 8 is the fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Vocations Sunday and Good Shepherd Sunday. On this 59th edition of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Catholics are invited to promote vocations to the priestly, religious and consecrated life, and to offer prayers for those nurturing such desires. This annual event was first introduced in 1963 by Pope St. Paul VI. In view of this year’s observances, the Editor, NETA NWOSU chats with Rev. Fr.Theodore Martinos, Director of Vocations,Archdiocese of Lagos on the essence of the event, Lagos Archdiocese’s programme to mark it, correlation of Vocations Sunday with Good Shepherd Sunday and other contemporary matters. Excerpts:
May 8, 2022 marks the 59th Anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. What does the Catholic Church mean by the word ‘Vocation’? What are the objectives of Vocation Sunday?
Vocation is a special calling to a deeper level of commitment with God and His Church. God is the one who does this calling and it applies to persons called to the (i) Ordained Ministries of the Priesthood and the Diaconate, (ii) to the Consecrated life comprising male and female religious life, societies of apostolic life, and (iii) to the marital state.
However, in the context of this discussion, the focus is on the first and second. The main objectives of Vocation Sunday are firstly, to pray for more genuine vocations to the Priestly and Religious life. Critical to the mission of evangelization is the vibrancy and dedication of consecrated men and woman who offer service intended to initiate humanity into the divine life of God. For this reason, Jesus invites us to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest (Mt 9:38).
Secondly, to encourage men and women, particularly the young ones to dispose themselves to the Lord’s call to the Priesthood, the Religious life and to the Apostolic life. The Church, through today’s celebration, encourages these men and women to discern this call with a spirit of charity and openness to the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, to urge everyone within the Church to be aware that the nurturing and support of Priestly vocation and of the Religious life is the work of everyone. This is done through the preservation and passing on of our Catholic faith and the financial support rendered to train seminarians and novices.
This year’s edition is the 59th, do you think the Church has realised her objectives so far?
Because the Lord is always with His Church, we believe that there has indeed been progress over the years and decades, yet not without its attending challenges. While it may be said that of all the continents, Africa and Asia are presently experiencing appreciable vocation boom, progress is also noticeable in other climes, especially as local clergy is being charitably supported by missionaries from other parts of the world.
Nonetheless, a lot still has to be done. Since the time of Jesus there has been shortages in the number of priests and religious, simply because this is a special calling that demands the whole of the person and on the other hand because the harvest is always growing. We need more priests and religious who are truly committed and wrapped with apostolic zeal. We need more financial support for their training and ongoing formation.
The World Day of Prayer for Vocations fell on Sunday, May 8, 2022, also known as Vocations Sunday and Good Shepherd Sunday. Is this deliberate or a coincidence? Please tell us the correlation between Vocations Sunday and Good Shepherd Sunday? How does Vocations Sunday/ Good Shepherd Sunday impact on the lay faithful annually?
As you indicated, the Vocation Sunday is also known as World Day of Prayers for Vocations and Good Shepherd Sunday. It is always celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Easter, being the Sunday the Church reflects on Christ the Good Shepherd who, in order to give his people eternal life, laid down his own life out of love. This is what shepherds (priests and religious) are called to do.
That is why this “call” is an invitation to service, and love is at the heart of service as Jesus did and taught us by washing his disciples’ feet. This Sunday also teaches the faithful to trust in the ministry of the Priesthood. Sheep neither listen to nor follow strangers’ lead. They only follow their Shepherd’s lead. While this is an advice to the faithful, it is a challenge to the priests and religious who must recognize the enormity of the task placed upon their shoulders.
How is the Vocations Directorate in the Archdiocese of Lagos doing?
The Vocations Directorate principally journeys with the young men discerning their vocation, as well as accompanying those in training to become priests. It is presently a team of three Priests that still interfaces with other principal and strategic persons and institutions such as the Seminaries where formation takes place, the Parishes where formation is practicalized, health and pyscho-social institutions, and chiefly, the Archbishop.
How does the Vocations Directorate intend to mark the 2022 Vocations Sunday?
For now, we rely solely on the sensitization made on Vocation Sunday at the parish levels, through the Priests, working also with other vocation clubs, such as Serra club and others. More ideas will be employed in subsequent celebrations.
What do you really do as Vocations Director of the Archdiocese of Lagos?
In addition to what I earlier remarked upon, the Directorate of Vocations essentially facilitates the process of response to vocations. It does this by aiding the discernment process of those aspiring to become priests, admitting those who meet up with the requirements, journeying with seminarians through the period of formation, evaluating their readiness for the Order of Ministries and in all helping them to prepare for the Priesthood. The Directorate also has an eye for facilitating on-going formation for Priests.
How long have you been the Vocations Director of the Archdiocese of Lagos? We would like you to also share your experiences. Do you relate with the lay faithful in regards to their vocation of matrimony and family?
The team is just about seven months in the Directorate. So far, our experience is nothing short of Divine Providence. The task of facilitating Vocations only reveals God’s care for His Church. The fact that He never leaves his flock untended continues to marvel us. How God knits all the integral participants of this process together, in view of making, forming shepherds for his flock, is amazing.
While the Directorate’s primary focus is not the vocation to the married life, it nonetheless interfaces greatly with the family. The nursery for vocations to the Priestly and Religious life is the family. The kind of Priest we want is determined by the family’s spirituality.
Why would a priest or a religious look forward to Vocation Sunday?
To know that the entire Church prays for you and cares about you is deeply comforting and inspiring. So, we look forward to it. It also affords us the opportunity to speak to many about the joy of our priestly service.