The home, “birthplace” of vocations

The European Congress on Vocations in Prague. Emphasis on the essential role of the family environment

The parents are the first witnesses, the first “guardians” of a vocation. It’s the central message of the European Congress for Vocations, held in Prague July 6-9. The theme of the 26th European meeting, promoted by CCEE, was “How to accompany youths to the priesthood and to consecrated life in the family today.” The event, with almost 70 participants, including 9 bishops, “has led to the achievement of a twofold goal”, states a note by the organizers: “to promote sharing of the various vocational realities, difficulties and hurdles, as well as prayer for vocations, among experts in the respective nations” (19 represented Countries, including the United States); and “suggest criteria and guidelines for vocational service.” In particular, there emerged the “wish to offer a set of reflections for the Synod fathers, ahead of the next Synod on the family.” Faith witnesses. The days of the Congress were marked by moments of sharing and reflection as well as time for cultural enrichment and relax, such as the visit to the city of Prague with the Eucharistic celebration at the Church of the glorious Virgin Mary, where is preserved the Child Jesus of Prague. A young Czech priest, Fr Kamil Skoda, shared a significant faith witness with his parents on the theme “The influence of the family on priestly vocation.” During the day in Prague Fr Jan Balik, national Director for Pastoral Care of youths in the Czech Republic, shared with participants his reflections on “the service of the Church to young people under Communism and the pastoral care of young people” in the years of the regime. Fr Filip Hacour, national director for the pastoral care of vocations in Belgium (Flemish area) offered a reflection “on the reality of the family, of youths, in the context of secularization.” Among the speakers figured the married couple Attilio Danese and Giulia Paola Di Nicola, both lecturers and professors at the University of Chieti (Italy), who proposed “a reading of the social and cultural situation of the family in Europe: criteria and guidelines for an education to faith and vocational welcome.” Starting from a set of sociological and anthropological figures, Danese and Di Nicola identified the reasons underlying the current crisis in marriage and in the family institution so that – they explained – having identified the causes, young people may be helped reconsider marriage in the quality and in the motivations of this choice.” The role of parents. Among those intervened in the meeting in Prague figure also Msgr. Josef Kajnek, bishop delegate for vocations on behalf of the Episcopate of the Czech Republic; Msgr. Oscar Cantoni, president of the CCEE European Vocations Service; Fr Michel Remery, CCEE deputy secretary general; Mons. Nico Dal Molin, secretary of the CCEE-EVS Commission. A further reflection on the theme “How to accompany youths to the priesthood and to consecrated life starting from their family environment”, was introduced by Msgr. Jorge Carlos Patròn Wong, Secretary of Seminaries of the Congregation for the Clergy. The lecture by Patròn Wong was divided into three passages: the relationship between the pastoral care of families and the pastoral care of vocations, what is asked as a contribution to the pastoral care of young people; personal and ecclesial accompaniment of young people. As regards the first aspect, Msgr. Wong quoted from the “Familaris Consortio” of John Paul II, according to whom a lot can be done to help families become “the first and the best seminary of the vocation to life of consecration to the Kingdom of God.” On this aspect was underlined a fundamental guideline for the pastoral care of vocations: “Parents are not the promoters of the vocation of their offspring, nor their planners, but they are the first witnesses, the first guardians overlooking, encouraging and confirming it. They may not be Christians or they may resist or disagree with their children’s vocation. These behaviours are the reason why us, as animators of the pastoral care of vocations, should care for parents’ bond with the families of young people we meet.”

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