Catholic church steps up vocation initiatives to recruit more priests, nuns

CEBU. Catholic religious groups in Cebu City launch a weeklong promotional activity from February 5 to 10, 2024 to step up the vocation initiatives of the church amid the dwindling number of people who enter the seminaries.
CEBU. Catholic religious groups in Cebu City launch a weeklong promotional activity from February 5 to 10, 2024 to step up the vocation initiatives of the church amid the dwindling number of people who enter the seminaries. (Contributed photo)

CATHOLIC religious groups in Cebu City have launched a weeklong promotional activity to invite more people to enter the seminaries in celebration of this year’s vocation month.

“We bring the presence of the Church to the marketplace as we find Jesus in the hearts of simple people there,” said Redemptorist priest Ferderiz Cantiller, president of the Directors of Vocations in the Philippines (DVP) Cebu City chapter.

“All are invited to be Jesus' friends. Let us pray for more vocations!” he added.

From February 5 to 10, 2024, different religious congregations and individuals converged at the Carbon Public Market Freedom Park in Cebu and immersed themselves with ordinary people in the street alleys to talk about the vocation needs of the Archdiocese of Cebu.

Cantiller maintained that the event was successful as “it has achieved its goal in terms of promotion and information dissemination, greater awareness in a wider strata of society.”

“It may not have directly resulted in numbers of recruits joining the seminaries and convents. But collectively, DVP Cebu Chapter have planted the seeds that would allow the hearts of people to open themselves up to support the Catholic Church's effort at inviting young people to consider a religious calling,” Cantiller told Sunstar Philippines.

“It was a war to win peoples’ hearts to sympathize with the concern about the current vocation crisis. We cannot achieve our goal in isolation, we can only do so together as a Church with the support of the people of God. To gather people together to even pray for more vocation in the Church is already a noble achievement of the ‘Taboan sa Bokasyon (Market of Vocations),’” the priest said.

During the culmination mass on February 10, Monsignor Rogelio Fuentes, one of the vicars general of the Archdiocese of Cebu, emphasized that the secret of vocation, as St. Paul said, is to “be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”

“Anybody who imitates Christ can also be attractive," Monsignor Fuentes said in his homily.

Maricar Cabanig, vocation directress of the Teresian Association (Lay Consecrated), who accompanied members of the physical arrangement and liturgy committee during the integration activity along the busy Plaridel street in Cebu, said that joining the DVP initiatives “was a blessing.”

"It was worth all the tiredness that I have. It was so touching to bring the sacrament of confession, the word of God to the people, the street vendors there,” said Cabanig.

“Our presence in the midst of the busy place and streets in the Carbon area can be a bridge of hope that we can bring Christ closer to the ordinary people,” added Sister Rosalie Ruiz of the Sisters of Mercy congregation, as the group held a novena at the Evening Chapel in the market area.

Members of the Sisters of Mary with their renowned children’s choir and rondalla also sang church hymns during the event.

“The religious communities of Cebu preached not only in words but also through works of charity such as feeding the hungry and listening to the stories of ordinary folks. We hope that we shared with the people the joy of consecrated life,” said Father Cantiller.

With the help of the St. Paul de Chartres nuns, HIV Network, Cebu Caritas, and the Recollect Fathers, a total of 157 indigent patients also availed the medical and surgical mission on February 6.

Religious groups that participated in the different activities include the Redemptorist Local Vocations office, Redemptorist Youth Mission, Salesians, Living the Gospel Community, Sisters of Mary, Teresian Association, Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters, Daughters of Charity, Society of the Divine Word, Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres, Gualandi Sisters, Daughters of Divine Zeal, and Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus, Opus Vocationum, Alphonsian Family, the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos, Sisters of Mercy, and Opus Vocatiunum, among other Catholic organizations and individuals.

‘Serve the people’

"Serve the Lord, serve the people," added Redemptorist Father Jeremias Rollon, as their group met with street vendors during the integration activities, making the presence of priests and religious felt by the people.

Father Christian James Mayol, the vocation director at the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos of the Archdiocese of Cebu, earlier admitted that he saw a “crisis” in the dwindling number of Catholics who attended seminary schools in Cebu.

Speaking to the local reporters in Cebu, Father Cantiller supported Father Mayol’s claim, saying that during his time in 1995, there were 40 to 60 college seminarians in the Redemptorist Order.

“In 2013, we had only six seminarians. Last year, four young boys were set to join as freshmen but two backed out,” Father Cantiller said.

He cited family pressure, socio-economic, and political issues as the reason why young people are not entering the seminary.

According to Cantiller, they have to come up with “innovative ways” to find young Catholics to enter the priesthood.

“The vocation is down, but if the missionary presence is active, then there will be vocations. I just would like to believe, like the first disciples, they first got interested in Jesus' works and deeds and so they followed him,” Father Cantiller added.

In a report from the Catholic news site UCA News, the DVP Cebu chapter head asked the Catholic faithful to “help me pray the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into His vineyard.”

“The most important tool in vocation promotion is prayer. We prayed together at the evening chapels and it was a joy to see people from all walks of life join the priests and religious at the Carbon Market Freedom Park to pray for more vocations. For truly, it is the Lord Jesus who calls and gives the grace to respond to it,” said Father Cantiller. (SunStar Philippines)


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