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Culture of vocations needs buy in from all

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Creating a culture in which the entire community of the Church is engaged and feels responsible for the formation of priests has to be a priority for the future, a national conference for diocesan vocations directors was told in Adelaide this week.

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Guest speaker, Bishop Tony Randazzo from the Sydney Archdiocese, said it was important that everyone took ownership for the formation of priests and that seminarians were being trained “in a way fit for today’s world”.

He provided the 20 conference attendees with details of the current overhaul of the Ratio Sacerdotalis which is being undertaken by a small working party on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. This will result in a new document for the formation process that is more relevant to the 21st century.

“What we are looking into at the moment is not just seven years of seminary life, but how do you engage in an initial and ongoing formation for the rest of your life, which is really dynamic.

“It’s not just a book, a manual on how to do things, this is about engaging the entire community of the Church to wrap around the formation. Everyone is invested in it – women, men, single, married, Religious, priests, bishops, deacons. Everybody in the Church has ownership of this process.

“It’s about creating a vocational culture, and that’s tough.”

The two-day conference held in the Cathedral Hall brought together vocations directors from across Australia. Topics covered included vocational discernment, promoting vocations, the application process and case studies from discerners/applicants.

Bishop Randazzo told The Southern Cross that life in the seminary today was “very different” to his experience in the 1980s.

“We are now much more purposeful with regards to formation. Even 30 years ago it was about getting all the academics right… and if you generally kept the rules of the seminary and studied really well, you were doing alright.

“Now we are saying, this is a little different. There’s multi-dimensional aspects of the human person, and of the Church, and of the way we minister in different communities because the multicultural nature of our society in Australia is very different.

“So now we’re very fortunate because we look at four dimensions – the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral – and they interrelate and interconnect with each other. Running all the way through each of those is a missionary spirit, a zeal for the Gospel.”

Since his ordination in 1991, Bishop Randazzo has gained extensive experience in the area of vocations. He has served as vocations director in the Brisbane Archdiocese, the rector of the Holy Spirit Seminary in Queensland and now as an auxiliary bishop in Sydney he is episcopal vicar for formation, with a particular focus on the formation of seminarians, young clergy and the ongoing formation of priests.

“From now on we’re dealing with millennials and that is huge, it’s a whole shift in culture,” Bishop Randazzo explained.

“They have stood by and watched the challenges that the Church has been through and yet in the midst of all of that, God is still calling them and they are still attentive enough to discern, to pray, to engage the community of the Church – both within the building but most importantly, outside in mission.

“And they are standing up and saying, ‘I think God is calling me to be a priest in the Church’ and they are stepping forward for discernment and formation.

“These are the gifts God gives.”

Bishop Randazzo said it was heartening that the seminary in Sydney was full, but stressed that vocations was “not a numbers game”.

“One good priest who is faithful to his vocation and loves his people is better than 100 priests who don’t.”

He added that for most in the community, priesthood was “never considered to be a normal kind of vocation” and he was always asked why he wanted to become a priest.

However, after 28 years he had no doubt this was his calling.

“I can say with confidence that I wake up every single morning and I joyfully give the day to the Lord. It’s not just about saying and reciting prayers, it’s about opening myself up every single day to the love, the mercy, the joy, the grace and peace of God.

“That’s not just for me, that’s for everyone.”

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