Presenting the results of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) study on vocations to religious life at the U.S. bishops’ fall assembly, a religious brother has encouraged the bishops to work more closely with religious institutes to create a “culture of vocation” to all forms of ordained and vowed religious life.
Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, Executive Director of the Chicago-based NRVC, presented the results at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) fall assembly in Baltimore.
The study’s key findings include the need for dioceses, Catholic educators and families to collaborate in creating a “culture of vocation” within the Church, a press release from the USCCB reports.
The NRVC’s Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life in the United States showed a 65 percent drop in religious vocations since their peak in the mid-1960s. The study also found that new members bring increased ethnic and cultural diversity and a strong desire for communal living, prayer and Catholic identity.
“Despite the challenges presented by the changing demographics,” Br. Bednarczyk commented, “our study affirms that the Holy Spirit continues to inspire and guide the Church as evidenced by the founding of new religious institutes, the multitude of charitable works established by religious, and most encouraging, the zeal and passion for the gospel and hope for the future embraced by our newer members.”
Br. Bednarczyk asked for the bishops’ help in promoting consecrated life as “a viable, joyful and grace-filled option for the men and women in your dioceses.”
He suggested that bishops meet with the major superiors and religious priests, brothers and sisters in their diocese to discuss the results of the NRVC’s research. He advised they prioritize vocation promotion to all forms of ordained and vowed religious life and speak often about vocations, especially to young people.
He also suggested the bishops provide a component in their diocesan vocation offices to promote religious priesthood and consecrated life in addition to the diocesan priesthood, the USCCB says.
Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation “Vita Consecrata” had advised bishops to make a place for consecrated religious life in their dioceses, Br. Bednarczyk noted.
“If religious life, like priesthood, is a gift to the local church, clergy, religious, and laity all need to share in the responsibility for its promotion,” the brother said.
He added that he felt the USCCB’s invitation to address the bishops was an affirmation of the priority the USCCB gives to religious life and its future.
The NRVC study was conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate. The study and Br. Bednarczyk’s address to the bishops are available at http://www.nrvc.net