Trailblazing New Paths on Vocation Promotion by Sisters of Indico-Pacific Province:
“ Is religious life still relevant and attractive to young people of today?”... “How can we promote religious vocations in a non-Christian country?”... “Does innovation (in vocation promotion) mean to “spend much”? These are just some of the ‘blazing” questions the sisters and lay collaborators asked Fr. Ivan Joseph Feniquito in an hour and 45-minute long online encounter they had with last October 19, 2023, from 7:00 to 8:45, Thursday evening.
The virtual meeting organized by the Vocation Promotion Team of the IP province of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao regions was actively participated by some 30 sisters led by Sr. Emelinda Falsis, provincial superior, and communities of the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Japan. It was graced by the special participation of Sr. Beth, FAS, and Ms. Carmela Rey, our lay collaborator in Matsue, Japan.
Fr. Ivan Joseph Feniquito, our speaker, is a young priest of the Diocese of Antipolo currently in charge of the international shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage and Director of its Vocation Ministry.
In the first half of the online meeting, Fr. Ivan made a PowerPoint presentation on the ‘LATEST TRENDS IN VOCATION PROMOTION while in the second part he bravely, honestly, and intelligently answered free-wheeling questions of the sisters and lay collaborators.
Fr. Ivan opened his talk by sharing with everyone the ABCs of Vocation Promotion which stood for “Accompaniment”, “ Be like them” and “Charity” respectively. He emphasized our visible presence to young people, our sincere interest in learning their language through technology, meeting them in their favorite “places” they visit daily: the internet and various forms of social media (FB, TikTock, Twitter, etc.), and letting them feel the goodness of God by personally treating them with much love, acceptance, and understanding. His frank and down-to-earth answers to some of the questions asked him are as follows:
1. Yes, religious life is “boring” to the youth of today. It is unattractive due to some “rigidity” they see and experience with priests and sisters. It lacks the “Joy of following Christ” that needs to radiate from religious persons who opted to follow Him radically.
2. “Witnessing” life is the best way to promote vocations in non-Christian cultures. We can learn from Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit who witnessed Christ by being an ordinary teacher in ancient China and the land of Confucius.
3. “Innovation” is needed in the modern way of vocation promotion. Yes, there is a need to spend, but it is rather to “spend wisely” than to “spend much”.
He further said that we need to show the young people of our time that “Holiness and Happiness’ go together using more creative, dynamic, attractive strategies of digital technology, sports, team building activities, vocation festivals, school tours, vocation camps, jamborees and mass-media style approaches (TV Program “Fast Talks, Videos of Vocation stories, posting “Hugot” lines ( Flipino style,one-word/sentence wisdom statement in-jokes) that Filipino teenagers could easily remember and connect with, keep an attractive, updated FI FaceBook account ( posted in daily/weekly basis), show the special skills of sisters (singing, dancing, gardening, etc) in REELs and YouTube.
Fr. Ivan ended his sharing by saying that it is God who calls. Our vocation is indeed a mystery. One can be called to priesthood/religious life without attending a vocation festival. Nevertheless, Vocation Promotion is a means to help young people nowadays hear His call better when their ears are covered with “Walkman” and “ tickle” their sleepy eyes of faith to see clearly that Christ is alive amidst their busy, restless lives.
One sister commented that listening to Fr. Ivan, she felt humbled to realize that as a modern-day vocation promoter, she is not “ above or ahead” of the young persons she accompanies but an “equal” to them, walking beside them in their vocation journey.
At the end of the online session, the participants felt renewed and re-invigorated to once again tread the “narrow, difficult, and highly digitalized” path of modern-day vocation promotion. Trusting the Spirit’s lead every step of the way and armed with the new approaches learned, they hope to be God’s “trailblazers” in accompanying the present generation to hear and respond generously to His call deep down their young, empty, and restless hearts!
By Sr. Marianita Tenoso, F.I.