Vocations Directors for the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales, meeting at their recent annual conference (Rome, 17-21 October), have called for a proper pastoral approach to be adopted when dealing with young enquirers for priesthood. They expressed concern that teenage enquirers are generally being told that they are too young and shouldn't consider the priesthood until they are older, or at least until they have been to university. The Vocations Directors would like to see this replaced by a proper case by case process of discernment. "Whilst it has never been official policy to ask younger enquirers to defer application; there often seems to have been a received wisdom to advise this. In some cases such a deferral will be the right thing to do to so that an enquirer has the opportunity to grow in faith and maturity to help them benefit from a subsequent programme of priestly formation. However it should not be presumed that this should be the advice given for every case" said Father Paul Embery of the National Office for Vocation reflecting the view of the Vocations Directors. "We do recognise that older men who present themselves for priesthood bring with them a wealth of experience, but young people also have something distinctive to offer. It's a case of 'both, and' rather than 'either, or'" said Fr Embery. Over recent years the seminaries that provide training for priests have invested a great deal in the human formation part of their programmes. Many seminaries would be able to provide younger candidates with a solid priestly formation which would equip them to meet the demands of modern ministry. A pre-seminary year has been successfully running for several years at Valladolid in Spain. This 'propaedeutic year' helps candidates for priesthood to prepare for formation in seminary, and includes an introduction to the Catechism and a deepening of spirituality and prayer. In 1984 the average age of admission to seminary for the dioceses of England and Wales was just over 25 years old . In 2004 it was 31. This means that many candidates will now be 40 years old, or over, before they are ordained. The Vocations Directors also recognised that even though many candidates might present themselves in their 20's and 30's, the origins of their calling can often be traced back to a much earlier age, even primary school. With this in mind the Vocations Directors would like to encourage the catechesis of vocation and the sowing of seeds to begin at an early age. Speaking about the place of vocation in the Church's pastoral work, Father Embery said "By the time a young person is making important life choices in their late teens, parishes, schools and youth work provided by the Church should have given each individual a service of vocational exploration and accompaniment over a number of years. This should include not only information about particular vocations, but also giving them the tools and opportunities they need to properly undertake the process of discernment". Source: NOV For more information see: www.ukvocation.org www.ukpriest.org
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