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Marist Calendar - September

“Young people, faith and vocational discernment”



Speech of Brother Ernesto Sánchez during the Synod of Bishops

15/10/2018: Vatican

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On Oct. 11, superior general Brother Ernesto Sánchez gave a speech in the Synod of Bishops in which he touched on the “Vocational Culture”.

Quoting a phrase of Pope Francis who recalled that “there is the urgency to bring into the Christian community a new ‘vocational culture’,” Br Ernesto said that promoting this vocational culture “means to seek to connect and to be in tune with the new generations, with a positive perspective, finding the right language and understanding the local context.”

He told the participants of the Synod that, in order to reach young people, structural changes must be made “daring to set aside that which must die, to welcome the novelty of a world that also wants to surprise us today, since it belongs to God.”

Brother Ernesto is a member of the Synod after he was elected by the Union of Superiors General to be one of the representatives of the male religious congregations.

Below is the full speech of Brother Ernesto.



Br. Ernesto Sánchez Barba, F.M.S., Superior General


Dear Pope Francis,

Dear Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Superiors General, Religious, Lay men and women, and young people present in this Synod,

My words focus on number 90 of the Instrumentum Laboris which says when presenting life itself as a vocation, “So, it is a matter of promoting a renewed vocational culture”.

It was St John Paul II who used the phrase vocational culture in 1992, saying, “I desire, first of all, to call attention to the urgency of cultivating what we could call, "basic vocational attitudes", which give life to an authentic "culture of vocation".”[1]

Last year Pope Francis told the participants of the Italian National Congress on Vocation Ministry, “There is an urgent need to foster a new “vocational culture” within Christian communities.”[2]

In our days, we must approach this task humbly, more as disciples than as masters, seeking to co-create the dream of God, hand in hand with young people themselves.

Do we think that young people understand the words we use?  Do terms like vocation, discernment or the like mean anything to them?

Promoting a renewed vocational cultureinvolves seeking to connect with the new generation, being on the same wavelength, with a positive mindset, finding the right language and understanding where they are coming from.  We need to create conditions for each young person to be the principal artisan of his or her own vocation, recognising the seed within that is waiting to germinate, grow, develop and bear fruit.

Isn’t it obvious that the Gospel speaks to the young and challenges them, but the same cannot be said of our “religious” structures? We have to be capable of making the structural changes needed to move forward, daring to put aside what must die, in order to welcome the newness of a world that continues to surprise us inasmuch as it is the hands of God.

Promoting a vocational culture involves our capacity to create synergy.  Such synergy begins with a broader vocational ministry, as is indicated in number 86 of the Instrumentum Laboris. It needs to be integrated into other pastoral activities associated with education, the family, social action etc.

It is a synergy that we can adopt with increasing dynamism in our attempt to be and act as a single body, giving value to and promoting charisms and ministries in all their diversity.  We need to begin with the gift of the vocation of laypeople, who make up the majority of the baptised, including marriage as a vocation, as well as valuing and appreciating the gift of consecrated life with its various charisms and the gift of ministerial priesthood.

To conclude, I believe that we must act more energetically to stoke the fire of our passion for following Jesus and making him known.  Stoking the fire in ourselves, and in those engaged in our Institutions, for I believe that it is mainly by “being caught” that we will be able to pass the fire on to generations to come.

Mary was able to welcome newness because her heart was full of God’s warmth. May she touch our hearts with this fire and inner freedom.

Many thanks

[1]JOHN PAUL II, Message for the 30th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 8 September 1992, No.2.

[2]POPE FRANCIS, Discourse of the Holy Father Francis to the participants of the Congress arranged by the National Office of Vocations Ministry of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), Paul VI Hall, 5 January 2017

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