Vocation Promoters Meeting in Huissen

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Huissen Meeting
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Vocation Promoters in North Western Europe met at Huissen, the novitiate house of the Dutch province, April 17-18, 2012 to discuss the situation in that region regarding vocations to the Order. At the meeting were, Bros. André Lascaris, Jan Laan, Wijbe Fransen and Sr. Holkje vd Veer of the recruitment commission of the Dutch province. With them at the meeting were Bros. Gerard Dunne (Ireland), Alain Arnould (Belgique Sud) and Vivian Boland (Santa Sabina).

Bro. André spoke about the situation in the Netherlands, explaining the dramatic change from a ‘pillared society’ in which people’s identity was determined completely by the religious and/or political group to which they belonged to a situation from the 1950s onwards of trying to get beyond that stratification. The history of Dutch Catholicism since Vatican II is well known and at present there are few if any vocations to religious life in the country.

Bro. Gerard has been fulltime promoter of vocations for the Irish province for twelve years. He spoke about the initial challenge of the task, his experience in making contact with young people, how he presents the Order, and how he understands what motivates the current generation of young Catholics. He spoke about being visible, e.g. on university campuses, and about his work of accompanying candidates for the Order. His work has borne fruit: a group of 13 entered in 2009 and a group of 6 this year. He spoke also about the changing situation for the Church in Ireland with substantial anger and disaffection as a result of abuse scandals.

Bro. Alain spoke about the situation in Belgique Sud. Some years ago the general vicariate had brothers joining but there has been another gap until this year when there is one novice in Brussels. As in Ireland, most potential vocations learn about the Order from the internet. The general vicariate prefers brothers to study abroad for at least some years of their formation.

Bro. Vivian spoke about the situation in England where he was master of students from 2004 to 2011. Over there, one brother is vocations promoter and another is vocations director. There is a steady stream of vocations with an average of 1-2 novices each year. The Order has a high profile in England and quite a number of brothers are converts to Catholicism.

A number of issues emerged from these presentations. It was agreed that a province needed to be convinced that Dominican life is worth living if it is to be proactive in promoting vocations. Good Dominican preaching is one way of promoting vocation.

Many newer members of the Order come from movements and communities active in the new evangelization and this challenges the Order to recover aspects of its own missionary and evangelizing tradition. The older brothers need understand what younger brothers are looking for in religious life. When new brothers come, the community also must be prepared to adjust.

Relating with the many immigrant communities living in Western Europe is also part of the Order’s mission in Europe today. At the same time younger brothers seem more focused on ‘home missions’ rather than on ‘foreign missions’.

The process of admission was compared in the different entities and the use of psychologists and other professionals was discussed. It was felt that between 25 and 35 years is generally the best age for entering the novitiate in the provinces of our region.

We should not create a profile of potential candidates that will be too detailed. People aspiring to the Order should have a desire for study, a willingness to learn and an appetite for thinking. The most be people of faith too: the relationship with God is the spark that awakens people to their vocation.

It was generally agreed that the meeting had been worthwhile despite the low turnout. A future meeting will be arranged and the possibility of involving other vocation promoters in Europe was encouraged.

By fr. André Lascaris, OP (Huissen) and fr. Vivian Boland, OP (Santa Sabina)