By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office held its second annual vocation awareness workshop June 25 at the Flaget Center, 1935 Lewiston Drive
The goal of the program was to encourage church leaders to create a culture of vocations, said Father Jeffrey Shooner, director of the Vocation Office and Vicar for Priests.
“It seeks to empower leaders in the church, whether they are ordained or lay, to be able to have a good foundational understanding of God’s call and to respond in a way that creates a culture of vocation,” Father Shooner said.
About two dozen deacons, women religious, directors of religious education, catechists and other lay parish leaders attended the program Tuesday. The presentations followed the REV (religion, evangelization and vocations) talk format similar to the popular TED talks which focus on technology, entertainment and design.
Benedictine Father Denis Robinson, the president-rector at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, gave a presentation titled “Intentionality in Creating a Culture.”
In his talk, Father Robinson referenced the 1945 movie “The Bells of St. Mary’s” starring Bing Crosby. He said the way men and women go about entering the priesthood and religious life is very different today than it was for Father O’Malley, Crosby’s iconic character.
The Catholic Church in the 1930s and 1940s was very isolated from mainstream culture, he said. Within that isolation ethnic groups further distanced themselves by establishing “Irish parishes,” “German parishes,” “Italian parishes” and the like. Additionally people had large families and encouraged one or two children to consider the priesthood or religious life.
That culture had changed by 1960s, he said noting, Catholicism became more mainstream with the election of the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, and thus a breakdown of the sheltered Catholic culture followed.
Before this time, Father Robinson said, children from immigrant families saw the priesthood and religious life as a way of escaping poverty and obtaining an education. This was no longer necessary in the 1960s, he said.
While Catholics have joined the mainstream, Father Robinson said that the message of the Catholic Church today is “absolutely counterculture.”
“One of the great problems that I think we have experienced in the church in recent years is attempting to make the church palatable to the culture that we live in,” he said. “We have to create a new cultural reality and express it in a way of evangelizing.”
Father Robinson said the new evangelization is primarily a re-evangelization.
“It’s not about taking a message to the world,” he said. “It’s about changing ourselves. It’s about making ourselves authentically Catholic, authentically Christian.”
To create a culture of vocations, Father Robinson said, we need to re-create the culture of the church.
“Creating a culture of vocations really has to begin internally,” he said.
During an interview after the program, Father Robinson said that creating a culture in which religious vocations are encouraged and nurtured is absolutely essential to the growth of the priesthood and religious life.
“To be an authentic instrument of evangelization we can’t continue to present ourselves as ideals of community if we do not exemplify community at every level, in the parish, in the schools, everything,” he added.
The day’s events included presentations by several other speakers, including Benedictine Sister Kathy Cash, Father Shooner, Brandy Mader, a member of the leadership team for Louisville Young Catholics, and Marcia Gilbert, a mother who has two children discerning religious vocations.
It also featured music by Julie Roth, the director of worship for Holy Trinity Church.