What does the 2018 FOCUS convention in Chicago teach us about vocations?

More than 8,000 Catholic young people came to Chicago for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ get-together. The enthusiasm was palpable. I overheard one young woman say something like, “I can’t wait to get home and change the world!”

And the many young priests and religious there were a sign that the Church will grow stronger.

Since we at Vocation Promotion are involved in vocation work, I interviewed thirty vocation directors at their tables. I asked how their vocation efforts were coming along. I got all kinds of answers. Here are three things I learned.

1. It takes a lot of effort

Calling, travelling and talking. The vocation directors I spoke with put a lot of time and energy into their work. Mid-sized communities of say, eight or so sisters or friars struggle. Their vocation director has to juggle their tasks with other commitments.

Larger communities, such as the Dominican or Jesuit men, have two or more vocation directors throughout their U.S. provinces. They can devote themselves full-time in this work, and do a lot of travelling.

2. Some of our efforts bear more fruit than others

Some vocation services are better than others. Some services produce vocation candidates that are good ones, but others don’t. Some vocation directors are knowledgeable about using various softwares, methods, and other technology. Others aren’t.

Various techniques at the meeting were used there to engage passers-by. One community used a life-size cutout of a religious sister so that young women could pose with it while their picture was taken. All it took was a “come here” gesture to draw them in.

3. Make the most of every opportunity

We must know what’s available, and take advantage of opportunities. Some communities make better use of their time interacting with potential candidates at conferences such as this. They asked questions of their visitors first, and listened. Describing their own community was kept in the background until the right time in the conversation.

We must be assertive. One community I saw had collected only five names with contact information at their table. Another showed me pages of about twenty or thirty contacts that they had gathered over the same period of time.

Several communities featured singing or other performances at the conference, and thus got the word out.

2018 FOCUS Convention vocation photos

See the 2018 FOCUS convention photos and videos on their Facebook page. And, if I took a photo of you at your booth, see the photo on our own 2018 FOCUS Vocation Promotion Facebook page.

As St. Paul says, “Make the most of every opportunity.” (Eph. 5:16)

Best wishes in your own vocation efforts!