PARAÑAQUE City, July 15, 2015—More and more young men and women are finding their way to the nearest vocation center, claiming they have been inspired by Pope Francis to consider aiming for a life different from the one they now lead: the priesthood and the religious life.
In an interview, Edwin Dio Despabiladeras, vocation coordinator of the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, shared that indeed there is an increase in people, most of them young professionals, who personally drop by his office to inquire as to the processes one has to undergo before entering the seminary, the convent, or the monastery.
“We cannot deny that the recent visit of Pope Francis to the country is behind this sudden rise in the number of people inquiring about vocations,” he said.
While the increase is welcome news to vocation promoters like him, Despabiladeras pointed out it is too early at this stage to determine which are the true vocations and which are merely fanciful ideas.
“Of course, we cannot discount the fact that some of the prospective applicants are just overwhelmed by their love and admiration for the Holy Father, seeing how he effectively gives witness to the Good News,” he explained.
“It takes time before we know if a person has ‘it’ that is why we encourage each one to attend our monthly search-ins. After all, what we we are looking for is quality more than quantity,” he added.
Despabiladeras, who also serves as a lay missionary, said during search-ins the Baclaran Shrine hosts every third Sunday of the month, participants get the chance to meet individuals more or less of the same age bracket who enjoy a renewed relationship with the Lord.
“It’s a little bit relaxed and informal. There’s a theme that sets the tone of the gathering. Everyone may share a reflection, even their personal problems, but most especially their vocation. Rest assured, he or she will find willing listeners,” he said.
Besides facilitating search-ins, Despabiladeras regularly goes from school to school all over Luzon in order to plant the seeds of vocation in the hearts and minds of students.
“I wouldn’t call it recruitment. Recruitment has acquired such a negative connotation these days. Anyway, we never try to sell ourselves too much. This is just our way of giving the youth an idea that there is an alternative to the kind of life they have been used to. If they don’t want it, it’s OK. If they do, so much the better,” he added.
Meanwhile, an earlier CBCP News post, Fr. Hernando Coronel, then rector of the San Carlos Seminary, had already echoed Despabiladeras’ statement, confirming the correlation between the growing number of trainees for the ordained ministry and the the Argentine pontiff’s Philippine trip.
The priest boasted a 13 percent-increase among philosophy and theology enrollees this year, which is slightly higher than in 2014
“There are more seminarians from the Archdiocese of Manila. There are also seminarians from as far as Borongan, Samar in the Visayas, and Tandag, Surigao del Sur in Mindanao,” Coronel said.
While the rector lacks the enrollment figures of other seminaries, he is optimistic they enjoy the same upward trend.
“We are glad that with the fervor of the laypeople, there is also an increase in vocations. Now put to the test is the level of perseverance of the seminarians and the quality of their commitment,” he added.
For Br. Nestor Limqueco, a college instructor and a professed member of the Company of St. Dominic (CSD), promoting vocation is not the exclusive job of the few.
“Let us not leave the task of promoting vocations to our clergy and religious alone. As members of the Church, we [laity] are also called upon to support them in this area. Each one of us, parents and teachers, most especially, should express cooperation by motivating young minds to enter the priestly and consecrated lives,” he stated.
The Baclaran Shrine is scheduled to hold its next vocation search-in on July 19, Sunday, at 2:00 p.m.
For vocation inquiries, interested parties may contact (02) 832-1151 and/or 0928-852-48-63. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)