Elizabeth (Betsy) Rockwood’s sharing on her recent attendance at the Annual Meeting of the United States Conference of Secular Institutes.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Oblate Missionaries of Marry Immaculate for the privilege of attending the USCSI Annual Meeting September 28-30, 2018.
The meeting was held in the beautiful setting of the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. We were blessed with good weather and so could move easily back and forth to our various locations for meetings, meals, sleeping and quiet walks in the beauty of the desert-like setting.
The USCSI leadership did a truly awesome job of organizing everything from arrival, transportation, housing, meals, facilities for the meetings, presenters for the meetings, appropriate and artistic printed hand outs and worship all the way through to organizing our transportation for departure.
The Rev. Ralph B. O'Donnell, Executive Director of USCCB Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations Office blessed us with his outstanding presentations.
The presentations and information during the weekend resulted in a sharing that united us in our common ground of commitment to consecrated life as members in our various Secular Institutes. I personally found it was stimulating to share experiences with others from different parts of the U.S. We all share a common concern for the aging of our members while at the same time a decline in new vocations. One new insight for me was that this decline in vocations is world-wide within the Catholic Church. Fr. O'Donnell was planning to leave shortly after his meeting with us for a meeting in Rome on the subject of vocations.
The "Panel of Young People," "Parts 1 and 2," were intended to focus on the "strengths and attributes of your institute's charism to accompany youth on their way to faith and discernment." There were three presentations from different Secular institutes on the subject. I was one of the presenters. We all did our best but certainly did not solve the major challenge in our church today concerning vocations. The most promising thing is that we, as members of secular institutes, are recognizing the challenge and seeking to find our Lord's will forward in this.
I would like to share with you two insights on this important subject that may deserve our thoughtful consideration. Prior to coming to the USCSI meeting I had asked our OMMI members to share their thoughts with me on the subject of vocations. Here is a response that I found especially thought provoking.
"I find that the birth of a vocation is truly a mystery...A psychologist told us that for Secular Institutes the members have to be mature...because we do not live in communities. Now a days the members that are accepted are older and of course more mature. They have experience of life. Let us be open to the working of the Spirit in us and around us."
Another similar thought that came to me is from a conversation I had recently with a long time Missionary of the Sacred Heart priest who has been for many years head master of a private School for boys in England. He said:
"It used to be, if an 18 year old boy came to me and said he wanted to become a priest, I would rejoice and encourage him. But today is a different world. Today, I would say, "Wait. Get your college degree. Work a few years in a profession, earning a living, learning about today's world. Then come back to me."
Food for thought!
Elizabeth (Betsy) R.