God calls each person to praise, love and serve Him. That is what ‘vocation’ means. Discovering your personal vocation takes time and prayer. Some people feel called to follow Christ as Jesuits. That is why every Jesuit Province or Region has a Vocation Promoter. His job is to accompany people in this search.

Vocation Promoters know about prayer, discernment and community life and the struggles involved. Together with other Jesuits, they organise retreats and social activities for young people and offer individual guidance.

Insights from the joint meeting of Vocation Promoters and Young Adult Ministry delegates European Jesuit vocation promoters and young adult ministry co-ordinators met in Rome last week for our annual meeting. Like all good Jesuit meetings, it started with prayer and what followed was a fruitful blend of business and pleasure.  Small groups and plenary sessions allowed for good sharing of best practices, i.e. “we tried this and it worked!” Charlie and Fonfo presented the fruits of several years of investment by the Spanish Province in vocation promotion. Their vocations website www.serjesuita.es is an exemplar of how to communicate with young men who have vocational questions. The three sections, Know, Discern and Choose provide the information and resources that enquirers need at every step of the journey, and the website also makes communication with the vocation promoters easy. The website is already serving as a template that other Provinces are following. The dynamic Iberian duo are also certain that having two Jesuits working together as a team multiplies their creativity and fruitfulness.  We had an excellent sharing on the ministry of the Spiritual Exercises with young people. Jesuits are being very creative in this ministry, packaging the Spiritual Exercises in various ways that also meet other pastoral needs such as catechesis, personal development, and contact with nature. Some Provinces want to make the Exercises available to more young people while others, like St. Ignatius, are trying to be more discerning and selective about who they give the Exercises to and for what reason.  We all agreed that it makes sense for vocation promoters and young adult ministers to meet together. Many of us are actively involved in both fields and there is a lot of overlap in our work. During the meeting it became apparent that we also benefit from talking about the shared context of our work. Young people are simultaneously living in two realities: the physical world and the digital world. For them, growing up in the eras of liquid modernity or liquid post-modernity, has meant growing up in societies which are increasingly unmoored from the natural world, from dependable family and social ties, and from faith communities. Understandably, many young people now experience significant personal insecurities and doubts. We Jesuits want to help them find the human, spiritual and religious foundations and points of reference which, for the longest time, most people have taken for granted.  UAP 2 has set the Society of Jesus on a course of creating a hope-filled future for young people. I sensed a lot of hope in this group – a generative and energetic hope which keeps us moving outward and forward. Let us continue to have great hopes for our young people and great Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.    Niall Leahy 
Sons of Ignatius - Irish Jesuits from Irish Jesuits on Vimeo. The Irish Jesuits have created a new vocations film called Sons of Ignatius which is now available to watch online. It is a mix of vocation stories and information on the Jesuit way of life. Fr Niall Leahy SJ is the Vocations Director of the Irish Jesuit Province who also features in the film. He says:  “Any young man who is thinking about being a Jesuit needs information about how we live and what we do. But he also needs to hear the stories of how others decided to join the Society. I think the film gives both of these. I was also amazed to hear the similarities between the stories. That wasn’t scripted at all.”    Jesuits in Ireland 
From 16 to 21 May, a new type of Combined Meeting took place in Piestany Slovakia. Together, the Network of Vocation Promoters and the new Commission that will take care of the coordinated work of the Youth Apostolate, short YAM, met.   We had representatives from all over Europe. Some of us were so-called hybrid members, representing both groups at the same time. Both, the president of the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials Fr. Franck Janin and his Assistant, Fr. Herminio Rico who oversaw and helped steering the process and the discernment in the group were both there. The purpose of this meeting was to form a common vision and approach in our work with young people.   The meeting was both educational and practical. For two days we heard from two non-Jesuit speakers who offered their expertise in the areas of youth psychology and strategic planning of pastoral care with young people. The first area was presented by a Slovak speaker, Dr Jana Vindiseva.  The second area and model of work was presented by Dr. Danny Curtin from Great Britain. Both presentations either refreshed our knowledge or contributed for new possible perspectives and spaces to our work. The third day was devoted to prayer, reflection and sharing in the light of what we had heard. In small groups we had the opportunity to talk, not only about the content of the lectures, but also about personal experiences and challenges. This added a new dimension to our gathering, namely the search for possibilities of cooperation and networking in the future.  In the afternoon of the third day, we went to visit the Red Stone Castle of Trnava, for a short city tour and dinner. In the final day we made an evaluation of the meeting and saw which good things we were taking with us. We also looked at initiatives that were presented to us, MAG+S Croatia 2022 and MAG+S Portugal 2023. We also looked at a development of the new Global Youth Network that will connect our worldwide experiences and establish new connections and collaboration. From the meeting an initiative arose for a more coordinated work with Erasmus students as much as searching for the way of mutual support, both on a personal and institutional level. The group has looked into a possibility of an eventual new common meeting, and the majority of the participants saw this a good and useful idea. The next meeting will make it possible for both groups to meet separately at the same location which will allow also for a common meeting. There was a strong shred feeling of gratefulness for the possibility of a real meeting rather then Zoom. Stronger bonds can be connected in a time spent together, learning, working, sharing, planning and socializing.  A great thank goes to our hosts, the Slovak province, for the hard work of preparation, service and dedication which made this meeting possible.    
Vocation promoters from around Europe gathered online (not in Ljubljana as had been hoped) for their annual meeting from the 10th to the 12th of May. The promoters expressed fatigue at the uncertainty of the ongoing covid situation. But, in sharing their efforts on the first day of the meeting, it was evident they had displayed many creative initiatives over the past year of pandemic lockdowns to reach out and connect with men interested in exploring Jesuit vocation and in discerning God’s call to them in their lives. New resources from Rome On the first afternoon of the meeting, John Dardis and Mark Ravizza, from the Curia’s media team, introduced the new global Jesuits’ website and vocation promotion toolkit made recently available in anticipation of the anniversary year. They reminded the group of Father General’s letter which encourages ‘a rekindling of a broad and deep culture of vocation promotion … that requires the active participation of all Jesuits and of the lay men and women with whom we collaborate.’ They also highlighted the importance of vocation promoters working closely with delegates and others engaged in young adult ministry recalling the third apostolic preference which encourages an accompaniment of the youth in the creation of a hope-filled future. Recognising the overlapping pools of shared ministry and embedding a culture of vocation in each of them will result in more men joining the Society. The vocation of Jesuit Brother On the second day, the promoters focused on the Jesuit Brother’s vocation. An excellent presentation on the historical roots and evolution of the Brother’s vocation in the life of the Society was delivered in the morning by Wenceslaus Soto. As well as his detailed knowledge of the history of the Society, he enriched the talk by sharing aspects of his own experience and wisdom as a Jesuit Brother lived out over many years in Spain. He was followed, in the afternoon, by Stephen Power, a Jesuit Brother of the British province, who talked among other things about the role Brothers served at GC36, present for the first time in the Society’s history as Electors, and about preparations for the next international meeting of Jesuit Brothers in Loyola. He shared several case studies from Brother’s around the world which showed a vast difference in the way the Brother’s vocation is understood and lived out and how Jesuit Brothers are still often treated as second class Jesuits. The presentations provoked a good level of sharing in small groups and raised questions about how to effectively promote Brother vocations in our provinces. It was agreed that many young people would find the Brother’s vocation attractive but that it was often poorly presented or overshadowed by focussing narrowly on Jesuit priesthood. The final morning attended to business matters. It was decided that the next meeting, which will gather European vocation promoters and delegates of young adult ministry together, will be held next May in Slovakia (covid permitting.) The promoters thanked Grégoire Le Bel for his three-year service to the steering group of European vocation promoters and welcomed Jim Conway as his replacement. Jim Conway SJ (BRI)
Like many other network groups of the European Jesuit Conference, we had our annual meeting online. To be frank, we missed the discovery of a beautiful country (Slovenia), tasting delicious beers (in a bar in Ljubljana) and above all simply being together walking, sharing our projects for the mission, praying together. Yes online meetings are handy but… we miss something! Anyway this was a great meeting, even more ‘awesome’ as would say our main invited speaker Michael Rossmann, the ‘one-minute-homely’ guy, in charge of vocation promotion for the Midwest Jesuit Province of the USA. As my father uses to say when I start an homely: ‘Make it short, Father!’ This advice fits perfectly with online meetings. So we decided on a nice and light program. One hour of presentation and sharing per day, during 3 days. After a common prayer, we started on Tuesday by sharing the journey of a young guy until the novitiate. It was nice to see the global similarity among the presentations and also the specificities of each Provinces. Unity in diversity! The second day we gave the microphone to Michael Rossmann, followed by a nice time of Q&A. Michael is part of a 5 Jesuits dream team (including 3 full time!) for a Province of 490 members, but covering a quarter of the USA! I was struck by the creativity, the desire to meet young people where they are, the constant question ‘Where are young dedicated catholic men, how to reach them and what are their needs?’, and finally the attention paid to the candidates, being frequently in contact with them personally and in groups. On Thursday, we discovered the first ‘Jésuit paper ball project’... (Click here and enjoy the show!) and split in little workshops: Giving Spiritual Exercises to Young people - What content to propose for the candidates - Should we put a focus on male spirituality? Working with men only - Where do you find ‘fertile ground’ in terms of vocprom? - Using Podcasts for Vocation Promotion. At the end of the meeting we had no choice but sharing a beer, called “Apero-Zoom”. Well, this was a great moment. But next year, definitively, we’ll be Ljubljana...
Europese Jesuit Vocations Promoters in Lebanon. A warm, Lebanese welcome greeted vocation promoters from twelve European provinces at the beginning of May 2019. The promoters were joined by Franck Janin, President of the Conference of European Provincials, and his Socius, Jose De Pablo. Bikfaya The annual meeting took place in a town called Bikfaya, 23kms north-east of Beirut, and in the shadow of Mount Lebanon. The name derives from the Aramaic Beit Kifa which means House of Rock. When the Jesuits returned to Lebanon in 1830, after the restoration of the Society, they settled their first community in Bikfaya and constructed a Church, Notre Dame de la Déliverance, naming it after an image of the Madonna brought by an Italian Jesuit. Thought to have miraculous powers, the image, and the Church it was housed in, soon became a shrine and place of pilgrimage. The meeting provided an opportunity for the promoters to share their experience of vocations ministry in their respective provinces, and to hear input from Frank Janin on the theme of ‘Indifference: crucial for the accompaniment of vocation and discernment.’ Remembering Nikolaas Kluiters There was lots of opportunity for prayer and personal reflection and for small group sharing and liturgy. The chance to share good practice and resources was greatly valued. The days also offered ample time for visits to places of interest and especially to the village of Barqua where Dutch Jesuit, Nicolas Kluiters had lived and worked. Kluiters is remembered with great reverence for restoring pride to the village which had become despondent about its future as it started to lose its youth to the towns and cities in search of work. He dedicated himself to developing the village so that people would stay and encouraged the residents to build a school and clinic, a sewing workshop and several other micro-industries to generate employment and create wealth. On March 13, 1985, when Father Kluiters was returning from celebrating mass in Hermel, in the Bekaa valley, he disappeared. His dead body was discovered in a ditch 17 days later and showed signs of having been tortured and shot. He was 44 years old. Beirut Other visits included an afternoon in central Beirut, largely rebuilt after the civil war, and an evening barbecue with some of the community at St Joseph’s University. Towards the end of the meeting a new organising committee was selected. Damian Ristic (Slovenia,) Gregoire LeBel (France,) and Grzegorz Lojtek (North Poland) kindly accepted the appointment and offered to serve the group for the next three years. It was also decided that the next meeting will take place in Slovenia from Monday, 18th May 2020 (arrivals) until Friday, 22nd May 2020 (departures.) A number of topics were suggested and discussed as possible foci for the next gathering, and after a round of votes, it was decided to look at ‘male spirituality and its significance for religious vocation.’ Finally, the group thanked Jad Chèbly of the Middle East Province, for his careful and patient attention over the days in Lebanon and for the planning and organisation that had taken place before it started. The group were deeply grateful.