Philippine Church turns to people to address vocation crisis

Members of various religious congregations converged at a public market in Cebu to speak with ordinary people Feb. 5-10

UCA News reporter

Updated: February 12, 2024 11:20 AM GMT

Catholic religious speak to people on the streets during a weeklong promotional activity to step up the vocation initiatives of the Church at the Freedom Park-Carbon Public Market in Cebu, Philippines, from Feb. 5 to 10. (Photo supplied)

A Catholic archdiocese in the Philippines has concluded a weeklong integration activity to motivate younger people to join seminaries, which are facing a crisis situation due to a lack of fresh recruits.

Members of various religious congregations converged at the Freedom Park-Carbon Public Market in Cebu to speak with ordinary people from Feb. 5 to 10 as part of this year's vocation month at the Archdiocese of Cebu.

Redemptorist priest Ferderiz Cantiller, president of the Directors of Vocations in the Philippines (DVP) Cebu City chapter, said it was an effort by the Catholic Church to invite young people to consider a religious calling.

We cannot achieve our goal in isolation, we can only do so together as a Church with the support of the people of God, the priest told UCA News on Feb. 12.

He said that gathering people together to pray for more vocation in the Church is a noble achievement of the Taboan sa bokasyon (Market of Vocations) that was meant to invite all to be Jesus' friends.

Cantiller said the effort did help to spread awareness among a wider stratum of society though it may not immediately lead to recruits in seminaries and convents.

It was a war to win people's hearts, to get them to sympathize with the concerns about the current vocation crisis, he added.

Cantiller said that during his time in 1995, there were 40 to 60 college seminarians in the Redemptorist order. However, in 2023, the number of college seminarians fell to a mere two. It was supposed to be six, but four backed out, he explained.

He cited family pressures, socio-economic and political issues as the reasons why young people are not entering the seminary.

Father Christian James Mayol, the vocation director at the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos of the Archdiocese of Cebu, has described the dwindling number of Catholics in seminary schools in Cebu as a crisis.

However, Cantiller said he is confident there will be vocations if the missionary presence is active. Like the first disciples who got interested in Jesus' works and deeds and so followed him, he added.

Maricar Cabanig, vocation directress of the Teresian Association (Lay Consecrated), who accompanied members of the physical arrangement and liturgy committee during the integration activity along the busy Plaridel Street in Cebu, said that joining the initiative was a blessing.

What an experience... It was so touching to bring the sacrament of confession, the word of God to the people, the street vendors there, she said.

Sister Rosalie Ruiz of the Sisters of Mercy congregation hoped their presence on the busy streets in the Carbon area may prove to be a bridge of hope that we can bring Christ closer to the ordinary people.  

The religious communities of Cebu preached, not only in words but also through works of charity such as feeding the hungry and listening to the stories of ordinary folks, Cantiller said.

A total of 157 needy patients availed of the medical and surgical mission on Feb. 6 with the help of St. Paul de Chartres nuns, HIV Network, Cebu Caritas, and the Recollect Fathers, he said.

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