PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — If more people are going to answer the call to religious life, it will take more than words to attract their attention, according to four women religious who delivered a Sept. 23 presentation on vocations at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
Parents must model what it means to have a relationship with Christ, they said, inviting children to discover their own call from God.
"Children are nurtured when they see Mom and Dad pray — not only at church on Sunday, but at home every day," said Mother Ann Marie Karlovic, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, based in Nashville, Tennessee. "They are nurtured when they see their parents take time away from the TV, computer or other distractions to be quiet, to reflect and to read Scripture."
With so many cultural distractions, she said, it is necessary for families to be more intentional about living their faith. When religious art is displayed on walls and Scripture stories are read to children, she said, homes can become the setting in which children "breathe in the beauty of their faith."
Sister Regina Marie Gorman, vicar general of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, said children learn about God long before they learn to pray. It happens when they feel loved by their parents, she said.
The former chairwoman of the board of directors of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States encouraged couples to show their children that God is good even in the midst of suffering that may enter everyday life.
"Then our children will want to turn their hearts toward him," she said.
It is critical to cultivate a "deep awareness" that there is a "current of love" flowing between a child and the heart of God, she said. Respecting the uniqueness of each child’s encounter with God will safeguard against the temptation of manipulating a child into or away from the priesthood or religious life, she said.
"This is sacred territory," she explained, "and we need to be mindful and attentive to what the Lord is doing in your child’s life so that you can cooperate with God."
Just as parents have an obligation to expose children to works of art, science, beauty, nature and history, she said, they have a duty to expose them to religious life. She urged parents to visit priests and religious and sign up to receive correspondence from various religious communities.
"If the child sees correspondence coming from them," she said, "they will know it’s part of their life. They aren’t going to know it any other way unless we expose it to them."
Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart Gaes, provincial superior of the Institute Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, told parents there is no need to fear the vocation to which God may be calling their children. Receiving the sacraments and praying the rosary are ways to foster openness to God’s call, she said.
"The rosary leads to peace of soul," she explained.
Mother Adela Galindo, founder of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the Archdiocese of Miami, urged families to encourage their children to start asking fundamental questions such as "Why was I created?" and "How does God need me to build his kingdom?"
She noted that love is the fundamental vocation of each human being, and it is not something that can be bought or sold. Children learn to love in the "school of the family," she said.
"This fundamental truth about love must be experienced by all members of the family by having a regular participation in service to those in need within the family or in society," Mother Adela said. "It is a very formative path for the encouragement of young people to serve those who will not give them any recompense."
Jeselyn Basler, a mother of five from Kalamazoo, Michigan, who is expecting another child, told the Catholic Review, Baltimore archdiocesan newspaper, that in her family, religious vocations are presented as real possibilities for her children.
"We have priests over for dinner and visit the sisters in the convent," she said, noting that some of her children have also attended a religious vocation camp. "Whenever we see a sister or a priest, we go up and talk to them and include them in our life."
She and her husband, Ryan, remind their children that God has a special call for them. Prayer is ultimately key, she said.
"We have to pray for what their call is and we should pray for them also," she said.
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Matysek is assistant managing editor of the Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese.