The Vocations Ireland NET Team consists of three men and three women from around the world who all love Jesus and youth ministry. René and Rachel are American, Vanessa and Connor are Canadian, Alex is a Scotsman and Pierce is Irish. Our team is based in Blackrock, Dublin and we work mostly in the Dublin area, running retreats and youth groups.
What exactly is the Vocations Ireland NET Team?? This is one of the first questions that my teammates and I asked when we were put on this team and it is a question that other people often ask.
A good start is looking at the word “vocation,” which comes from the Latin word “call”. In this context, it is referring specifically to God’s call for our lives. Discerning a vocation is simply discerning what God is calling us to do; this might be to the religious life, priesthood, married life, or single life. But there are also a lot of smaller ways God can be calling us, like to a university, career, volunteer work, etc. The organisation Vocations Ireland is sponsoring our team so that we can help promote vocations when we minister to youth. We want them to start thinking about God’s call and to be exposed to the option of the religious life.
The Vocations Ireland NET team is unique from the other teams in that when we do our retreats in schools, we are joined by a priest or religious for the day. They participate in the activities of the day and share their story of how they’ve heard God’s call in their lives. We have had a lot of fun getting to know the religious brothers and sisters and sharing the day with them.
At first, I was unsure of how well the youth would respond to the religious. I remember at the beginning of one retreat, a youth saying to her friend “I’ve never seen a nun before.” However, my uncertainties were soon dispelled when I saw how well they respond to the religious. The youth always seem very open and interested in the religious and the stories they tell. At the same retreat I mentioned previously, I asked a girl what her favorite part of the day was. Her answer was a pleasant surprise! She said her favorite part of the day was when the brother and sister shared their stories. She was inspired by their joy and said “I could see myself being a sister one day.” Wow. God can do so much in a young person’s heart from just one encounter!
It is so important for youth to interact people who have stepped out in faith to answer God’s call, whether they are priests, religious, or a team of young missionaries who have given a year of their lives to minister to young people. It is good for them to see that “a vocation” isn’t as big and scary as perhaps they thought it was. It is simply normal people who love Jesus and want to answer His call. We hope that our witness, and the witness of the priests and religious we work with, will inspire the young people we encounter. And that they to listen for God’s call and respond as Isaiah did, courageously saying “‘Here I am…send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8).