Fifty five years ago, Pope Pius XII established a World Day of Prayer for Religious Vocations. Through the years, the intentions evolved to include all types of vocations.  In 1963, the day was declared as Good Shepherd Day referring to  the fact that our Lord takes care of us as a good shepherd does his sheep.

The theme for 2018 is “Listen, Discern and Live the Call of God”. The Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus initiated the  celebration, which is an active response of the Church and Laity to the Lord’s call found both in Matthew 9:37-38 and in Luke 10:2: “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest”. In his message for the 2018 World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis reminds all Christians:

“God never ceases to call men and women to follow Him…[I]n the diversity and uniqueness of each and every vocation, personal and ecclesial, there is need to listen, discern and live this word that calls to us from on high and while, enabling us to develop our talents, makes us instruments of salvation in the world and guides us to full happiness….”

This year’s goals of the overnight prayer/vigil were to promote a culture of vocations; to encourage the participants to respond to the call of the Lord to be of greater service to the Church; to promote the charisms of the religious orders and congregations actively serving in   the Diocese and to identify ways of collaborating to promote vocations among the youth.

The prayer/vigil was held at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Multinational Village on  April 21-22, 2018. Twelve (12)  participants from PCJ’s Commission on the Youth – Scholars of PCJ and Ministry of Altar Servers — attended. On these days, the universal Church  was united in prayer for more men and women to answer God’s call to be the visible face of the Good Shepherd in the world.

The overnight prayer vigil introduced the youth of the Diocese of Paranaque to the different vocation options available to them:

– vocation to the ordained life
– vocation to be consecrated person
– vocation to the married life
– vocation to a single life

Talks about the different vocations were shared by priests and lay people. Praise and worship interspered between talks and sharing. James was enlightened about the different vocations open for him, “this event explained how one can serve the Church whichever path one chooses” and he realized that “doing good or simply being there for others was a way he could serve the Lord for the moment”. This sentiment was shared by Christina and Angelika G. and all participants when they wrote “we should be passionate in our mission to bring God closer to our hearts and to others and we should use our hearts, our minds and our palms to make things happen for His glory glory”.

In all these, our youth recognized that they should always be ready to heed the call to service in whatever capacity and way by having an open mind, and an open heart.

What started as a fellowship experience evolved into a prayer vigil where everyone was encouraged to share experiences and burdens. Subtly, the desire to participate more in evangelization work was implanted and enkindled in the consciousness. Sharing provided the venue for the deepening and enhancement of understanding the meaning of vocations, The talks encouraged the participants to generously respond to the call of God to be of service to Him. Praise and worship provided the needed breaks for stretching tired bones and sleepy heads and an open expression of the love for God.

Dubbed as “sleepless in Paranaque”, camaraderie and fellowship among participants were established and friendships were formed. Angelika observed that vibrant smiles, unending laughter and competition for the most number of yawns was the order of the night. Through the talks and sharing, each participant developed inner knowledge and understanding that each was called to serve the Lord and the Church in the way they were serving the Lord and the Church at that moment. Paolo felt the presence of the Lord during the praise and worship.

Together with the need to do one’s best in whatever one does and the importance of prayer in one’s life, the Youth realized that they needed to find God in whatever one is doing, Christina felt that she needs to continue to educate herself and to share the knowledge gained with others.

The strengthening of Christian’s resolve to heed the call of the Lord to enter the priesthood is a happy response to the call for vocations “Pinukaw lalo ang aming isipan, puso at mga palad upang tumugon sa mahinahong pagtawag sa bokasyon…. dahil sa experience na ito, lalong sumidhi ang tawag ni Lord sa pagpapari”. Joanna expressed her feelings this way “…kapag may calling ka pala, kailangan tanggapin mo ito ng buong puso, buong isip at bukas palad. Lalo kong naintindihan kung bakit minsan may mga pangyayari sa buhay na walang paliwanag….Kaya kaibigan, kung tinatawag ka, sumpungan ang panawagan dahil marahil ang tawag na ito ang makapagbabago sa iyong buhay”.

Angelika L, accepted that prayers are needed and that trust and faith in the Lord are important to help us accept whatever crosses we encounter in our life. Norie Ann on the other hand, felt the re-awakening of the dormant faith that she has “forsaken” because of events of her life which discouraged her, “Tinawag Niya ako para…buksan ang aking isip na naging sarado dahil sa pagsubok sa buhay”.

Sleepy though they were, they were invigorated because they realized they were currently serving the Lord and can still serve the Lord whichever path / vocation they chose in the future. The passion in the mission to be closer to God and to bring Him to others using hands, heart and mind (in order to make things happen for the glory of God) are in them.

But Angelika G., Joana, Kathleen, and Dimar felt the need to listen more to where the Lord is leading them. They need to discern the path the Lord has for them but are ready to do the will of the Lord.

Our youth has the openness and acceptance to the will and actions of the Lord. With the openness and acceptance came the willingness to follow the Lord. With faith came complete trust in the love and fidelity to the Lord. With the understanding and acceptance, service to the Lord, coupled with thanksgiving for graces and blessings, is easily done.

Participants were thankful for the opportunity to learn more about discerning the ways and calls of the Lord, the opportunity to meet with other Youth in the diocese and the opportunity to share insights and knowledge. Praise and worship were very strong incentives in keeping awake during the sessions.

The vigil ended with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The participants went home sleepy but resolved in thought and in deeds to better serve the Lord to the best of his/her ability and to listen more to the calling of the Lord.

By the end of the “sleepless (night) in Paranaque” sessions, each participant had a better understanding of how and where the Lord is calling them;  discernment has been implanted to determine the way to go forward.