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Feature News | Wednesday, May 08, 2024

May prayer intention: For the formation of men and women religious, and seminarians

Pope Francis asks for prayers

VATICAN CITY | In The Pope Video for this month, Pope Francis dedicates his prayer intention for the formation of men and women religious, and seminarians. In his video message, disseminated through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, and produced in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and with the support of Hallow, he insists that “every vocation is a ‘diamond in the rough’ that needs to be polished, worked, shaped on every side.” 

Integral formation for all of life

In the Apostolic Constitution Veritatis Gaudium, on Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties, the Pope emphasizes that the integral formation of priestly and religious vocations must include the human, spiritual, pastoral and communitarian dimensions. It must also take into account cultural and social diversity. In the same vein, Pope Francis picks this requirement up in the video, and insists that formation should “lead them to be credible witnesses of the Gospel.” In this sense, formation is not only about acquiring knowledge, but is an experience of a profound encounter with Jesus. 

Formation to community life

Life in community is a central aspect of men and women religious, or priests. According to the Pope, this is one of the key points in the formation and preparation of anyone who responds to this vocation. Regarding this, he reflects that, although this experience can be “enriching,” at times, “it can be difficult.” He then comments that, “living together is not the same as living in community.”Pope Francis shares that living and relating with others is not easy at times, but that community life is always a school of holiness where one grows in the different human virtues and learns to go beyond oneself. 

Most important years

It is precisely community life that plays a central role in the images of The Pope Video this month, which accompany Pope Francis’s words: from a basketball game to meals together, passing to moments together in prayer and study, and, of course, the Eucharist and service to the poorest. Every young seminarian, man or woman religious, strengthens their vocation in the sharing of experiences and in continual interaction with others. Their years in formation are very important in the preparation of the entire consecrated person. The scenes of life filmed in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – who participated in the production of this video – portray its beauty, underlining several aspects of the Pope’s message: above all, the concept that formation is an ongoing journey, and that, as the Holy Father repeats, “A good priest, sister or nun, must above all else be a man, a woman who is formed, shaped by the Lord’s grace.” 

The joy of the Gospel

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles was instrumental in the production of this video, putting several professionals at the service of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, so as to prepare Pope Francis’s intention for May in the best way possible. “We are grateful to support Pope Francis in inviting people all over the world to pray for seminarians and women religious as they seek to discern God’s beautiful plan for their lives,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles. “Our digital team set out to personify the joy radiating from young men and women who dedicate their lives in service of God and His people,” said Sarah Yaklic, Chief Digital Officer for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “We hope the joy of the Gospel seen in this month’s Pope Video will strengthen those in formation and encourage other young people to consider a religious vocation.” 

A renewed commitment

The Pope Video for this month received the support of Hallow, a prayer App developed in the United States. Its co-founder, Alessandro DiSanto, comments, “It is truly an honor and a blessing to be able to support the Holy Father and The Pope Video initiative. As an app focused on helping people around the world to find peace and purpose in their personal relationship with God, we are particularly excited to sponsor this video on the formation of men and women religious, as well as seminarians. We are incredibly indebted to these men and women who have heroically accepted their religious vocations, from the priests who reach the faithful with the sacraments to the religious women who serve our Church in so many sacrificial ways. Our sincere hope is that this video enkindles a renewed commitment to the support of those discerning or living out in a religious vocation, who in a unique way, serve as Christ’s hands on earth.” 

The mission with other envoys

Father Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, analyzing the content of the Pope’s message, reflects: “It is positive that Pope Francis reminds us once more, and in the light of Veritatis Gaudium, of the importance of the integral formation for young people who undertake a journey in religious life or as seminarians. Such formation must embrace every dimension of human life: affective, spiritual, pastoral, and communitarian. In an ecclesial context marked by the abuse of power and  conscience, and sexual abuse, which have structural and ideological roots, it is crucial that formation promote an openness to the human and affective dimension, facilitating self-awareness; that it foster an authentic experience with Christ in such a way that the witness of life can communicate the Good News to others; that it foster living together in community, so as to learn to accept and value differences and how to work in teams; that it include the intercultural and interreligious context; and that it assure a quality academic formation, with the goal of serving the mission of Christ better. The need for integral formation is imperative. The acquisition of knowledge is not enough. In addition, such integral formation prepares young people not only to face today’s challenges, but to act as bridges of dialogue in a world characterized by plurality and diversity. The ability to establish constructive dialogue and to remain open to the other is essential for the Church’s mission of presenting a compassionate, understanding, and close presence to all people.” 

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