A new Vocation Centre, based at St Patrick’s Church, Fortitude Valley, is set for a January 2003 start.
Fr Tony Randazzo, the Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese, said one of the ideas behind the new Centre was to have a location that was both visual and visible.
“At the moment we have no particular focal point or place where we can actually say this is where we are working from,” Fr Randazzo said.
“With a diocese that takes in about 65,000 square kilometres and 600,000 Catholics spread over that enormous territory, there is a need for something that’s central, easily locatable and visible.
“I’ll be living at the old presbytery, now called Canali House, and utilising the Church as a physical location where young people can workshop, pray and meet socially,” he said.
At the same time Fr Randazzo was keen to point out that the setup of the Vocation Centre was much more than just having a physical structure.
“This is a whole cultural mind change, it’s not just about how many numbers we can get through or how many people we have got in the process,” Fr Randazzo said.
“I’m not marketing sausages and I don’t have a supply and demand attitude.
“The fundamental philosophy behind this is the preparation and discernment of God’s call in our lives,” he said.
The new Vocation Centre is laid out as a horizontal model, with five different levels to cater for people at different stages of discernment.
Level One involves the distribution of a Vocations Kit in schools or parishes and serves to heighten young peoples awareness of vocations to the religious life.
Level Two aims to establish and identify spiritual development in potential candidates.
Level Three would revolve around a “School of Prayer” and maintain the focus on Christian vocation and openness to God’s call.
Level Four would involve doing works of an apostolic nature so that people might see and experience the missionary nature of vocation in action.
Level Five would include residential living for men to discern the vocation to priesthood.
“Nationwide I don’t believe there’s anything at the moment that has the extensive background that we’re looking at to prepare for this one,” Fr Randazzo said.
“The Centre itself is two things – both a philosophy and also a vocation and I don’t think it’s being done by any other dioceses in Australia.
“That’s a tribute to the Archdiocese because in Brisbane we’ve had very good Episcopal leadership over the years,” he said.
Whilst Level Five was the desired end point for candidates, Fr Randazzo said it was not necessary to work through them sequentially.
“The levels are not judo belts that you have to start at one and work your way through to the top,” he said.
“If you’re a 35 year old man or woman you can come to the school of prayer (Level 3). If from there you want to take it further and start to connect up with a spiritual director you can.
“The Spirit is working at many different levels and that is why this approach has been philosophically adapted to be a horizontal rather that vertical process, so that several things can be occurring at the same time,” he said.
Another advantage of the horizontal model is that it allows people to integrate the process into their lives more easily.
“This is not another structure imposed upon people before they get into the structure of a seminary,” Fr Randazzo said.
“It’s a process of life discernment or discernment of the Spirit and the people that come into it are not students, they are individuals.
“Take for example the people who live in Canali House (Level 5); if they’re accountants they work during the day as accountants; if they’re teachers they go out and teach.
“The important thing is that they’re individuals not living in a monastic institution but at a house in the suburbs,” he said.
Fr Randazzo has been heavily involved in the area of vocations for several years.
Whilst completing his Canon Law studies in Rome he wrote a thesis on the formation and instruction of candidates for the priesthood.
Fortunately in the time since his return, he has been able to mesh many of those ideas with those proposed by the Archbishop’s own task force on Vocations.
“I think the Archbishop has wisely used the principle of subsidiarity on this issue” Fr Randazzo said.
“It’s not something he stood up and promulgated from the pulpit but something in which he has involved the priests, deans and members of the wider Catholic Community.
“Each of us has the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and while the Archbishop started the fire, if you like, it’s now spreading and I think that’s a good principle of leadership,” he said.
Fr Randazzo said the establishment of a Vocation Centre Fund was already well underway and each Parish as well as groups and individuals would be invited to make a financial contribution.
Archbishop Bathersby initiated the launch of the Fund in December by hosting a group of Catholics from different associations at Wynberg.
“From there, they have gone out and spread the word amongst themselves and the local community,” Fr Randazzo said.
“These people have been very generous with their time and efforts to promote vocations.
“They all believe in the Church as a Eucharistic Church and therefore a church that needs the service of priests, consequently they are one hundred and fifty percent behind us,” he said.
Fr Randazzo said an initial contribution of $1000 from each parish had been suggested although some had already indicated they would give more.
“Vocation’s to the Priesthood are something that affect the entire Archdiocesan family and it is pleasing to see the local church responding to that call,” Fr Randazzo said
“It’s not just a one off exercise in recruitment nor can it be left to a few people with loud voices.
“This is about the Church responding and asking God to call forth leaders from her midst, and the best possible leaders that we can call forth,” he said.
While Fr Randazzo is optimistic of success he is aware of the massive size of the task at hand.
“It’s going to be a big challenge and I make no presumption that it will be plain sailing,” Fr Randazzo said.
“I’m encouraged already though, because for the 15 months I’ve been Vocations Director, I averaged one telephone call a week to talk about the priesthood.
“That may not seem much but actually it is huge and while all 52 may not be in further discernment, at least they’ve pushed a button and responded to the call of the Spirit in their lives,” he said.
It bears worth thinking about 52 calls; 112 parishes in the Brisbane Archdiocese.
With the new Vocation Centre as a visible focal point for discernment, the odds of converting a query into a lifelong calling may be shortening daily.
Individuals who feel the call of the Spirit are invited to contact the Vocation Centre on 1300 133 544. Financial contributions for the Vocation Centre Fund can be made by phoning 07 3224 3270.
Issued by the Catholic Communications Office