The Aparecida bishops devote seven paragraphs to the formation of missionary disciples in “seminaries and houses of religious formation.” The bishops include an active, evangelizing “lay state” with clergy and religious. They urge a focus of “vocations ministry” with young people. They also suggest prayer and promotion.
314 With regard to the formation of disciplines and missionaries of Christ, vocation ministry occupies a particular position. It carefully accompanies all those whom the Lord calls to serve the church in the priesthood, consecrated life, or the lay state. Vocations ministry, for which the entire people of God is responsible, begins in the family and continues in the Christian community. It should be directed at children, and especially youth to help them discover the meaning of life and the plan that God has for each individual, by accompanying them in their discernment process. Fully integrated into the realm of ordinary pastoral ministry, vocations promotion ministry is fruit of a solid joint pastoral ministry, in families, in the parish, in Catholic schools, and in other church institutions. Prayer for vocations must be intensified in various ways, thereby also helping create greater sensitivity and receptivity to the Lord; thus different vocation initiatives must be promoted and coordinated.(Cf. PDF 41; EA. 40) Vocations are God’s gift, and hence in each diocese, there must be special prayers to the “Lord of the harvest.”
While I wouldn’t argue against any of this, I would offer an important caution. I saw a video recently of a US bishop discussing missionary discipleship and his assertion that he does not ordain anyone to the clergy who is not already a disciple. I think there are individuals among active clerics–as there are among lay ecclesial ministers–who fall more into the category of “religious” or “social worker” than disciple. This isn’t a catastrophe, but it does indicate we Catholics have not fully grasped the importance of an underlying baptismal vocation as a needful preliminary to ministry and service.
If the Church were stronger in forming people as disciples, especially young people, I think our sense of a vocations “crisis” would fade away. Some have commented that a seeming “lack” of traditional vocations to priesthood and religious life is a sign from the Holy Spirit that lay people are stepping to the fore as needed in the Church to offer and share their spiritual gifts. This may not be totally accurate. I suspect we are all being strongly nudged to get on board with discipleship. If we don’t know what that means, today is a good day to begin to understand.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.