This past Autumn St Joseph’s parish was chosen to pioneer a new national initiative from the National Vocations Office, Called Beyond. The aim of the week’s event was to build up a momentum within the parish, helping everyone to realise that we all have vocations. By emphasising the universal vocation to holiness, we were challenged to see how the ordinary everyday lives that we lead are in fact charged with the grandeur of God. By raising the sense of universal vocation within a particular parish, the National Vocations Office hope that the initiative will in turn encourage people to see their lives in terms of a vocation, something calling them beyond themselves. Surely it is in nurturing this desire to listen to what God is calling each one of us to that our communities will become seedbeds for vocations to the priesthood, religious life and marriage, and that we will all grow together in the call to holiness.
After much planning, St Joseph’s organised a series of events each evening over the course of a week, beginning with Mass, sometimes in different locations, followed by a time of hospitality and fellowship, and a short talk. Each of the talks reflected a different vocation. Besides a parish celebration on the feast of All Saints which focussed upon the universal call to holiness, one evening offered testimony from three marriages, exploring what it meant ‘for better, for worse… till death do us part’. Another evening was held in the beautiful and serene setting of Hyning Hall where Sr Michaela spoke of life in the cloister. Sr Michaela shared her life as a Bernardine Cistercian sister and Frances Dawbarn spoke of her call to share something of the Cistercian life as a lay oblate in the outside world. On the final night, three priests and a deacon spoke of their vocations to Holy Orders and revealed something of what lay behind the collar.
There were many laughs, and many incredibly inspiring stories, but above all, we were all left feeling as if there was much to ponder. What surprised many was the idea that we all had a vocation. What surprised others was how similar many of the struggles were between being a priest, a married person and a nun, the revelation that we were all poor human beings, struggling to hear the call of the Lord in everyday life.
Called Beyond was a great parish event, bringing together many people. The parish was so grateful to the organising committee who had spent time with the National Vocations Team, preparing for the occasion, putting together the programme, organising publicity and social media, displays and even a set of trump cards. The parish was also grateful to the choir and servers for helping us to raise our minds and hearts to God in celebration of Mass, our youth group for preparing a play for the All Saints celebration, the many parishioners who prepared food and refreshments, and all our intrepid speakers who shared their lives with such inspiration.