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Friday, July 18, 2008

"Vocations Expo at WYD08"

From Independent Catholic News:

A careers fair solely dedicated to encouraging new recruits to become future priests and nuns? Surely it's just wishful thinking? The young pilgrims visiting Sydney for World Youth Day definitely don't think so as thousands pass through the doors of a four-day Vocations Expo designed to help them consider whether they feel called to put aside conventional careers in favour of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

As its name suggests, the Vocations Expo is an exhibition of some of the vocations that the Catholic Church has to offer. Over 100 exhibitors have taken up stands ranging from traditionally habited nuns to those living in more recently established forms of religious community, perhaps wearing jeans and t-shirts. The Vocations Expo is now an established part of World Youth Day and Church leaders hope that the event will inspire a new generation of Catholics to embrace vocations with a life-long commitment.

Father David Toups, an exhibitor and priest representing the United States said: "We have discovered that more than 30% of our new priests in America were strongly influenced by attending previous World Days; therefore it makes sense to be here. Unlike more conventional careers fairs, we are not talking about base salary and possible bonuses, but rather rewards that are literally out of this world."

Rebecca Coyne from Wales who visited the exhibition as part of her World Youth Day experience said: "I have definitely learned a lot from the Expo. I was already considering a call to religious life, but all of the information on display from different religious communities has helped to further crystallise my thoughts."

The young adults visiting the Expo don't just get to pick up the usual free pens and keyrings, there are also DVDs on the priesthood and even cross-shaped USB storage devices. But there is little evidence of a 'hard sell' from the exhibitors - after all the Church views vocation as a call from above and not simply another job. In fact, the young pilgrims are doing most of the questioning as they enquire of the priest and religious exhibitors what it was that made them first respond to their calling and how they are able to sustain it today.

Father Paul Embery from the Vocations Office for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, who is currently in Sydney said: "It has been a truly awesome event. To see thousands of young people passing through the doors who are open to the possibility of a call to the priesthood or to various forms of religious life is very encouraging. Knowing that others are also considering these vocations is very affirming for young people. We hope it will bear fruit over the years to come."

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