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Friday, July 18, 2008

"Youth Flock to Vocations Expo"

Visitors Note Surprise at Number of Religious Orders

By Carla Maschereno

SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- With a stunning waterfront view and the promise of getting an inside look at more than 110 ways to live the consecrated life, Sydney's Vocation Expo is attracting a constant flow of pilgrims.

World Youth Day already has a reputation for providing an environment in which young people can hear God's call in their lives. Testimonials of thousands of young people speak of a deep faith experience with practical life implications and an increase in vocations.

Sydney is proving to be no different.

This year's Vocations Expo is set at the heart of the city, at the Convention and Exhibition Center in Darling Harbor. The location is close to other popular youth festival venues such as Barangaroo, where the opening Mass was held. More than 110 religious orders, groups and movements are providing information on their style of vocation and consecrated life.

Free gifts such as rosary beads, Aussie tattoos, pens and food snacks aim to woo pilgrims. But visitors affirm that the testimony of those manning the booths are the real draw.

New Zealander Joanna Hardy, 19, said she attended the expo because she wanted to know more about religious orders.

"I don't want to become a nun or anything," she clarified. "But I do want to be aware of the different religious orders. The expo literally blows my mind. I had no idea so many religious orders existed."

Sister Lan from the Sisters of Nazareth based in Victoria, Australia, observed: "It is a unique opportunity for the young people to get to know the religious orders available. Importantly for us, it is a great chance to meet the young people and let them know that we do exist."

"There has been a constant flow of pilgrims," the woman religious added. "It's wonderful."

Other youth are happy to admit they think God is calling them to a life consecrated to him.

Eighteen-year-old Christopher Daniels, from Atlanta, Georgia, said, "I have been discerning my vocation for a while -- although I am not sure which order I would join, this definitely helps." When asked what booth impressed him the most, though, he said, "Those nuns have really got it together."

While many regard the Catholic Church as being in a "vocational crisis," if the expo is any indication, the future looks bright.

Sister Lan agreed: "I wouldn't say there is a vocational crisis. When there is a decline in one country there is always an increase in another. I have a great faith in the Holy Spirit."

The Vocations Expo is under way through Friday.

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