Message from Fr Duane Fernandez for World Day of Vocations
April 23, 2021
Vocations, Fr Duane Fernandez
The Fourth Sunday of Easter (25th April 2021) is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the Gospel at Mass always draws on the image of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. It is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. What do we mean by “vocation”? The word itself gives us a clue: it comes from the Latin word “vocare”, meaning “to call”, and for Christians on this day we reflect on the personal call of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, in our lives.
We speak in the church of four specific vocations by which we follow Jesus in our adult lives: Marriage, Consecrated Life, Priesthood, and Single Life. For those already living one of these vocations, it is an opportunity to renew their commitment to God’s call in their daily lives. For others, especially young people yet to discern their vocation, we especially pray for you today.
Pope Francis in his message for this day writes that “God does not like to reveal himself in a spectacular way, pressuring our freedom. He conveys his plans to us with gentleness.” This in turn means that it can be difficult to discern God’s call in our lives. How do we hear his gentle call? The Pope goes on to write: “There can be no faith without risk. Only by abandoning ourselves confidently to grace, setting aside our own programmes and comforts, can we truly say “yes” to God. And every “yes” bears fruit because it becomes part of a larger design, of which we glimpse only details, but which the divine Artist knows and carries out, making of every life a masterpiece.” We see here that the first step to discerning God’s call in our lives is to be willing to trust God’s plans for our lives, more than we trust our own plans – trusting that God, our divine Artist, wants to make our lives a masterpiece beyond our own imagining.
As we mark this day during this Year of St Joseph, Pope Francis reminds us of St Joseph’s inspiring “yes” to God’s call in his life: “Saint Joseph is an outstanding example of acceptance of God’s plans. Yet his was an active acceptance: never reluctant or resigned.” When I myself first heard God gently calling me towards priesthood, I had always been looking forward to getting married. I must confess that my first response to God’s call was not like St Joseph’s – it was rather reluctant and resigned! As I look back, I thank God for leading me, one step at a time, into a deeper trust in his plan for my life, which is far greater and more fulfilling than anything I could have imagined for myself.
Now, as vocations director for the Diocese of Wollongong, together with Bishop Brian and the vocations team, I have had the privilege of guiding people of various ages and stages of faith in discerning their vocations. I would especially love to see every young Catholic in our diocese freely, sincerely, and actively discerning the call of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in their lives. If you would like to take the risk of asking this question of God, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to talk with you, and to connect you with others discerning these same questions. In the words of Pope Francis, may St Joseph “help everyone, especially young people who are discerning, to make God’s dreams for them come true. May he inspire in them the courage to say “yes” to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints.”
Fr Duane Fernandez PP
Vocations Director, Diocese of Wollongong
23 April 2021
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.