Well-formed vocations are more important than numerous vocations Pope Francis said in an address to religious formators on Saturday at the Vatican.
“There is not a vocations crisis where there are consecrated people able to transmit the beauty of consecration with their own witness,” the pontiff said, according to Vatican Radio's translation.
Even in the midst of declining numbers in some religious communities, the Pope said formation — rather than recruitment — should nonetheless take priority.
“It is necessary to be lovingly attentive to the path of each and to be evangelically demanding in every phase of the path of formation,” he said, “beginning with vocational discernment, so that the eventual crisis of 'quantity' might not determine the much graver crisis of 'quality.'”
Pope Francis spoke to a gathering of some 1,300 formators who were in Rome Apr. 7-11 for a five-day conference on the theme: “Living in Christ according to the way of Life of the Gospel,” an event put on by the Congregation for Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Although Pope Francis recently announced the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Year of Consecrated Life is still going strong. It began Nov. 30, the first Sunday of Advent, and will conclude Feb. 2, 2016, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus.
Pope Francis expressed particular affection for the young people under the care of those responsible for their formation in the religious life, and stressed the importance of this ministry.
“Consecrated life is beautiful. It is one of the most precious treasures of the Church, rooted in the vocation of baptism,” the pontiff said.
Those responsible for the formation of young people, he added, have the “privilege to participate in the work of the Father who forms the heart of the Son in those whom the Spirit has called.”
“In each of you I see our young people, protagonists of the present living with passion, and promoters of a future animated by hope. Young people who, moved by the love of God, search for the path they are to take in their own lives in the church.”
He urged formators to be true mothers and fathers to those under their guidance. Formators should possess “a great heart for the young, to form in them great hearts, able to receive everyone, hearts rich in mercy, full of tenderness.”
“The young must be formed in humble and intelligent freedom to let himself be educated by God the Father every day of their life, at every age, both in the mission and in fraternity, both in action and in contemplation,” he said.
During the audience, Pope Francis also warned against the temptation of feeling that their task as formators is a burden insofar as it takes away from other duties.
“The mission is important, but it is also important to form those for the mission, form the passion of proclamation, the passion for going wherever, in every periphery, to tell everyone about the love of Jesus Christ, especially to those far from the Church, to the little ones, and to the poor, and let ourselves be evangelized by them.”
“All this requires a solid base, a Christian structure of one’s personality that today families rarely know how to give,” he added. “And this increases your responsibility.”
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic life issued a statement, signed by the Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Jo√£o Braz de Aviz, on Apr. 13 following the conclusion of the five-day conference.
In the message, translated by Vatican Radio, Cardinal Aviz stressed the essential role of those responsible for the formation of young religious men and women.
“The Church loves you, appreciates you, and prays for you: without your service consecrated life could not exist.”