Among incentives to interest prospective recruits, free manicures were used by one enterprising women’s religious order, writes Sylvia Defendi.
World Youth Day’s Vocations Expo gave religious orders in Australia and from around the world the opportunity to share their mission and charism with the youth of the world.
Open to pilgrims and Sydney locals alike, the Vocations Expo drew over 2,000 people per hour to the Exhibition Centre.
Highlighting the four vocations – the single life, marriage, religious life and priesthood – the Expo was an opportunity for people to learn more about their own call and ministry through conversations with people from each of these four vocations.
Among the 100 exhibitors several charitable and educational organisations that support the discernment of a person’s vocation also featured.
For Queensland’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd director, Anne Delsorte, participation in the Vocations Expo allowed her to be part of an ‘incredible mosaic of ministry.’
“I’ve talked to people from 36 countries. This Expo has given us exposure and helped priests and religious to see our work,” she commented.
Meanwhile, for young Scalabrinian Vittoria Falco, the Expo opened the door for youth to inquire about missionary work.
“Many are scared of missionary work and of what is expected by a missionary, so this is a good opportunity to clear-up many misconceptions,” she said.
The ingenious Scalabrinians were one of several orders or communities who attracted the attention of youth, by taking a photo with them and requesting a pilgrim’s email address in order to forward on the photo along with some more information.
“We want to maintain contact with interested people, because their ideas and suggestions are as valuable to us as ours are for them,” Ms Falco said.
Following suit, many stalls offered ‘free internet,’ ‘free coffee,’ and other incentives to visit stalls, but none drew the ladies like the ‘free manicures’ being offered by the Sisters of Nazareth.
“We have had a lot of inquiries from young people from everywhere. They are amazed to discover orders they never knew existed and to see nuns dressed as nuns,” Sr Sesilia Ioane CSN said.
With a charism for caring for the aged, Sr Ioane said it was important for young people to see the young sisters having fun and using the many skills they bring to the community.
“Some of my fellow sisters give manicures to the elderly, and youth have been so enthused to see our work is varied and lots of fun too,” she said.
For Perth Chain of Mary coordinator, Rose Fiorucci, free give-aways is part of the mission.
“We have given away over 10,000 booklets and bookmarks for children. I’ve seen priests and pilgrims from all over the world,” she said.
The Chain of Mary, which was started in Perth has had a growing following across the world as it offers people the opportunity to join with others in praying a decade of the Rosary.
“Sometimes you don’t have the opportunity to get through a whole Rosary and when people understand the program they say it’s a great idea. Even an Anglican minister took a whole bundle home yesterday,” she said.
Mrs Fiorucci will also have her work cut out for her when she returns to Perth, with religious from Africa, America and New-Zealand requesting bulk mail outs for schools and churches.
For the many Franciscan orders represented, the Vocations Expo was also an opportunity to share in their common brotherhood.
Asked what he expected from the Expo, Fr Mario Debattista from the order of Franciscan Friars Minor said he didn’t expect the expo to draw a swarm of religious vocations.
“Having said that, it is certainly a safe contact point for those who may have been shy to seek information. There was one Fijian man who showed a lot of interest – you never know,” he said.
Another Perth representative, Fr Karol Kulczycki from St Anthony’s parish in Greenmount, had his Salvatorian hat on at the Expo.
“People have gradually become more open as the days pass. Now the youth stop and chat. It gives me hope to see all these youth interested in their faith and in discovering their vocation, no matter whether that lies with the Salvatorians or otherwise,” he said.
Western Australia was well represented at the Expo, which even featured a stall specifically calling youth to serve their vocation throughout the state.
The WA stall was the result of the four dioceses coming together with WA’s Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of St John of God and those of St Joseph of the Apparition.
Presentation Sister Terri Enislie said the response to their call was going well, with a few women and men interested in serving in WA.
“This Expo has been a really positive experience we may not have encountered if not here at WYD. This morning being the last day of the Expo, youth were queuing-up outside the Exhibition Centre half-an-hour before the doors opened,” she said.