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For many young people, the first places they would hear about the possibility of exploring priestly or religious life would likely be on a Church-related website, on social media, or in a parish bulletin.
Among the 'best practices' for communicating vocations-exploration opportunities to young people via websites, social media, and bulletins are 1) having, within a parish website, a page that's specifically designated for vocations promotion, 2) establishing social media accounts dedicated to vocations, and 3) using tailored messages within parish bulletins.
Devoting a page within the parish website to the vocations committee or a similar parish-based group can aid greatly in the overall outreach effort. Brief bulletin entries written with a young audience in mind are good ways to spark initial thoughts about potential vocations. Leveraging social media (e.g., Facebook) as a vocations platform is a practice that's on the rise with both dioceses and religious orders. This method of outreach can be especially effective in connecting with increasingly tech-minded young people.
“Discernment is both an informed decision and a spiritual process. Ultimately, the best decision is one where you feel like 'I'm home.' This is a place where I am supported and loved for who I am, and where I can grow humanly, grow in love with God and serve others from this community of support. You will find yourself saying, 'I cannot imagine not being here.' And they will feel the same about you!”
-from the website of the Sisters of Bon Secours USA
The above quote aptly sums up what might be considered the 'ideal' vocation-discernment experience for a young man or woman. One might say that the quote also encapsulates the type of experience promoters of vocations throughout the Church would wish for their young charges. Every person on a vocations committee or group or prayer team would want the people they're praying for to have that experience.
Perhaps the first concrete step toward connecting young people with that experience would be ensuring that the initial invitation to explore a potential vocation comes through loud and clear. The first places many young people are likely to hear about the possibility of exploring priestly or religious life would be on the Internet or in a parish bulletin.
Among the 'best practices' for getting the word out about vocations-exploration opportunities for young people via bulletins and the Internet are 1) using tailored messages within bulletins; and 2) having a vocations-dedicated webpage within a parish website.
Communications experts speak of using the 'ATM' formula when beginning any major communications effort—determining the audience, the timing, and the message. A short bulletin entry written specifically to young people who might be thinking about a vocation is a good message to employ in any vocations-group effort. This entry would speak directly to the intended audience via a conversational tone.
Having a dedicated web page within the parish website can be a big boost to your group's chances of successful outreach to young people. U.S. Catholic has quoted the statistics of a research group—whose focus of work includes churches—which indicate that fully 56% of 18- to 30-year-olds (i.e., members of the so-called 'Millennial' generation) check out a parish's website prior to visiting its church. Indeed, the websites of many parishes around America have dedicated pages for their parish vocations committee; these sites are used to post everything from basic information about the committee and its mission to specific dates and times for special events, such as Focus 11 gatherings and seminary visits.
What's more, the use of social media (e.g., Facebook) as a vocations platform is on the rise—as exemplified by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), which uses multiple Facebook accounts and Twitter feeds as well as Instagram to promote vocations. Dioceses—including Los Angeles and Dallas—have begun to utilize social media for vocations, too. This method of outreach can be especially effective in connecting with increasingly tech-minded young people.
The following is one of 17 different 'Parish Bulletin Clips' from the USA Council of Serra International—these 'clips' are 'short stories' that can be used as a means of promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life (please see next entry in this list for a link to the full complement of 'Parish Bulletin Clips'):
CHRIST SPOKE OF THE TALENTS each one of us has, talents which must not buried. Our calling is to take those talents, develop them fully, and then use them in establishing His kingdom on earth. Are you using your talents to fulfill your vocation to service? Are you an active Christian in the parish, at your workplace, and in the home? Take some time today to reflect on how you might use your special talents in the service of the Kingdom.
Vocation Seeds is a weekly vocation message based on the current cycle “B” liturgy, prepared by Serrans at Toronto West Serra Club (notably Anthony and his wife Ann) and distributed to all 240 parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto in Word format so that they may be “copied and pasted” into parish bulletins or website or Facebook pages, etc. The Vocation Seeds messages are vetted annually by the Vocation Director of the Archdiocese of Toronto prior to distribution to all parishes.
PDF from the Diocese of Wichita (KS) listing on pages 1-3 all 17 of the different 'Parish Bulletin Clips' from The USA Council of Serra International; they can be copied and pasted right into any parish bulletin for use in promoting vocations there:
PDF document from St. Patrick's Church (Yorktown Heights, New York) listing ten things that people in each of the following categories can do to promote vocations—includes mention of the use of bulletin to promote vocations:
List from the USCCB titled 20 Ways to Promote Vocations in your Parish or School:
Example of a vocations committee page from a parish website. This is that of a parish in Houston:
Example of a vocations committee page from a parish website. This is that of a parish in Wichita:
Webpage of the Diocese of Portland (ME) on which is listed a comprehensive strategic vocations plan—this plan can be studied and used a 'best practices' material in the case of a parish that is trying to better form a plan for vocations outreach:
PDF of article (“Using Social Media to Further Vocation Goals”) in HORIZON, the journal of the National Religious Vocation Conference, written by a religious who was among the pioneers of using social media as a regular part of vocations-related outreach within religious orders:
Vocations-oriented Facebook page of the Sisters of Bon Secours (MD):
Twitter feed of the Sisters of Bon Secours (MD):
Vocations-dedicated Twitter feed for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) of Canada & United States:
Vocations-dedicated Facebook page for the Vocation Office for the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits):
Vocations-dedicated Instagram account for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) of Canada & United States; this account contains excellent examples of effective visuals (created by graphic designers) to be used on this social media site:
Vocations-dedicated Facebook page of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (CA):
Vocations-dedicated Facebook page of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis (IN):
Vocations-dedicated Twitter feed of the Archdiocese of Dallas (TX):
SPARK: Built by Serrans for Vocation Directors.
A service of Serra International, United States Council, in collaboration with the NCDVD.