Whether discerning a vocation to single life, married life, consecrated (religious) life or the Sacred Ministry, the Orthodox Old Roman Catholic Communion is careful to ensure that the discerning individual is given as much assistance as possible to discover, recognise and realise God’s loving call to them. The discernment of any vocation requires patience, prudence and pastoral concern on the part of both the individual and the Church; vocational discernment is not just about an individual’s sense of calling, but the recognition and acceptance of that calling together with the Church.
“Many are called, few are chosen” (cf Mtt 22:14) through a process of mutual discernment between the Church and the individual, it should be possible to recognise and realise not only a calling but the right calling for an individual, which may not always be that originally perceived. The ability to recognise the difference between intuition, aspiration, inspiration, ambition and a genuine calling, is not always possible, nor desirable to realise on one’s own. As any vocation from God ought to be in harmony and sympathy with His will for the world, i.e. the salvation of souls, it follows that as the Church is the embodiment of His will, endowed by Him to dispense His grace and impart His salvation, any calling in service of Him should be realised together with her and within her. It is an uncomfortable truth that some Christians despite their conviction, are often frustrated and unhappy in their lives or experience disappointment because they have not realised their true calling. For some this can often result in unhappiness with the Church and even a turning away from God.
In order then to avoid disappointment and frustration, whatever the nature of a vocation, the Church has a duty of pastoral and spiritual care as well as of prudence to ensure that any discernment process is cautiously and patiently pursued. Compared to other jurisdictions, the discernment procedures of our Provinces, even for the incardination of an ordained cleric, may seem lengthy and more involved than some others. Please be assured that our processesses and protocols are motivated by charity and designed ultimately to ensure a positive outcome, whatever that may be, for both the individual and the Church.
Stage 1: Getting to know each other
The following is common to all forms of vocational discernment within the Communion, whether exploring consecrated life, a voluntary apostolate, licensed or ordained ministry, the first and most obvious step is getting to know the Applicant and the Applicant, us.
Initial Contact: to begin the process of discerning a vocation within the Communion, an Applicant should make initial contact through correspondence; this may be using the Contact Form below, via email, via Facebook Messenger or by mail.
First Response: depending on the vocation to be discerned, the Applicant will receive a reply from somebody responsible, a Contact Assessor, for that particular discernment; expressions for…
- Baptism/Confirmation: an officer of the Province/Diocese in which the Applicant resides will respond to initial contact;
- Voluntary Apostolate: somebody from the project interest has been expressed in will respond to initial contact;
- Holy Matrimony: a minister nearest to the locale will respond to initial contact;
- Consecrated/Religious life: (including Third Order or Pious Association) an officer of the CDC (Congregation of the Divine Charity) will respond to initial contact;
- Sacred Ministry: a Provincial/Diocesan vocations director will respond to initial contact;
- Incardination: a Provincial/Diocesan officer will respond to initial contact.
First Contact: in all of the above scenarios Applicants will be asked for an account or description of their journey in faith, i.e. what has led to making contact with us, a description of their spiritual &/ devotional life like e.g. prayer life, when and how did they begin to discern God’s calling and what their expectations are.
For numbers 1 & 3 First Contact in this case will be a Sacred Minister or Catechist local to the applicant who may most reasonably be expected to practically meet, prepare and facilitate candidates for the Sacraments requested.
For numbers 2 & 4-6 above you will be asked to provide a CV (Curriculum Vitae) to present your life experience and present your skills and knowledge base and academic history. This will usually be followed by correspondence with the relevant officer or vocations director for your application with whom you may ask questions about us, the Church and provide further information about yourself and your sense of calling. Communications may include real-time conversations by telephone or via Skype, Face-Time, Facebook Messenger as well as correspondence via email, text or other media, whatever is most mutually convenient for the Applicant and the Contact Assessor.
This stage may take as long as is necessary for both parties, i.e. the Applicant and the Contact Assessor to mutually agree the appropriate way forward. Interviews, informal meetings and extended conversations may be expected for those exploring vocations to the religious/consecrated life and licensed/ordained ministry and may include invitations to Retreats or Conferences. Only when both parties are agreed will progression to the next stage be initiated.
Stage 2: Formal Application
Formal Application: again for sections 2 & 4-6 above, you will be invited to complete an Application Form asking you to repeat some previously given information but in another format, some more detailed personal information, a request for Referees to provide references about you in support of your application and some statutory declarations concerning the Faith and your background. You will also be asked to provide certificates for the receipt of Sacraments (e.g. Baptism Certificate), and documentary evidence of your identity (e.g. Passport), academic or professionally accredited qualifications (e.g. degree certificates) and professional association memberships/fellowships.
Due to the nature of licensed lay and ordained ministry i.e. often working with vulnerable people and involving positions of trust and responsibility, background checks e.g. Police/Criminal Record checks and Safeguarding procedures/protocols for working with vulnerable people will be taken (e.g. Disclosure and Barring Service “DBS” check). Similarly, for vocations exploring communal religious/consecrated life e.g. living in a community of monks/nuns, background and health checks may be required. Those volunteering for an apostolate may also be required to go through Safeguarding protocols depending on the nature/environment of the work of the apostolate. Some background investigative procedures may involve costs and these will normally be expected to be covered by the applicant themself.
For this formal stage, extended communications via mutually convenient media, correspondence and telephone should be expected, including face-to-face or in person interviews and attendance at day or residential Retreats or Conferences. Consideration will also now be given by the Church as to how best to spiritually discern a vocation and a Vocational Director may be suggested or assigned to an applicant. Again there is no set time frame for this stage of the process, it will take as long as is necessary for all the information to be collated and presented, verified and confirmed and for the Vocational Director to assess with the Applicant their readiness to take the next step.
Stage 3: Formal Acceptance
After all background checks have been completed, written or recorded references received and verified, and upon the recommendation of the Contact Assessor assigned to the applicant and the testimony of any others who may have been involved in the Initial and Formal stages; the assessment of the Vocational Director assigned to the applicant will be presented to the pertinent Ordinary (e.g. bishop) and Examining Chaplains for formal acceptance or further recommendations for discernment.
When the Formal Application has been presented, the Examining Chaplains and/or the Ordinary will consider all the supporting evidence and recommendations. They may make recommendations to strengthen the application e.g. suggestions to gain relevant experience, gain or improve skills, knowledge or even reflect further about the vocation itself. A formal interview with the Ordinary may take place at this time or with one of the Examining Chaplains.
To reach this stage in the discernment process, mutual recognition and determination of the nature and propensity for realising God’s calling for both the Applicant and the Church will have been established. Though not the end of the process, and in many ways only the beginning of a lifetime of discernment and vocational exploration, the Applicant at this stage should feel encouraged and emboldened to continue the process with determination and with every assistance made available to them the Church can give. The next stages will depend on the nature of the vocation discerned and the procedures and protocols set by the pertinent Ordinary or described in Canon Law or other policy documents.