SINGAPORE – About 100 parishioners comprising parents and youth from Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary attended a Vocation Forum held in the parish hall on Apr 20. The forum was chaired by parish priest Father Joseph Tan. Sisters Agnes Claire (RGS), Sylvia (FMM), Jessica (FDCC), Brothers Alphonsus, Colin (De La Salle Brothers) and Friar Desmond (Franciscan Friar) shared their personal vocation stories.

The speakers told the audience of their very "normal" teenage lives. Sisters Agnes Claire and Sylvia went to parties, had boyfriends and boyfriend problems.

Among them, there was no Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience. But there were feelings of dissatisfaction and emptiness in their early years.

Brother Alphonsus wanted "a more meaningful vocation" while Sister Sylvia who loved kayaking and was an outdoor person, spent five years in discernment, finally choosing the life of a missionary after being challenged by her experiences in India.

Friar Desmond, who worried over the sufferings of the poor and the disadvantaged in Africa, also wanted "a more unconventional life-style". Brother Colin knew he did not want to teach but to counsel the youth. As God’s instruments, Sister Jessica spoke of her work with prisoners and Sister Agnes Claire spoke of hers with unmarried mothers, their children and with migrant workers.

The panel of speakers also identified other important factors which helped them to find God and stay connected to him in order to answer his call. These included daily Mass (Brother Colin had a never-miss-Mass family), the Eucharist, a deep, personal prayer life, involvement in parish activities such as teaching Catechism, serving as an altar boy, singing in a choir, attending church camps and retreats, reading books about the faith, understanding the importance of relationships and the brotherhood and, last but not least, having the loving direction of spiritual mentors.

Suggestions about ways to foster vocations were made by some parishioners at the forum. They included: allow older youths to continue to serve as altar boys, create more opportunities for direct dialogue between the youth and the religious, give more information about religious orders in Singapore, highlight activities and programmes for the youth and encouragement and support from families who know their faith. - By Mary Lim

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