Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, called for collective efforts to make Asia a fountain of priesthood and consecrated life amidst the challenges that Catholic vocations face.
In his homily during the 80th Serra International Convention in Thailand on Friday, the head of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, said vocations “are strong” in many parts of Asia.
The prelate, however, said the challenge “is treating this great resource as our stewardship and shepherding vocations to fulfillment so that the Asian church may become a missionary church.”
Cardinal Bo identified various challenges faced by Catholic vocations in the modern world and emphasized the “need to recognize and address these challenges to support and encourage individuals in their vocational discernment.”
One of the primary challenges he mentioned is the prevalence of “secularism and relativism”. He said these cultural influences often promote “individualism, materialism, and moral relativism,” which “undermine the path of faith, selflessness, and adherence to Catholic teachings.”
The prelate said it has become essential to counter these narratives and create an environment that fosters a commitment to spiritual values.
He also warned against “misunderstandings and stereotypes” associated with Catholic vocations. He said vocations “may face misconceptions about their role, celibacy, or the value of their contributions.”
“These misconceptions can deter individuals from considering or embracing these vocations,” he said.
The prelate also cited the decline in religious practice and the weakening of faith communities, which he said can impact the “fostering” of Catholic vocations.
He said the absence of strong faith communities and support structures can make it more challenging for individuals to discern and pursue their vocation within the Church.
Cardinal Bo also recognized “cultural and societal pressures” as influential factors affecting vocational discernment.
He said the pursuit of materialistic and career-oriented goals often takes precedence over spiritual considerations, and social expectations, family pressures, and the desire for financial security can create conflicts and distractions.
He further acknowledged the damaging effect of clergy misconduct and scandals on public perception and trust in Catholic vocations.
“These scandals can discourage individuals from considering religious life or priesthood and may cause doubt and hesitancy among those already discerning a vocation,” he said.
Addressing the lack of role models and support, Cardinal Bo emphasized the need for visible and inspiring examples within Catholic vocations.
He said the modern culture of instant gratification and fear of commitment can pose challenges to Catholic vocations.
“The commitment required for religious life, priesthood, or marriage can be perceived as burdensome or restrictive in a culture that values personal freedom and flexibility,” he said.
Despite the numerous obstacle to Catholic vocations, the prelate said Asian churches “need not despair” because of their great resource of young men and women who could “hope and peace to all parts of the world.”
Serra International is the only lay organization aggregated to a primary pontifical work – the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations – to encourage and coordinate efforts to promote vocations to the sacred priesthood of the Catholic Church.