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IN PHOTOS | Nurturing Vocations: Efforts to address crisis and inspire youth in central Philippines

Text by: Max Limpag

Photos by: Victor Kintanar

There is a crisis in religious vocations, and formators in the Archdiocese of Cebu in the central Philippines are hopeful that by collaborating and reaching out to the youth during the vocation month of February, they can inspire more individuals to consider becoming a nun or priest.

Fr. Christian James Mayol, the vocation director at the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos, highlighted the “crisis” in the diminishing number of individuals entering seminaries.

Speaking at the launch of Vocation Month at the rectory of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Mayol mentioned that the combined seminaries of the Archdiocese of Cebu, including high school, college, and the philosophy department, currently have a total of 177 seminarians.



This number, he noted, is “fewer than the count of high school seminarians” during his time in 2009.

Redemptorist priest Ferderiz Cantiller emphasized the drastic decline in college seminarians in his order from 40 to 60 in 1995 to just six now.

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Cantiller, the Provincial Vocation Promotions Director of the Redemptorist Province of Cebu and President of the Directors of Vocations in the Philippines (DVP) Cebu, expressed the challenge of finding innovative ways to connect with young people today.

Sr. Cecilia Tapang of Living the Gospel Community echoed similar challenges among female religious. Nuns are taking on multitasking roles due to the shortage, leading to burnout for some, said Tapang.

Cantiller stressed that the sharp decline in seminary entrants poses a significant challenge, prompting them to explore “innovative ways of reaching out to young people today.”

The Vocation Month in Cebu commenced Feb. 2 with a mass led by Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Midyphil Billones. From February 5 to 10, the group conducted a “Taboan sa Bokasyon” (Meeting for Vocation) on the streets surrounding the Carbon Public Market.

DVP Cebu members engaged with the public about religious vocations. Each day concluded with an “Evening Chapel” at Freedom Park, organized by the religious order in charge for that day. The month’s activities will conclude with the “Vocation Jamboree” on February 24 and 25 at the Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu.

Mayol mentioned that this year’s jamboree venue is smaller, accommodating only 2,000 participants, necessitating pre-registration with the parish or school. The focus this year is on participants from Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City.

Cantiller emphasized the importance of having a relationship with the Lord and a habit of praying when discerning a vocation. Tapang added that listening and discernment are crucial, urging individuals not to turn a deaf ear to the calling of the Lord.

Sister James Reso (L) and Sister Camillus Vargas of the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (LIHM), talk to a flower vendor about the vocation month of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu, at Carbon Market, Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, February 5, 2024. Their outreach aims to make families understand religious vocations hoping to reach out to potential priests and nuns for the future. Photo by Victor Kintanar
Sister Charbel Abayle (3L) and Sister James Reso (4L) of the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (LIHM) congregation, talk to vendors about the vocation month of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu, at Carbon Market, Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, February 5, 2024. Their outreach aims to make families understand religious vocations hoping to reach out to potential priests and nuns for the future. Photo by Victor Kintanar
Nuns from the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (LIHM), talk to a coconut vendor about the vocation month of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu, at Carbon Market, Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, February 5, 2024. Their outreach aims to make families understand religious vocations hoping to reach out to potential priests and nuns for the future. Photo by Victor Kintanar
Sister Camillus Vargas, LIHM, talks to a family selling lemons at Carbon Market, Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, February 5, 2024, about the activities of Vocation Month. Photo by Victor Kintanar
Nuns from the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (LIHM), buy fresh Coconut Juice and at the same time talk about the vocation month of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu, at Carbon Market, Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, February 5, 2024. Their outreach aims to make families understand religious vocations hoping to reach out to potential priests and nuns for the future. Photo by Victor Kintanar
Nuns from the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (LIHM), crossing a street at Carbon Market, Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, February 5, 2024, after a day of outreach campaign for vocations. The activity launches the Vocation Month 2024 of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu, together with the Office for Vocation Promotion (Opus Vocationum) and the Directors of Vocations in the Philippines – Cebu Chapter with the theme: “I have called you friends…”. Their outreach aims to make families understand religious vocations hoping to reach out to potential priests and nuns for the future. Photo by Victor Kintanar

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