VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Vocations to the priesthood and religious life, born within the Christian community, are meant to build up the Christian community and rely on the community for support, Pope Francis said.

“The Church is the house of mercy, and it is the ‘soil’ where vocations take root, mature and bear fruit,” the Pope wrote in his message for the 2016 observance of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated April 17 in most dioceses.

“The Church, mother of vocations” is the theme Pope Francis chose for the day.
While God calls individuals, and individuals have a duty to discern in prayer the vocation to which they are called, the call to priesthood or religious life comes because one has been baptized into the community of the Church, the Pope said. “The ecclesial dynamism of the call is an antidote to indifference and to individualism.”

Vocations are born within the Church community, so “indifference is vanquished by love, because it demands that we go beyond ourselves and place our lives at the service of God’s plan, embracing the historical circumstances of his holy people,” the Pope wrote.

As women and men prepare for service in religious life or the priesthood, the Pope said, their knowledge of and love for real Christian communities must grow.

While a vocation may be born in a particular parish, diocese or Catholic movement, God’s call is to serve the entire Church, he said. Already starting in the seminary or novitiate, candidates need experiences that help them “learn to know and to love their brothers and sisters who pursue paths different from their own; and these bonds strengthen in everyone the communion which they share.”

The community aspect of vocations, he said, also means that every Catholic and all of them together have a responsibility to pray for vocations, to help identify and encourage individuals suited to the priesthood or religious life and to give every priest and religious the care and support they need to continue their service faithfully.

Pope Francis ended his message with a prayer to the “Father of mercy,” asking God to “grant us Christian communities which are alive, fervent and joyous, which are fonts of fraternal life and which nurture in the young the desire to consecrate themselves to you and to the work of evangelization.”