A few months ago, a workshop on the vocation of the “Lay Piarist” was held online. About thirty people participated, invited by the General Congregation, from different Provinces and Fraternities, as well as several people who are already living this specific vocation that we call “Lay Piarist”. The intention of the General Congregation in convoking this workshop was to deepen the “charismatic and juridical integration of the laity in the Pious Schools”. Given that it is a new vocation that, although it has been developed for the moment in only one Province, it is good that it is being reflected upon and worked on in the whole of the Order, little by little, as was requested, at the time, from some regions.
I am not writing this fraternal letter to summarize the contents of the workshop or to present the materials that were worked on, which are available to all people interested in the topic. I am writing it in order to share some reflections made during the workshop that I believe can help to enter into this exciting challenge.
I have titled the text with a well-known phrase from the book of the prophet Isaiah . The truth is that I have written this letter during Advent, which is a propitious time to meditate on “the new things we are waiting for”. We always read this passage of Isaiah in Advent, and I have allowed myself the license to use it as a simple image that helps us to understand that from the strong and consolidated trunk of Calasanz new sprouts continue being born that enrich our possibilities of incarnating and living the charism that Our Holy Founder and Father engendered in the Church. I would like to structure my reflection in ten simple affirmations.
- “New Piarist vocations are being born”. The vocation of the “Lay Piarist” is a novelty in the heart of the Order, consolidated by a General Chapter, which is the maximum authority of the Order: “An integration, besides being charismatic, also juridical, at the same time, by which one would arrive at being a true lay Piarist in a full sense”.
This is a first statement I would like to make, and which I consider important, however simple it may be. The Piarist religious vocation, consolidated and purified by four centuries of creative fidelity to the Founder, is enriched by Piarist vocations of lay people who, from other perspectives, wish to live the same charism and share the same mission. Among these vocations, there is no doubt that belonging to the Fraternity of the Pious Schools is the most consolidated and defined one. It is in this same context of “openness to the new” that we can and should situate charismatic and juridical integration.
- The Spirit is blessing us with laymen and women whose Calasanctian identity is nuclear. In the same way that we are blessed by many people who discover their Piarist vocation as members of the Fraternity and develop their life of faith and mission in its bosom, some people will appear who place the Piarist identity in the center of their vocation and configure their life from a nuclear commitment with the Order of the Pious Schools, made explicit through a specific statute that defines their vocation. I consider it fundamental to say, and to emphasize, that these persons are neither better nor worse, and that their vocation is not superior or inferior. They are simply different and bring specific gifts to the construction of the Pious Schools. The Piarists do not give a hierarchy to vocations; we welcome and receive them as gifts from the Lord, knowing that God distributes his calls according to his will for each one of us. But we are grateful and celebrate that a lay vocation is possible, which is nuclear Calasanctian, in which identity becomes an essential axis that reorders life and is expressed in a commitment not only with the Fraternity, but also with the Order. So a link is established which expresses some kind of belonging and from which people can share life, dreams and projects.
- “There is a vocational process capable of generating this vocation”. The vocation of the Lay Piarist is specific and supposes a deep link with the Calasanctian charism and with the Order. Like all vocations, it has its processes and its experiences that confirm and clarify it. After these years of life, we can already try to give a name to some significant experiences that end up shaping this vocation. A life available to the Piarist needs and projects; strong experiences of shared life and mission; sincere and creative search for answers to the question: “what do I feel called to as my vocation?”; personal and community discernment of the vocation; care of a lifestyle marked by the Piarist dynamic; processes of transformation of the very dynamic of the Province, community or Fraternity, enriched by this vocation, etc.
- “There is a Piarist context capable of provoking and raising it. The contexts in which vocations are born and grow must be taken into account. In the same way that it is difficult for vocations of special consecration to be born in places and contexts where this special consecration is neither felt nor valued, it is also very difficult for lay men and women with strong Piarist links to emerge in contexts where the dynamism of Participation is neither cared for nor understood.
For the emergence and consolidation of the vocation of the Lay Piarist there are certain keys that must be specially taken care of. Among them are the following: a consistent and growing Piarist Fraternity worthy of Calasanz, which is growing as an adult entity; a Province that strengthens its relationship with the Fraternity and travels its path in a shared way with it; a sincere and balanced search for a plurality of vocations; a courageous understanding of the synodality that helps us to grow in the co-responsible living of the Piarist life and mission; a systematic proposal of the Piarist mission to the laity; an openness to the fact that it is good that new vocations appear and that the challenge is to endow them with an evangelic and Piarist entity; a clear clarity on the originality and indispensability of the Piarist religious and priestly vocation, etc.
- “Every vocation offers gifts“. All vocations offer gifts to the Church and to the community in which, in our case, the Pious Schools are born. I can name some gifts that we are already receiving, and that I sense will grow and bear new fruit.
- It increases our capacity of Mission, because there are more people who offer their full availability also to the Order – according to their vocation – for its impulse and development.
- In some places where it might be difficult to have Piarist communities that are the soul and reference point of the mission, they can be constituted. Undoubtedly, in different ways, but also as a soul and reference.
- In a historical moment in which the fight against the virus of clericalism becomes a key element of discernment and conversion for Consecrated Life, the fruitful relationship with lay people who live the Piarist vocation can and should help us in a significant way.
- I believe that the emergence of a lay vocation endowed especially with the challenge of significance can help the religious vocation, the bearer essentially of that gift, to care for it and to rethink it in a new and more committed way.
- The synodal path to which we are called today is developed on many levels: fraternal life, work teams, mission leadership, generation of Piarist Christian communities, development of the various ministries, etc. Here too this vocation is called to offer new lights and opportunities.
- “Every Piarist vocation aims at the Kingdom of God“. We know that the Kingdom of God is a gift from the Father, which will be given to us according to his will. The Kingdom of God is the core of the Message of the Lord Jesus. We are all called to announce it and to witness to it. So are the Pious Schools, which are essentially an “instrument of the Kingdom”. Calasanz engendered the Pious Schools convinced that, through the integral education of children and young people, we Piarists could bring the values of the Kingdom closer to the world in which we live.
That is why caring for, strengthening and enriching the Pious Schools is a “Kingdom task”, exciting and necessary. And so, to discern and take proper care of the various ways of living the Piarist way is also a task for which we are responsible. Let us do it well, in fidelity to our Founder and to what the Church asks of us today and to what the children and young people to whose service we are dedicated need today.
- “Let us build, together with so many people close to us, a renewed Piarist vocational offer“. The Piarist Laymen and Laywomen who live among us today and other people who are asking themselves about this possible vocation were also young and asked themselves the question about God’s will for their lives, as we Piarist religious have done. That is why it is important that we promote a ministry that is capable of raising questions in the souls of young people, certain that a vocation is not discovered and then lived. It is the other way around. It is lived and therefore discovered.
If a young person wants to discover what God wants from him, he must live according to what he knows God wants from him. There is no other way. The young person who prays, who forgives, who works, who shares, who is happy making others happy, who gives himself for the poor, who works for others, who does not think about himself, that young person discovers what God wants from him and gives it a name, defines it. And he does it because he is living it. He only needs to decide how he wants to live, all his life, what he is already living. Let’s build with our young people some more convivial and more missionary Pious Schools.
I am convinced that in many of our presences and demarcations there is a mature context so that the people who live and grow among us can take defined steps of the gift of vocation and can be accompanied in their process. Our religious communities, as well as the communities of the Fraternity, must work on their own maturity in order to propose, within the pastoral processes and the Fraternity itself, the opening to all Piarist vocations, hopefully new Piarist religious and also lay Piarists.
- “There are dynamics that accompany this type of vocation“. They allow it to be considered and help it to progressively develop and not to get lost. And the opposite: there are dynamics that discourage it and ignore it. All that means the impulse of the Vocational Culture; the development of the Calasanctian formation of the young people and of the educators; the growth and valuation of the spirit of mission and of the mentality of belonging to the Order; the attentive and available listening of the discoveries and worries of the people; the increasingly better positioning of the Piarist Fraternity and laity in the life and mission of the demarcations; the projects of Piarist presence in which each vocation and each community finds its space; the forums of reflection and discernment, at the level of the demarcation and the Order, designed from the orderly and synodal participation of the co-responsible persons, etc. All these dynamics, and a few more that we can all promote, will undoubtedly help in the path we are taking.
- “A vocation that we can promote“. After the experience that we are having, I think that it is already time to consider the juridical integration of lay people who already live the charismatic integration, in those Demarcations and Fraternities that feel like doing it. To give birth to a vocation is always an adventure. But it is an adventure of the Gospel. As it is logical, there will be diverse ways of establishing the juridical bond of these people with the Province, and the aspects that will have to be taken into account will be diverse. Among them, I cite some: availability for the Order, community vocation, clear and consistent Christian lifestyle, living the Calasanctian charism, economic sharing, common formation, living prayer and the Eucharist, etc. The guarantee, if it is possible to speak thus, of the clarity of the bonds that are established, will be given by the discernment and approval of the Order.
- “Come and follow me“. The call of Jesus, expressed in this simple but formidable phrase, is still open, still going on. Jesus continues to expect followers of his project, apostles of his Kingdom and brothers and sisters of the Christian community. The Order has always felt co-responsible for this call. We seek with eagerness, not for ourselves, but for the good of children and young people, that the number of young people who wish to fully assume the religious vocation that Calasanz engendered in the Church continues to increase. But, with a similar eagerness, we seek to accompany the vocational, honest and generous searches of so many people who, from their lay condition, want to incarnate also, in a defined and stable way, the Piarist charism. Some and others, all, will only be consistent if they are responses to the Lord who calls, and if these responses are configured around the one center of every vocation: Christ Jesus, the Lord.
Receive a fraternal hug.
Pedro Aguado Sch. P.
. Documents of the workshop on the Lay Piarist.
 Is. 11, 1
 44th General Chapter of the Pious Schools. “The Laity in the Pious Schools”, no. 23.