Selecting a Date, Time and Location
The first step to planning a vocation fair is to select the date, timeframe and location. The date will depend upon the needs of the particular parish, as well as the space available. How long the vocation fair will be influenced by the size of the space and how many students are planning to attend. For example, there could be two two-hour shifts, with two or three grades attending during each shift.
Inviting Religious Communities
The next step is to formulate a list of Religious Communities to invite to the fair. Good sources include the Archdiocese of Boston Vocation Webpage, which includes a listing of men’s and women’s religious communities as well as information about the diocesan priesthood.
Another good source is the Pilot Catholic Directory. Depending upon how large the Vocation Fair is, it is also possible to invite Religious Communities from the Dioceses of Worchester, Fall River and Springfield and even Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
Plan to invite the Religious Communities as early as possible, for example, about 6 months before the actual fair. It is helpful to invite the Religious Communities through a variety of means: letter in the mail, e-mail (if available) and phone call. After the initial invitation, expect to follow up several times throughout the year to actually confirm who is coming.
When inviting the Religious Communities, it is important to convey exactly what is being asked of them: how long is the fair, what grades are attending, how many students are expected, what will take place during the fair and what do the Religious Communities need to bring. For example, each Religious Community could be asked to bring posters, pictures, or other items with which to create a visual display at their particular table.
What is the target group of participants? High School Students, Middle School Students, All Religious Education Families? No matter which group of participants the Vocation Fair is for, it is key to communicate the date of the Vocation Fair as early as possible to the families. A notable concern of Religious who attend the vocation fairs is whether or not the youth will attend. It is just as important to ensure that the youth are going to be there, as the Religious Communities which are invited. One strategy is to link the Vocation Fair to the Religious Education program and have attendance at the Vocation Fair as an expectation. Also, expect the remind youth about the Vocation Fair throughout the year.
Each Religious Community should have one table which is covered with a white table cloth and clearly labeled with the name of their Religious Congregation. Tables should be spread out enough throughout the hall to accommodate the youth participants without everyone getting crowded. Also, some religious communities will want to have access to an electrical outlet as part of their visual display. There should be a map available that shows the location of each of the tables, so as Priests and Religious arrive, they can easily find their table.
Given the distance that some Religious Communities travel to attend the fair, depending upon the time frame of the fair, it is good hospitality to provide a meal during the day. For example, if the fair went from 10am-3pm, a breakfast could be provided in the morning as well as a sit-down lunch half way through the day. A small gift, like a plant or spiritual book, could also be given at the end of the day to appreciate the Priests and Religious who attended.
Schedule of the Vocation Fair
Another element to a successful Vocation Fair is to structure the time well. One strategy that has worked well is to start the Vocation Fair with a “Vocations 101” talk (about 20 minutes or so) by one of the Priests or Religious who is attending the Fair that explains: What is a vocation? What are the types of vocations in the Church? How can you know which vocation you are called to? Why is it important to discern your vocation?
After the talk, each student then has a chance to interview the various Religious Communities. It is helpful to set a clear expectation for the students, for example, each student asks five questions to at least three different communities and have them write down their answers. Interview forms can be provided for the students to fill in that include ideas for questions.
Suggestions for questions include: How did you know that God was calling you to be a priest/brother/sister? What is a vocation? What is the difference between a vocation and a job or profession? What do you do all day? Who founded your order and why? Do you get to spend time with your family and friends? What role does prayer have in your life? Is it always easy for you to pray? What is the best thing about being a priest/brother/sister? What is the greatest challenge in being a priest/brother/sister? What is a religious vow? What vows do priests/brothers/sisters promise? Do you have to go to school to be a priest/brother/sister? Do you ever have fun like playing games or watching TV? How are religious orders different from each other? Do you get time off? What do you do with that time? What is the difference between a priest and a brother? How long does it take to become a priest/brother/sister?
Handouts and Resources
Handouts and resources can also be provided for youth and parents who attend the Vocation Fair that they can read later on. The USCCB has a number of resources on their website for vocation materials. Holy cards and pamphlets can also be ordered from a Catholic printing company.
Volunteers and Adult Support
Depending upon the number of students that are attending, it is important to have adequate adult volunteer support to assist with passing out materials, having students sign-in, helping with set-up and clean-up and overall making sure that the day runs smoothly.