PROVINCIAL PLAN OF FORMATION
St. Thomas Province, 2006
The formation of the missionaries is a prime concern in the life and mission of our Congregation. From our Founder, St. Antony Mary Claret, there has been in the Congregation a strong formative tradition, both oral and written. This tradition has been transmitted to the various generations of formators and has been continuously enriched with the teachings of the General Chapters and the Letters of Superior Generals. In the Congregation we have all necessary means for a good, integral formation. The General Plan of Formation (GPF), published in 1994, is engraved in the history and in the process of Formation in the Congregation.
Rev. Fr. Aquilino Bocos, our former Superior General, in the presentation of the General Plan of Formation stated that “the interest, concern and incentive to acquire a serious and solid formation for the missionary life have been evident through the history of the Congregation. Today we are deeply convinced that our future depends on formation” (GPF 7).
This formation plan is to be understood in the light of a larger context that we all belong to a community of disciples, servants and apostles of Jesus Christ, raised up and animated by the Spirit. Thus our focus of attention must begin from the Word of God, for, “Word of God is as essential to community, as community is to the Word of God. Hence, one of the core aspects of our formation is initiation and growth in the ministry of the Word, understood as an authentic way of being, acting and signifying” (GPF 25).
Though GPF has dealt with each stage of formation in an elaborate way, it itself suggests that each Major Organism of the Congregation must adapt it in keeping with its own context and exigencies and draft their own plan of formation. Thus, we too have decided to draft a plan of formation keeping in mind our context and ritual background.
Provincial Plan of Formation (PPF) presents the principles and norms that appear in GPF in a more concrete way that are applicable to our context. The directions in this plan are to be seen in the light of GPF and what PPF does is that it brings out the relevant directions that are given in GPF in our context.
The process of formation is ongoing. Thus PPF is aimed at all the members of the Province. So it is the duty of each member of the Province to become more conscious of his role in the formation of missionaries and to encourage each other in this important mission of the Congregation.
Lot of effort was put in to frame this Formation Plan during the time of the Independent Delegation Government but could not publish it at that time. So I take this opportunity to thank Rev. Fr. Augustine Mundiath and the Formation Council members from 2001–2004 who worked hard to form a Formation Plan for our Organism. Let me take this opportunity to thank the present Formation Council members Frs. Pothiyittel Abraham, Kidangayil Jose, Ponnattil Baiju and Stu. Valiyarumpath Joseph for their contribution and strenuous effort in bringing out the Provincial Plan of Formation. With the hope that this will be a useful guide for the formation of our students as well as for the on-going formation of our missionaries, let me place before you my confreres, this Formation Plan of St. Thomas Province.
Fr. Jose Thenpillil
PART – I
1. THE CONTEXT OF FORMATION
In India we live in a multi-religious, linguistic, cultural and social milieu and all major religions like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism have their followers in India. Though Christianity was here from the first century onwards (AD 52), because of the various political and social reasons Christianity remained only a minority (2.34%). Kerala presents a unique situation wherein three major Catholic Rites, namely Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin are present and has an equally important role in the life and mission of the Church.
Our much cherished values and customs have already given way to the modern trends in the society. In this context, forming a person to peruse the vocational values with constancy and commitment requires a deeper understanding of the person in his concrete realities of life. In order to achieve this goal the formators are to be knowledgeable of the existential realities of the formees and skillful in the task of accompaniment to discern together with them what God is calling them for.
In order to understand the formee; the different contexts like social, religious, political, economic and ecclesial situation of India must be taken into consideration.
2. A BRIEF HISTORY
Our Congregation began in 1849 as an association of secular priests. Slowly it began to experience the need for growth and a definitive structure. In 1858 Fr. Claret took a great step by advocating the admission of students. It was during the first General Chapter in 1862 that “the decisive steps were taken that would lead to the establishment of the Congregation as a religious institute: the organization of the novitiate, provisions for aspirants, the formula of consecration to the Heart of Mary as the act of incorporation into the institute, and to the gradual introduction of private vows. From this time onwards the students would become an integral section of the institute” (Note Book on Claretian Formation No. 1, p. 9).
From there, we see a tremendous growth in the field of formation and study houses. In the beginning there was no house destined exclusively to formation. The students lived in a missionary community. The whole community was formative but one of the fathers was specifically devoted to those in formation. After the Second Vatican Council there was a profound change in the life of the church and of religious institutes. A process of adaptation and updating has taken place in religious life especially in the field of formation. Along with the Council guidelines our Congregation began a profound and wide-ranging process of Congregational renewal. In the level of formation a document titled “Decree on Formation” was drafted and it contained some very radical and innovative changes aimed at giving impulse to a new style of formation. The process of Congregation renewal continued and the document underwent many changes in the following years. The formation as understood now is an on going process which lasts throughout life and whose efficacy depends on personal conviction. Hence there arises the need for each Claretian to draw up a personal plan of formation.
This personal plan of formation should include the elements pointed out in our Constitutions and Directory with regard to formation.
The opening of the first Claretian Community at Kuravilangad in Kerala in 1970 marked the formal beginning of the Claretian presence in India, though remote preparation had started in 1961 when the first batch of students went to Germany for their religious formation. Since then, we have been witnessing phenomenal growth in the number of missionaries as well as in the pastoral and missionary involvements. In 1984, the Indian Province is born, and today, as a sign of growth we have 3 major Organisms in India: Province of Bangalore (1984), Province of Chennai (1993) and St. Thomas Province (2004).
As per the plan the beginners had envisaged, the initial stress was on formation. It is good to recall the famous words of late Fr. Franz Dirnberger: “In order to fight a war we need a continuous inflow of soldiers. Likewise, a successful evangelization cannot be achieved without enough of missionaries”. So the first ten years saw the erection of a number of formation centers. As a result, the Congregation is indeed blessed with a good number of vocations.
The long cherished dream of the Claretians belonging to the Syro-Malabar Rite and the expectation of late Mar Sebastian Vayalil of the diocese of Palai, was fulfilled on 4 January 1996, when Fr. General announced the establishment of a Syro-Malabar Dependant Delegation. Thus, it enabled an opportunity to the missionaries from Syro-Malabar rite to safeguard their heritage and culture. Being a member of the Major Organism of the Syro-Malabar Rite one is not prevented from showing willingness to support and be available to the need of the Congregation and of the Universal Church at large. In the Decree on erection of the St. Tomas Independent Delegation, Fr. Bocos stated; “This Independent Delegation is established to offer Claretians belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church the possibility of having a juridical structure that allows them to better express their ritual identity and to foster the development of the Congregation within the Syro-Malabar Church. Open to the universal mission of the Congregation and to collaborate with other organisms of the Congregation, its primary purpose will be to join in the pastoral needs of the Syro-Malabar Church within the territory… and with due attention to persons of other established rites within its territory”.
3. OBJECTIVE AND FRAME OF REFERENCE
3.1 Fundamental Objective: The objective of formation is to promote our growth in union and conformity with Christ according to the Claretian charism in the Church, by means of a personalizing process, in each concrete situation and with openness to universality (Dir 156).
3.2 Frame of Reference: The three references – Charismatic, Pedagogical and Situational – as envisioned in the GPF would serve as the frame of reference of formation. “… in order to be able to realize the fundamental objective of formation, we need to take into account our Claretian identity (charismatic reference), the essential characteristics of the formation process (pedagogical reference) and the setting in which we find ourselves (situational reference). These three dimensions, already contained in the very formulation of the objective, are so closely interlinked that reference to them is indispensable in formation” (GPF 17).
3.2.1 Our Claretian Identity (Charismatic Reference)
- We are followers of Jesus Christ in the style of the apostles.
- We are formed by the Spirit in the forge of Mary’s heart.
- We live in a missionary community.
- We are called to evangelize through the ministry of the Word.
- Our mission obtains its meaning within the universal mission of the Church (GPF 27).
- In keeping with the demands of our missions and to the challenges of our times, we have opted for an evangelization that is missionary, inculturated, prophetic and liberative (GPF 28).
3.2.2 Formation as a Process (Pedagogical Reference)
Our formation is based on the pedagogy that God himself used with his people, on the itinerary that Jesus followed with his disciples and on the action of the Spirit in the church and in the world. We understand formation as a process whereby we keep assimilating the Gospel ideal as our Founder lived it, in the daily reality of our life and mission. In this sense, the aim of formation is to actualize what already exists in us as a vocational gift bestowed on us by God. The discovery and development of our own vocational charism and of its possibilities and capacities we have received from God, begets in each of us an attunement and progressive acceptance of the Claretian charism and project of life (GPF 30).
This process has the following fundamental characteristics:
- Inculturated and universal
- Gradual, progressive and articulated
- Liberating and prophetic
- Integral and integrating
3.2.3 The Present Situation (Situational Reference)
Our country is a land of diversities, such as social, religious, linguistic, cultural and regional differences. In this multi faceted context, our formation should aim at acknowledging and appreciating such differences and foster in the formees a sense of respect and positive reception of such diversities. Learning to adapt oneself to the customs, languages and styles of others is a necessary component of one’s universal missionary availability.
In the recent times our Congregation has put more emphasis on the learning of languages by our formees and missionaries. And it goes well with the multi-linguistic situation of our Country. A proper understanding of the changing realities of the family values and life patterns of the formees would be a prerequisite for better formation.
St. Thomas Province was created mainly to foster the Oriental traditions and especially the Syro-Malabar traditions. The understanding of the Church as communities of churches and each rite having fundamental rights and duties in the Catholic Church, has not been understood well among the members of the Church. It is in this background of the ecclesial situation that we need to form the students with the correct and clear vision of the Church which has been understood by the early Church Fathers and the Documents of the Church especially the Second Vatican Council Documents.
4. PROPHETIC DIMENSION
The Encounter of the Provincial Prefects of Formation (November 2001) puts emphasis on the prophetic dimension of formation. A Claretian is called to be a prophet to his own self, to his people, to his Congregation and to the whole world. Therefore it is imperative that we receive adequate prophetic and missionary formation through a systematic and well-planned curriculum.
Prophetic formation is a challenge for all – superiors, formators and formees – in order to make an effective and profile of the Claretian of the third millennium. It is possible only if we have an attitude of conversion. To facilitate this aspect we require the following guidelines:
- Cultivate a liberating and healing spirituality that will favour attitudes of nearness, tenderness, listening, compassion, etc.
- Practice constantly a kind of prayer that springs from the life of people and the missionary experiences of the formee.
- Promote a type of community life that assumes and integrates the plurality of ages, cultures, origins, etc. and favours dialogue and discernment.
- During the time of studies, stress the training in the analysis of reality, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, inculturation, study of languages and preparation for the new technologies.
- Facilitate a vocational culture searching for new venues and target persons from an alternative life proposal.
- Give priority to pastoral tasks that would allow us to co-operate with other persons (believers or not) in the building up of the Kingdom.
- Help formees to assume their own reality and culture, and experience the life conditions of the people with realism.
- Form for the universal mission of the Congregation.
- Intensify concern about the values of justice, peace, ecology and inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue as requested by the IPM.
- Facilitate unity of life (integration of different aspects of religious life: prayer, communion, and mission).
It is also necessary to indicate a general perspective in which we have to situate ourselves and has to be imbued into all our formation in the line of prophetic dimension. This prophetic dimension of formation treats of a ‘style of forming’, which has to be eminently prophetic in nature.
This style has to have the following elements:
4.1 Putting into effect a formative prophetic methodology
We need to have a prophetic methodology that takes into account those principles, dynamics and new means, which help to develop better potentialities of the person and to assimilate the new values. This prophetic methodology also helps a person to integrate in a balanced and holistic way the novelty of the new formative situation. And this charismatic reference has to imply a style of formation that helps the formees to be able to represent the prophetic life and liberating mission of Jesus and our Father Founder.
4.2 Transmission of the formative contents that are radical, prophetic and martyr type.
It is to be understood that the entire consecrated life has a prophetic value. Thus right from the first moment of formation, we have to promote in the formee the consciousness of the missionary life that he is embracing, is in its totality, prophetic. As St. Thomas boldly said, “Let us also go and die with Him”, came to an unknown place and spread the Good News of Salvation and died as a martyr. This example of our Father of Faith should create in us a deep impression.
4.3 Promotion of a formation programme of persons, which prepares them to be prophets and martyrs.
A Claretian has to form in his life the personality traits of the prophets. The XXII General Chapter presents to us the following aspects:
- The experience of reality from the experience of God: they see the historical reality with the eyes of God, filled with their hearts and participate in their compassion for the poor and needy.
- The radicality and coherence in living one’s own vocation till death: this vocation alters their lives and transforms them in a sign. The authentic prophets are faithful to the last consequences.
4.4 Prophetic attitude of the formators.
Given the formative responsibility, which they have, the formators must discharge the decisive role in the development of formative process. Formators “intervene in the formative process offering and putting into practice the dynamisms and means that help to follow up the ends of formation. The formator in his formation task takes, creates and offers the means with the formative intention, organizing and actualizing them in order to arrive at the intended objective” (GPF 90).
The formators, in assiduous contact with the Word of God and living consciously the prophetic spirit have to follow above all spiritual wisdom, supernatural instinct and to arrive at to be experts in the ways that leads to God (Vita Consecrata 66, 84, 94).
5. AGENTS AND MODELS OF INSPIRATION
By agents of inspiration in formation we mean “the person or group of persons who intervene in the formation process, offering and putting into practice the dynamisms and means that help to achieve the aims of formation” (GPF 90).
We believe that it is the Lord Himself who has called us will keep accompanying us to the end. “For, he who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1Thess 5:24). The agents we refer in this context derive their meaning from Him.
5.1.1 The Spirit
The Spirit is the first and foremost agent of formation without whom there would be no authentic following of Christ. It is he who leads us to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and enables us to reach conformity with him (GPF 93). The Spirit is also the protagonist of our mission (GPF 94). It is the same Spirit who conforms us with Christ, calls us to follow him, who anoints us for the mission that the Father entrusts to us (GPF 96).
Since Mary is the first human being consecrated to the cause of her son, she is closely associated with the formation of those who are called to follow Christ. For us, who are called, the Sons of Immaculate Heart of Mary; she is the foundress of the Congregation; our mother and formation guide. She forms us in the forge of her heart, in the furnace of her love and mercy.
5.1.3 The Formee himself
Formation concerns, directly and first of all, the person. Only the person concerned can carry out the process of growth by internalizing the values that sustain his life, by personalizing relationships and by dealing positively with events. Therefore, the fist one responsible for one’s formation is the formee himself (GPF 102).
It is the responsibility of the formee to embrace everything that can directly or indirectly affect his own formation. Thus he should pay specific attention to:
- Cultivating docility to the Spirit, by opening his mind and heart to Him.
- Allowing oneself to be shaped in the forge of Mary’s heart.
- Examining the sincerity of his intentions and the authenticity of his motivations.
- Getting to know and develop his aptitudes in line with our mission.
- Fostering harmony within his own being by recourse to his own conscience, where he finds himself alone with God.
- Living his formation as a process that lasts his whole life and that demands an ever-attentive, ever-new and ever-responsible answer to the Lord.
- Respecting the pace and rhythms of his own maturation and resolving them adequately, as possible crises, conflicts and tensions keep appearing.
- Making use of adequate means to safeguard his physical, mental and spiritual health.
- Feeling co-responsible for the formation of his brothers.
5.1.4 Formators and formation teams
The formators are the channels through whom the spirit of Jesus is at work. Hence, living in an attitude of listening to the spirit and of being attentive to his movements and inspirations must be a permanent attitude on the part of both the formator and of the formees.
The functions of the formator and of the formation team with regard to the formation of a person are the following:
- Discerning with the formees the work that God is carrying out in them and the ways in which he wants them to make progress.
- Accompanying them in their different stages of growth, respecting their pace and at every moment offering them the help they need for their development.
- Providing them in each phase with solid doctrinal and practical nourishment that responds to their personal needs, to the demands of the present moment, and to their future responsibilities.
- Evaluating the results obtained and judge whether they possess the capacities demanded by the Church and the Congregation.
5.1.5 The Formation Community
The community as a whole takes part in the formation of persons. It is done through:
- Community prayer life
- Creating bonds that facilitates emotional maturity
- Fostering interpersonal relationships based on faith and charity
- Helping each one to fulfill his own responsibility faithfully by means of personal service
- Employing dialogue as an instance of discernment and co-responsibility
- Accepting the cross of a fraternity that is built on trial and tribulation
- Bearing one another’s burdens with love
5.1.6 Other Agents
The other agents who take part in formation are professors, spiritual directors, confessors, pastoral assessors, etc.
The first model of inspiration for our life is Jesus Christ himself. Union and conformity with Christ the evangelizer must be a lifelong process and task in our formation. Other models who inspire us in this process of following Christ are Mary, our founder, the prophets, the apostles – especially St. Thomas, saints and Claretian martyrs.
5.2.1 Our Founder
The Church has recognized Claret’s apostolic charism as a form of Christian life that can be shared by many and be of benefit to the people of God. Therefore, it is the task of the Congregation to keep the charism of our founder alive and effective in our life and mission. We are graced by his charism and spirit, by his witnessing life and his writings. Since we live in a world that is entirely different from that of his time, there is a need for creativity, originality and spontaneity in our missionary formation in order to update and actualize this spirit. The witness of Claret’s own life is useful in initiating us into a panoramic view of the way in which the spirit goes on forming the missionary from the out set of his calling until he reaches its fulfillment (GPF 121).
5.2.2 The Congregation
The Congregation was established to reproduce the style of life that Jesus and his disciples led in order to spread the Good News. So, it is the responsibility of the Congregation to update and promote apostolic initiatives in its members. Following the spirit and missionary activity of Claret, the Congregation gave special interest in the formation of her missionaries. In our constitutions the missionary life of the members of the Congregation is well projected. In the Directory it is stated that, “the constitutions are an expression of the action whereby the spirit calls some members of the Church to follow and imitate perfectly the evangelical life of Christ according to the form in which our father founder lived and proposed it” (No. 4).
5.2.3 Barbastro Martyrs
In the Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro we find the living models for following Christ the Evangelizer. They are the best models we have today for our missionary mandate and for following the lifestyle, which Anthony Claret envisaged for his missionaries. Along with these martyrs we also find inspiration in numerous missionaries and martyrs who lay down their lives for Christ and his Kingdom, especially in the context of growing antagonism towards the Christian missionaries in India. These martyrs are clear signs of the vitality of Church. Thus, our martyrs are inspiring models for the formation of missionaries in this challenging world.
5.2.4 St. Thomas the Apostle
The life and model of St Thomas our father in faith is an excellent example for the formator and formee. The daring and faithful disciple who declared, “Let us also go and die with him” and later made the surrendering faith affirmation, “My Lord and my God” and went to various distant lands to share his faith experience serves as an inspiring model to imitate.
PART – II
Stages of Formation
1. VOCATION PROMOTION
Vocation is an inspiration or an inner movement whereby God calls persons to a determined state or form of life. The aim of vocation ministry is to contribute toward helping people discover their proper vocation and respond to it, and to lead those who feel attracted to our Institute, make their personal option for Christ and grow in their vocation of service to the Church in the Claretian Community (Dir 170). Following the instructions in the Directory and understanding the situation of our existing socio-cultural and religious scenario we encourage young students to discern their vocation to the Claretian Community life especially by being in Syro-Malabar Rite. To serve this purpose, we have vocation promoters in our Province who meet the candidates and keep contact with them.
The changing global scenario is to be taken into account in our vocation ministry. Changes have taken place in all spheres of life: structure of family and values have undergone drastic changes; globalization and liberalization have attracted the young minds to a more materialistic and consumerist outlook; modern media have played a decisive role in attracting the people to a lucrative and glamorous lifestyle. Above all, there are many Religious Congregations today. These factors have considerably reduced the number of aspirants to religious life. In this context the ministry of vocation promotion is challenging and there is a need for concerted effort than ever before. However, even amidst all these changing scenes Lord continues to attract young minds to continue his mission.
The main objectives of vocation ministry are:
- To encourage an interest among aspiring to serve the church as a missionary priest
- To familiarize them with the various activities of Claretian Congregation
- To assist those willing, to eventually embrace a Claretian way of life in serving the church following the footsteps of Claret
- Every member of the Province is an agent of vocation promotion.
- Special days of prayer for vocations in all our communities.
- Visiting parishes, Sunday schools, schools, colleges, boardings and families.
- Organizing vocation camps and life orientation camps.
- Media advertisements, leaflets, calendars, souvenirs.
- Use of latest media like Internet, E-mail, Websites etc.
- The candidate should be living an active Christian life, interested in spiritual activities specially his association with parish and prayers.
- The candidates should be aware of the basics of the teachings of the Church and faith.
- Family being the cradle of good vocation, family background needs to be taken into consideration while selecting the candidates. The best method could be visiting families and adequate enquiry with the parish priest, teachers and others.
- While selecting the candidates the physical and psychological maturity of the person should be taken into consideration. Proper medical and academic certificates should be demanded from the candidates before their admission.
- The candidate should have adequate degree of intellectual and spiritual capacities that enable him to cop with the situations he would face in the formative period.
2. MINOR SEMINARY
The minor seminary is an educational and religious institution in order to help the candidates who show some sign of Claretian vocation with an opportunity to explore it and to arrive at free and responsible decision concerning it (GPF 320).
The candidates to minor seminary are recruited after they complete SSLC, Plus-Two or its equivalent. Minor seminary is a period of orientation with special emphasis on study of prayers, basic formation and initiation into religious/ community and spiritual life, learning of language, and clarifying their motivation to religious life.
A candidate to be admitted to the minor seminary should possess the following traits:
- Some signs of Claretian vocation and basic aptitude for a life of faith and religious sensibility.
- Sufficient spiritual, physical, psychological, intellectual and moral qualities and capacity for living in community.
- An upright intention, authentic and adequate vocation motives.
2.3 Objectives and means
2.3.1 Human dimension
To assist integral formation of the candidate and harmonious development of the physical, intellectual and moral conditions corresponding to his age level (GPF 309).
- To initiate the students into different aspects of community life, to guarantee perseverance in vocation, a sense of order, discipline, openness to dialogue, solidarity, responsibility, self control and a spirit of service.
- To cultivate in the students an ethical and aesthetic sense; provide a solid intellectual formation and sufficient knowledge of various languages; instill intellectual curiosity, flexibility in thinking, interest in seeking knowledge and the happenings around the world.
- To achieve a greater emotional and sexual maturity in an atmosphere of fraternity, openness and responsibility; foster healthy friendship, ability to accept others understanding their differences and diversities.
- Classes to foster proficiency in different languages, on morals, on hygiene and good manners.
- Courses on communication skills; training in music and art.
- Personal accompaniment and guidance by the formators to help discover one’s self-identity, self control, emotional maturity and healthy relationships.
- Courses in group dynamism, personality development, sex education and interpersonal relationships.
2.3.2 Christian dimension
- To provide a general Christian formation, deepen faith, foster a life centered on Word of God, build up a community of prayer and piety
- To achieve meaningful and active celebration of the sacraments, liturgy and other spiritual exercises.
- To develop a sense of deep communion with God and assimilate the values of the Kingdom by all possible means
- To love and appreciate the Syro-Malabar patrimony and missionary lifestyle.
- Classes on catechism, church history, scripture, Christian values and virtues.
- Daily liturgy of the hours, meditation, active participation in the Eucharist, Rosary, spiritual reading, personal prayer, Bible reading, devotion to Mary and Claret, practice of shared and guided meditations, etc.
- Inculcating a sense of mortification and sacrifice, simplicity of life after the model of Jesus Christ, Mother Mary and Claret.
- Pilgrimage to spiritual centers and shrines.
- Introductory course on Syro-Malabar Spirituality and Traditions; on Indian spirituality and practice of different forms of prayer and meditation.
- Monthly recollection, spiritual direction, confession, annual retreat.
2.3.3 Claretian dimension
- To discern and deepen Claretian vocation, to be aware of the life and missionary zeal of St. Claret, to know the history and Charism of the Congregation and to strengthen the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- To lay foundation for missionary, religious and community life.
- Reading and study of the autobiography and works of St. Anthony Mary Claret, the documents of the Congregation; assimilation of the spiritual and ascetic practice of our Founder.
- Classes and conferences on Claret’s life and ministry; charism and spirituality of the Congregation.
- Imparting knowledge about the history of the Congregation, especially its development in India with special reference to the formation of St. Thomas Province.
- Solemn celebration f the Claretian and Marian Feasts.
- Fostering in the students a sense of missionary life through sharing of missionary experiences by our missionaries; help them fulfill responsibilities for God’s glory.
- Introducing and initiating the life of evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.
The Superior of the Minor Seminary is the ultimate authority over matters concerning the students (DIR 183). There will be a prefect for each batch of students. The formators at this stage are expected to have such qualities as skills in human relations and in handling the problems of the youngsters, capacity for teamwork, be good models for the youngsters in religious and spiritual life, ensure constant presence with and close accompaniment of the students, and have capacity for effective communication, etc.
3. PHILOSOPHY, GRADUATION & POSTULANCY
The postulancy is the stage of formation immediately preparatory to the novitiate. Its aim is to provide the candidates with adequate preparation for beginning their initiation in the missionary life and to give the Congregation the scope to form a well-pondered assessment on the guarantees that the candidates seem to offer. The period of postulancy, which lasts for three years, enables the candidates to do the studies in philosophy and secure a university degree in Arts. It also provides the candidates with the possibilities to prepare themselves spiritually, intellectually and psychologically as they enter into novitiate immediately. Therefore, the last year of postulancy will be specially designated for the intensive preparation to the novitiate.
This stage of formation generally takes place in Claretian Ashram College of Philosophy, located at the heart of India at Wardha in Maharashtra. It is a place where new languages, cultures, and the rites are encountered by the new postulants. The candidates spend the three years of postulancy here. Claretian Ashram houses students from other Claretian Major Organisms in India.
A student who is entering into this stage of formation should have the following requirements as reflected in the GPF.
- The student should reflect the signs of a Claretian vocation as he lives with right motivation, spiritual orientation, moral integrity and positive will.
- He should submit a written petition to the Major Superior before he begins his postulancy.
- The candidate should have completed his Plus-two or its equivalent with a satisfactory degree of competence and should prove himself competent enough to take up the study of philosophy and graduation.
- The student should cherish a basic openness towards other languages, cultures, customs and life-styles.
- A realistic report assessing the spiritual, psychological, emotional, intellectual and relational growth of the candidate is to be forwarded from the previous stage of formation along with other necessary documents.
3.3 Objectives and means
3.3.1 Human dimension
To help the students achieve the desired degree of human maturity through:
- Adequate care for their physical well-being; enabling them to discover purpose in life; helping them develop a sense of reality and grow in responsible freedom.
- Making them seek and discern truth; acquire a coherent and solid understanding of man, World and God; and helping them prepare a realistic plan of life as a Claretian with conviction and freedom of will.
- Assisting to gain a comprehensive view of metaphysical wisdom integrated with faith and human sciences geared towards a holistic vision of life; and to develop a critical approach to socio-political and economic realities to be an agent of peace and justice.
- Enhancing a multi-disciplinary approach to academics through a curriculum of sacred and secular sciences and to obtain a University Degree.
- Helping the formees grow in emotional, psychological and relational maturity and inculcating in them the spirit of openness, trust, love, generosity, availability, honesty, self-respect, joyfulness and creativity.
- Enhancing the capacity for teamwork, dialogue, healthy human relation, community life and social skills.
- Formulation of a personal formation plan for a life giving importance to their integral growth and personal option for the mission.
- Regular dialogue with the formator, vocational counseling, psychological guidance and periodical evaluation guided by the formator.
- Courses on communication skills, public speaking, journalistic skills, music; and sessions on good manners and inter-personal skills.
- A planned, well-integrated curriculum, which is to be detailed in the handbook. The academic competence is assured through training in study skills, regular lectures, guest lectures, group discussions, interviews, library works, panel discussion, seminars, debates, scientific papers, periodic examinations, assignments and internal assessments.
- Courses on social analysis and village camps; ecumenical and inter-religious programs; cultural integration programs.
3.3.2 Christian dimension
- To develop a deep intimacy with the Holy Trinity and Word of God.
- To discover the uniqueness and implications of one’s Christian vocation in general and Claretian missionary vocation in particular.
- To develop a spiritual personhood rooted in personal prayer, sacraments and Christian fellowship, Christian charity and Gospel virtues.
- To deepen their knowledge about Syro-Malabar Rite.
- Regular personal prayer and active participation in community spiritual exercises and sacraments.
- Reading, reflection and study of the Word of God; regular spiritual reading, spiritual direction, confession, spiritual conferences, monthly recollection etc.
- Classes on religious life, evangelical counsels and missionary commitment.
- Indian forms of meditation, yoga, ‘bhajan’ services, study of other religious scriptures.
3.3.3 Claretian dimension
- To equip the formees to make a conscious option to Claretian way of life; to create in them an appreciation for the prophetic character of our vocation as Servants of the Word.
- To foster in them a love for the missionary enthusiasm of our founder and to inspire them to imbibe his spirit of universal availability for the missions.
- To foster in them the Cordi-Marian aspect of our vocation and the formative role of Mary in the life of every Claretian.
- To enable the students to manifest Claretian creativity in pastoral ministry by seeking out and creating new forms of apostolate
- Progressive familiarization of the novitiate life and preparing for it meaningfully.
- Encourage the students to do a prophetic and Claretian reading of the Word of God with the help of Word Mission and Initiation into the Ministry of the Word.
- Fostering the habit of reading and study of Claretian Documents.
- Occasional encounters with Claretian missionaries, visit our mission stations, mission exposure programs etc.
- Active participation in the apostolic ministry through village apostolate, value education, prayer meetings and visits.
- Practice of special Claretian devotions like daily rosary, Triduum, novena and other Marian devotions.
- Classes on Claretian spirituality, charism and history of the Congregation.
3.4 Immediate preparation for Novitiate
The final year of the postulancy is deemed as immediate preparation for the entry into the novitiate. The objective is to prepare the candidate spiritually, mentally and psychologically with right motivation and frame of mind. During this period the students are provided with special conferences, talks, prayer sessions, etc. At the end of the period of immediate preparation a two-week intensive preparatory and integration course is arranged with the candidates from other major organisms with whom they have to live their novitiate life.
Following are some of the guidelines for the agents of formation:
- The formator should be a man of good character and competence, man of prayer, capable of teamwork, academically qualified, professionally trained and sufficiently exposed to the missions.
- He must be capable of understanding the formees and offering them guidance and correction and provide them with personal accompaniment.
- Formator should update his knowledge in his respective discipline and improve skills of formation by participating in various courses.
“The novitiate is a time of integral initiation into following Christ the Evangelizer, according to the Claretian charism, with a view to incorporation into the Congregation by means of religious profession” (GPF 348). During this one year of novitiate a candidate is given a foundational experience for consecrated life. These different experiences especially in prayer help them to deepen their knowledge of the call of God to our way of life and to have a more personal experience in its evangelizing spirit.
The fundamental principle orienting the formation of the missionary novices is to transform the candidates into missionaries who are evangelical and apostolic. In the words of our Founder, “the aims of novitiate are to lay the foundation of the apostolic virtues and to test the novice and discover whether they have resolved and made up their minds to remain in the Congregation and whether they have obtained the qualities befitting a good missionary” (Notebook on Claretian Formation No. 2, page 5).
Our students enter the novitiate after having completed their postulancy period and three years of philosophy and degree. This one-year of novitiate should form a basis for the Claretian style of life, interest in our common commitments and radical following of Christ the Evangelizer in the context we live. Our students join the novices of Bangalore and Chennai Provinces and do their novitiate in Claret Bhavan, Carmelaram, Bangalore.
Our novitiate should be planned taking into account the basic realities such as:
- That the novitiate for the students of the different organisms of India is combined.
- That our novices join the novitiate generally after Philosophy and Degree.
- That the novices are at an age of intellectual curiosity, questioning, emotional confusions and search for identity.
- That though our candidates have completed few years in formation, they have not received much knowledge on religious life.
- That as missionaries they would be working in the future amidst the Syro-Malabar Christian communities; the poor and the marginalized; and the predominantly non-Christian background.
This context demands that the novitiate program address such needs as:
- Supporting an aptitude for an internal, spiritual journey and inculcating the values of solitude, interiority and self-discipline.
- Creating an awareness of the social situations leading to solidarity and openness for a definitive option for the poor and the marginalized.
- Encouraging openness to personal guidance and discernment
- Fostering a quest to learn more about Oriental spirituality and traditions; respect and appreciation for other religious traditions; and a capacity to dialogue with others.
4.2 Specific Objectives and Means
4.2.1 Human Dimension
- To discover, enhance and integrate the different aspects of one’s personality and to cultivate those human qualities, which would add credibility and effectiveness to a disciple of Christ.
- To integrate affective, emotional and sexual maturity with the project of life and foster responsibility and freedom.
- To cultivate artistic sensibility and expression, and capacity for reflection and critical sense.
These are to be realized through different means such as intellectual inputs, live-in experiences and their evaluations, personal accompaniment by the novice-master and through fostering personal initiatives. Specific means to be used in our context are:
- Fostering a basic integration through the pre-novitiate programme of two to three weeks with all the would-be novices from different organisms.
- Developing a deep relationship of trust with novice master who in turn guides each novice personally.
- Classes and group works on human values such as hard work, respect for self and for others, joy, self sacrifice, availability, cordiality, simplicity, constancy and steadfastness of will, keeping one’s word, personal dignity in speech and action, spirit of tolerance and universality. Engaging physical and manual work, sports activities and common recreations.
- Developing interactions, communication and dialogue through group activities and evaluations, and daily journal writing and periodical evaluation of activities.
- Developing ability to make critical judgment of oneself and reality and capacity to take criticism from others in proper spirit through workshops involving group dynamics.
- Classes and courses on leadership, public speaking, homiletics and on aspects of human development with an emphasis on emotional integration and the dialogue with the formator on the personal implications of these factors.
- Engaging in artistic and cultural activities without impeding the essential aspects of the novitiate.
- Providing experiences of encountering the realities of poverty and marginalization through such activities like visiting orphanages, old age homes, rehabilitation centers, jails and collaborating with organizations working for their betterment.
4.2.2 Christian Dimension
- To deepen one’s personal, spiritual experience centering on the vocation to follow Christ and imitate him in doing the will of the Father and being docile to the Spirit.
- To teach to accept the Gospel as norm of life and to imitate Mother Mary as a model of listening and look up to her as the Formatrix who forms the missionary in the furnace of her heart.
- To develop a deep sense of the Church in whatever they do and learn to assume responsibility for the building up of the Church in India.
- To create in the novices openness and appreciation for the multi-ritual reality of the Indian Church.
- Preparing a personal project of formation at the beginning of the novitiate.
- Classes on religious life – history, biblical and theological foundations, evangelical counsels etc. and reflection on theological and psychological aspects, religious vocation and discernment.
- Classes on Bible with special reference to vocational narratives, and on virtues, sacraments, Christian life, spiritual classics, documents of the Church and the mystery of the Church.
- Growing deeper in personal prayer, familiarizing with modes of prayer and meditation, yoga and Indian spirituality.
- Instructions on prayer and liturgy – foundations, various methods, forms and possible obstacles to prayer life.
- Meaningful celebration of Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Sacrament of Reconciliation. Occasional celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Oriental Rites.
- Regular spiritual reading, reading of the Scripture, spiritual accompaniment, discernment, particular examination of conscience, spiritual direction.
- Desert experience and Christian Ashram experience.
4.2.3 Claretian Dimension
- To know and experience the Claretian way of following Christ.
- To foster Cordi-Marian sonship.
- To grow in Claretian identity and belongingness to the Congregation.
- To assimilate missionary spirit of our Founder St. Anthony Claret.
The GPF provides the basic guidelines. Following are some of the important ones:
- Study of the Claretian charism, Cordi-Marian spirituality, history of the Congregation, Constitutions, Directory and General Chapter Documents.
- Study of the experience of Claret and his missionary vocation.
- Daily reading of the Word of God with Claretian key.
- Celebrating the feasts of the Congregation with due preparation and solemnity.
- Contact with members of the Claretian family through correspondence, prayers, visiting neighboring Claretian communities especially to celebrate together important Claretian feasts, showing special hospitality to Claretians as members of the same family.
- Exposure to the Claretian mission through the sharing of the experiences of the missionaries.
Considering the number and composition of the novices, it is good to form a team as agents of formation in the novitiate, notwithstanding the primary role of the novice-master. It is also recommended that this team be composed of personnel from different Organisms. Apart from the qualities envisaged in the GPF, the following qualities are highly recommended for the Novice-master and his collaborators.
- Apostolic experience which would facilitate the understanding of the novices from different regional and cultural backgrounds.
- Capacity to appreciate all the novices from different organisms as belonging to the same Claretian family.
- An awareness of the different levels of maturity and formation that the novices have reached and capacity to deal with the problems that may arise in their age and in the pluralistic context.
- A capacity to desist from favoritism, regional bias etc.
- A basic formation in human sciences to address the questions related to the psycho-physical-social development of the novices.
Regency provides a student a break from his regular or normal rhythm of formative community life with a view to fostering the maturity of the person and his process of discernment, developing his ability to become integrated into a non-formative community, intensifying his contact with a determined reality, experiencing some kind of social activity or pursuing some specialization in a particular field (GPF 391). It also enables the student to consolidate and personalize what is learned during novitiate in the context of the actualities of the mission and thus be enabled to make a definitive option for Claretian Missionary life. Normally the period of regency lasts for one year.
- The period of regency comes immediately after the novitiate and before the theological studies.
- There are lots of opportunities for our students to make their regency in our own houses. We are also open to regency outside our missions.
- The would-be regents are given experience and information about the different missions of the Province enabling them to make options for the region and apostolate.
- The regents are sent to a mission house or formation house that they may understand and experience the Claretian Mission in concrete situations.
- The regency provides greater exposure to the realities of life. The regents are to contextualize the spirituality and religious life and find concrete ways of using their abilities for initiatives and creativity as a better preparation for the future ministry.
- The option for a particular place of regency can be made by the candidate but the final decision depends upon the Provincial council according to the needs of the Province and the suitability of the candidate.
5.2 Objectives and means
5.2.1 Human dimension
Regency is a period to achieve adequate personal balance by caring for their physical and mental health and by developing the qualities that contribute to create a sturdy personality for mission. Following dimensions are specially emphasized during regency.
- To develop leadership qualities, initiatives, creativity and relational skills such as empathy, respect, gentleness and compassion.
- To evaluate the emotional maturity and capacity for mature relationship with people of both sexes.
- To learn local languages, culture and acquaintance with concrete life situations of the people in the mission.
- To learn computer, music, and other disciplines without affecting the actual orientation during this period.
5.2.2 Christian Dimension
Regents are to strive for a firm and constant union with Christ and to open their hearts and minds to the action of the Spirit in order to discern events and follow His inspirations in the concrete life situation of the people. Following aspects are specially given attention during this period of formation:
- Deepening and internalizing the faith convictions and spirituality through personal prayer and reading of the Word of God in the context of our apostolate.
- Active participation in the liturgical celebrations with the people.
- Caring for the spiritual growth through spiritual direction and personal dialogues.
5.2.3 Claretian Dimension
During regency a student grows deeper in the knowledge and love of Claret and fosters identification with the ministry of the Word according to the demands and options of the particular mission. The following aspects are stressed under this dimension:
- Developing a sense of belonging to Claretian family through mature Claretian community life and active participation in its mission and to adapt to smaller mission communities.
- Intensifying relationship with persons of one’s own community and Province, and with the whole Congregation.
- Living of the Cordi-Marian dimension and read the Word with Claretian key.
- Directly getting involved into the concrete mission and activities of the house.
- The Prefect of Formation of the Province or a person assigned by the Province shall be in-charge of the regents.
- The local superiors are immediately in-charge of the regents and they have to help them in their overall growth. In case of regents living outside our communities, they form part of a community designated by the Province. The Superiors, in consultation with the Prefect of Formation shall take any major decision about the regents.
- It is the duty of the Formation in-charge to maintain regular contacts with the regents through correspondence and visits.
- It is highly recommended to have regents’ get together and common evaluation programme by the Province at the end of the period of regency.
The stage of theology is a stage in which a student becomes integrally deepened in all aspects of Claretian missionary life with a view to definitive incorporation into the Congregation and into missionary service in the Church (Dir 232).
This is the final stage in the initial formation, which extends to a span of four years leading the students through the various important moments in their life such as reception of Sacred Ministries, Perpetual Profession, the Orders of Diaconate and Priesthood.
In this stage of formation a student learns to take greater responsibilities for his own integral formation, seek God’s will and assistance, understand God and world in the light of faith, and reach sufficient emotional maturity in order to live and work in communities and missions. The paramount objective is that the formee learns to incorporate his theological studies and reflections into his own personality under the genuine guidance of the formator to reach at a clear vision of his mission. He has to vigorously prepare himself to commit totally and fully in the Congregation and by receiving Ministries and Holy Orders to participate in the sacred mission of the Church. Therefore, this stage reflects upon and assimilates the theoretical and practical, personal and communitarian dimensions of formation.
Students enter this stage of formation after the completion of philosophy, graduation, novitiate and regency. We send our students to different centers of theological studies in India with a view to consolidate oneself into the contextual and missionary formation primarily in the Syro-Malabar Rite.
Our learning of theology puts emphasis on such contexts as multi-religious situation of India, ecumenism, ritual pluralism, mission-oriented theological formation, emerging trends in theological studies, liberation theology, inculturation, etc.
- Graduation in philosophy and secular sciences and completion of the period of regency.
- Sufficient maturity to assume personal responsibility in the community and in the Congregation; a deep desire to learn sacred sciences; love for ministry and participation in the mission of the Congregation; and a deeper conviction in prayer life and aptitude for service.
6.3 Objective and means
6.3.1 Human dimension
- To achieve an overall maturity based on transcendent values with a view to making a definitive option for the Claretian missionary life, and to achieve human maturity required of one’s age and stage of formation.
- To prepare oneself through solid intellectual formation especially in sacred science and excellence to fulfill their evangelizing mission in the world.
- To cultivate artistic sensibility and expression like music, literature and creative arts, to develop communication skills, aptitude for preaching and other pastoral activities.
- To enable physical fitness through different physical activities like sports, games and manual work.
- Courses on homiletics, communication, interpersonal relationship, community dynamism, youth animation etc.
- Exposure programs and training in first aid, accounting, computer etc.
- Inter-seminary activities, cultural exposure programs, family visits, pastoral orientation camps, etc.
- Training in art, literature, music; learning of languages.
- Developing a commitment for extra reading on modern issues concerning morality, justice and peace especially the problems of Indian Church and society.
- Cultivating more openness and solidarity by trying to obtain new ways to enter into inter-cultural and religious realms of society.
- Forming ability for a critical judgment of the reality and express the solidarity with those who suffer the consequences of the injustice in the society.
6.3.2 Christian dimension
- To deepen the spiritual life in order to seek always the will and the glory of God in everything, to enable oneself to identify with the multifarious religious, cultural and linguistic diversities of our recipients, and to become more conformed to Christ.
- To develop a deeper filial relationship with the Trinity and Mother Mary through community and personal prayer and to make the word of God one of the pivot points of life.
- To develop capacity for free and authentic response to the call of celibate chastity, poverty and obedience, and to be rooted in deeper prayer life, Christian virtues and moral values.
- To foster the virtues and dispositions proper to this stage such as responsibility, accountability, missionary openness, humility, detachment, simplicity of life, punctuality, universal availability and spirit of sacrifice.
- To instill a deep love for oriental spirituality and Syro-Malabar tradition.
- Active participation in the community prayers and liturgical celebrations, cultivating a life rooted in personal prayer and reading of the Word of God.
- Annual retreat, monthly recollections, spiritual direction, confession, group mass, conferences, classes, spiritual and personal accompaniment by the formators.
- Familiarizing oneself with the spirituality and tradition of the Syro-Malabar Church through the study of various documents and the history of Syro-Malabar Church.
- Opportunity to collaborate with the church movements which work for the cause of the poor and the marginalized.
- Mission exposure programs, pastoral training, pastoral course, ministerial participation, active participation and assistance in various Church activities and action groups.
6.3.3 Claretian dimension
- To incorporate in oneself the full significance of the evangelical counsels and to be formed in the forge of Mary’s Heart, fully identifying with the Congregation and its options and to grow in maturity in community living and working.
- To grow in following Christ after the model of Anthony Mary Claret and to get formed in Cordi-Marian spirituality.
- To create a sense of service and commitment to the poor and marginalized.
- To create a sense of missionary urgency that is timely and effective.
- To equip the students for missionary community life, for efficient team work by planning, execution and evaluation.
- To intensify relationship with members of their own community, Delegation and whole Congregation.
- Preparing a personal project of formation.
- Studying of the Constitutions, Directory, Commentaries, Documents of the Congregation and General Chapters, books on Claret and other relevant Claretian Literature.
- Becoming familiar with the Pastoral and Formation Plans of the Province and study of the General Plan of Formation, Word Mission, Initiation in the Ministry of the Word
- Integrating the aspects of Claretian and Oriental Spirituality in everyday prayer life; classes on Claretian spirituality, Syro-Malabar spirituality, history and traditions and present day situation.
- Making special preparation before the reception of Perpetual Profession, the Ministries, the Order of Diaconate and Priesthood.
- Encouraging inter-personal dialogue among the students to foster brotherly affection.
The Prefect of Formation of the Province is directly involved in the formation of the Students of Theology. As our students study Theology in different Theological centers it is highly recommended that the prefect of Formation visits these centers on a regular basis and keep constant personal accompaniment of our students. The in-charge may also arrange common get-togethers of theology students and sharing of their experiences during holidays and other possible occasions.
Those who are called for the vocation to brotherhood should undergo religious, intellectual and humanistic formation according to the requirements of the religious life and the apostolate in which they are involved. They have to be prepared for being effective in their service through mastering sufficient skills.
7. ONGOING FORMATION
Ongoing formation is an overall process of renewal, which embraces all aspects of the Claretian person and of the Congregation as a whole. It lasts all life long. In order to be suitable ministers of the Word we need to be in a permanent or ongoing process of formation. It is proper of a disciple to be constantly listening, open to the surprises of the Word and of the Spirit. It embraces the whole person and all dimensions of his personality – physical, psychological, spiritual, intellectual and apostolic and ministerial. It also affects the renewal of communities, of mission and of community and apostolic structures. It aims at the renewal of the Claretian’s personal and community life in the light of the Gospel and of the charism in each new historical situation (GPF 460-461).
The need for ongoing formation is to be faithful to our own personal project of life; to be faithful to the renewing action of the Spirit; to be faithful to the process of Congregational renewal; and to be faithful to the challenges of mission.
- To renew one’s commitment to missionary life, religious life and to the Congregation and to remain ever faithful to one’s religious vocation.
- To foster a healthy community life, to overcome crises and problems in life.
- To equip oneself with sufficient expertise according to the needs of the Province and demands of our mission.
- To meaningfully prepare and celebrate important events in life such as jubilee, anniversaries etc.
- Having a reasonably good library in every community and commitment to update the theological and religious studies by personal readings.
- Participating in relevant courses, retreats, seminars, workshops and renewal programs on regular basis.
- Personal and communitarian study and reflection of Word Mission.
- Organizing inter-Province renewal programs.
It is the stage that immediately follows the initial formation (first five years of priesthood). In this stage a Claretian should discover new ways of remaining faithful to God and offer adequate response to the challenges that arise for him (GPF 507). It embraces renewal of the following aspects of the life of a religious:
- A spiritual life that is lived in harmony with action.
- Pastoral accompaniment, so that the Claretian may keep on integrating his ministerial preparation with his experience of life.
- Doctrinal renewal, by updating and applying in practice what one has learned during initial formation.
- The psychological process of adapting to community and to missionary service.
It is an academic program undertaken at the request of the Provincial Government in response to the needs of the Province or the Congregation. It is necessary to oversee the formation of true specialists in ecclesiastical sciences, in order to achieve a more profound missionary action and to contribute to the initial and ongoing formation of the members. We should also pay attention to those secular specializations that may be useful for a missionary dialogue with culture or in order to exercise more competently other mission commitments that demand a deep knowledge of the human sciences.
Sabbaticals offer a time of break from the regular and active ministry for the purpose of renewal course or academic service or a different sort of ministerial experience. It normally extends from three months to one year. The possibility of sabbaticals occurs after more or less every ten years of ministry. Every Claretian, and most specially those who have not had other opportunities for renewal, should be offered the possibility of making a sabbatical year.
7.6 Jubilees and Anniversaries
The Silver and Golden Jubilees of the First Profession and Priesthood of the members are to be celebrated with due solemnity in the respective communities where they stay and serve as well as at the Province level. As a preparation the Jubilarians may attend relevant renewal programs individually or in batches.
This Plan of Formation is an attempt to give some broad guidelines for the process of formation in our Province. It does not intend to give the details of each and every activity connected with individual and communitarian aspects of formation. It is the responsibility of the individual as well as the formative communities to translate these guidelines into the concrete life situations and practical life. Formation doesn’t stop with the initial formation but it is an ongoing process. Let us hope that this plan will act as a basis and will assist us in our life as missionaries.