Passion to Learn and the Multicultural Reality

Passion to Learn and the Multicultural Reality

Although religious congregations had been living in multicultural communities for centuries, intercultural living has only recently been given serious thought and the attention it deserves. Partly, it may be because we, the religious, had always accepted living in multicultural communities as a given in religious life and therefore isn’t something that needed further consideration. Mainly, however, it is because intercultural living challenges our values and demands major changes in our behaviors.

In this reflection, I would like to dwell on the drive to learn, an essential component of living in a multicultural reality. People’s learning preferences are as diverse as their personalities.  What is essential is not so much the how but the desire and commitment to learn. By being open and committed to learning, we become more understanding, open, and accepting of, attitudes that are important in cultivating intercultural living.

There are many things to learn and one among these is that there is no such thing as inferior and dominant culture even if many among us continue to box and rank people according to cultural identity. Diversity should help us come to terms to the reality that the world is made richer in more ways than one by the coming together of people from various backgrounds.  Insisting on uniformity and conformity is an insult to the complexity of human life and God’s grandeur. All culture and people are in one way or the other both givers and receivers at the same time.

This brings us to the idea of the sacredness of each culture. Each one is sacred because each culture is formed in a particular context, environment, and historical background to form its own worldview. Cultures are created in a social reality that is distinctly unique from all others. There is no point in comparing; they only deserve the respect that is due them.

Moreover, there are more to culture than economic development. Culture is far more complex and encompassing than economy. It is about a people and life itself and all its intricacies. In the end, what matters most is how one’s culture brings us closer to each other, leads us to celebrate our diversities, and drives us to be better human beings to one another and to the world.

All these things will only bring change, a new perspective, and conversion in one’s life if s/he is ready to learn. Otherwise, embracing what is new, celebrating diversities, and conversion will remain a mere ideal that’s easy to proclaim but difficult to embody.

Religious Formation and Discernment

Religious Formation and Discernment

We live in a world where day-to-day life consists in making choices from a wide range of choices, which only a few decades ago seemed unimaginable. Technology, particularly the internet and social media, offers seemingly endless options to even the most mundane of choices we need to make. We search in Google for restaurants in a particular location and all of a sudden we can’t make up our minds on where to eat.  Gone were the days when people would take a single route to a particular location. With the availability of applications like Google Maps and Waze, one is offered several options based on traffic flow and the nearest public transportation available.

That life is about making choices is a fact that can’t be argued. Even the decision not to act on something is still a choice. Everything is a choice. What defines us is how we make choices and the kind of choices we make.

This is the world and reality of many of our formands as they enter religious formation. They enter religious life after sifting through the many choices available to them, or sometimes given the very limited choices they have in their current life circumstances. Still they make a choice to enter. But making choices does not end as they become postulants. In fact, religious formation, in its truest sense, prepares the ground in which a more in-depth decision-making, through what we know as discernment process, will take place. Through human and spiritual formation programs that help them explore their psychological needs and their deeply held values and aspirations, we help them to move into a Christ-oriented discernment process as they move from stage to stage. Rather than staying on because of the expectations of others, or because of the perceived lack of better options outside of religious life, or because of the social status that religious life affords them, they are accompanied in the formation program so that they are able to listen to the movements of the Spirit in their life.  The goal of religious formation should be able to help them to follow the models offered in the Scripture in making decisions based on the will of God rather than their own personal comfort and wants. When they can truly say, “Be it done unto me according to Your Word,” no matter the decision they make, I think we can say that we have done our work well in initial religious formation.

Formation Animation Visit to Poland

Formation Animation Visit to Poland

Warsaw, Poland. The General Prefect of Formation went to Poland from May 8 to 15 for an animation visit. He visited the formation communities and held a dialogue with the formandi and formators. The first community visited was the novitiate, followed by the postulants’, and lastly, that of the professed. The Province of Poland has 34 formandi, 12 of them are in Poland while the rest are in Africa.

During the encounter and personal dialogue with the formandi and formators, several issues were raised and discussed.  Among the areas covered were: universal mission, the call to intercultural living, shared mission, updates on the General Plan of Formation, the coming Heart of Mary School of Formators in 2018, and the beatification of the 109 Martyrs of Spain in October this year. The motivations drawing candidates to the Congregation also surfaced during the conversations.  As with the other provinces, these included: community life, strong Marian dimension, contact with a Claretian missionary, preaching, retreat giving, missionary life, and our contribution to Consecrated Life.

The visit was culminated with the Sunday mass at the Claretian parish in Wroclaw and a meeting with the Provincial Government.

In 2018, the Province of Poland will celebrate its 25th Silver Foundation Anniversary. The members are already looking forward and preparing for this momentous event of their organism, which now serves in several countries through their personnel and missionary endeavors.

India Visit 2017

India Visit 2017

Bro. Carlos Verga, the General Prefect of Youth Ministry and Vocations, and I went to India for animation visit. In the first two weeks, Bro. Carlos spent his time in Bengaluru.

I spent the whole month visiting formation communities in the four Organisms of India (Bengaluru, St. Thomas, Chennai, and North East). I also had the opportunity to visit some of the nearby mission communities of the organisms. I gave a session on “Teamwork” during the Youth Animators’ Encounter before proceeding to St. Thomas Province.

During visits, I gave conference to the formandi and held individual dialogue with all the students. I had also a chance to talk to several candidates for novitiate, regents, and deacons assigned in the mission stations close to the formation communities. Each visit was concluded with a meeting with all the formators in the respective community.  We discussed several issues of formation in the community and the organism as a whole.

The visit was programmed as follows:

January 26-31:                       Bangalore Province

Theology House 1

Novitiate House 1

Aspirancy (minor) House 1

January 31-February 5:        St. Thomas Province

Theology House 1

Aspirancy (minor) House 1

February 5-10:                      Chennai Province

Philosophy House (non-professed) 1

Aspirancy (minor) House 1

February 10-12:                    Wardha-St. Thomas Province

Aspirancy (minor) House 1

February 12-19:                    Province of North East India

Theology House 1

Philosophy House (non-professed) 1

Aspirancy (minor) House 1

February 19-24:                    Kolkata Delegation-Chennai Province

Theology House 1

Aspirancy (minor) House 1

The animation visit in these four organisms has given me a wider perspective about the Claretian presence in the country and better understanding of the current realities of formation. It was quite enriching and helpful in knowing the different challenges of formation faced by our communities in India.

I have the impression that many organisms in the country are now facing formation issues due to secularism. Although I have to admit that a month stay is not enough to fully understand the formative dynamics of every organism, the opportunity to meet, encounter, talk, and spend time with our brothers in different communities is already a blessing in itself.

Leo Dalmao CMF

General Prefect of Formation

Rome, March 2017

Formation for Justice and Peace Today

Formation for Justice and Peace Today

Introduction

More than ever, mankind is facing serious problems of peace and justice. Not a day passes without hearing alarming news, disgusting situation that disturbs the quietude of people who aspire for peace and justice. Fifty-four years ago, the Supreme Pontiff John XXIII wrote in Pacem in Terris that “Peace on Earth—which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after—can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order ” (No. 1). This encyclical intervened in such a troubled context in the history of mankind. Sensing the imminent danger that lays before humanity, the Pope invited men and women to take into account the necessity of peace among all nations, the peace that is founded on truth, justice, charity and freedom.  Aware that without peace nothing is possible, the Pope remarked from the outset, the importance and the urgency it takes.

As for justice, Peter’s successor strengthened as follows:  «Relations between States must furthermore be regulated by justice. This necessitates both the recognition of their mutual rights and, at the same time, the fulfilment of their respective duties.” (Pacem in Terris, no. 91). This shows sufficiently that if we want our world to be really called a “common home”, to use the expression of Pope Francis in Laudato Si, it must model itself on these two great values: “Peace and Justice”.

However, some questions need to be asked. First of all, how can peace and justice be established in the world today? Secondly, how to establish peace and justice in the world?  These two main questions will guide our reflection.

  1. Educating for peace and justice

Peace is not given once and for all, it is built. It presupposes an education to be effective. According to Peter’s successor, Paul VI, “Peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men” (Popolorum Progressio, No. 76). This presupposes education.

However, “to educate” – comes from the Latin word educere – means leading to move beyond oneself and introducing to reality, towards a fullness that leads to growth. Pope Benedict XVI in his message: “Educating young people in Justice and Peace”, a message launched on the occasion of the World Day for Peace in 2012, wrote: ” Education is the most interesting and difficult adventure in life”.

To the question of the place where true education for peace and justice matures, he first places the family. Since, he thinks that parents are the first educators. The family is the primary cell of society. It is in the family that children learn human and Christian values that can allow constructive and peaceful co-existence. It is in the family that one learns to respect the rules, forgiveness and the reception of the other. It is the first school where one is educated to justice and peace.

  1. Peace is born of justice for all

Peace is above all, a gift from God. We, Christians, believe that Christ is our true peace: in Him and through the cross, God has reconciled the world and destroyed the barriers that separated us from each other (cf. Ep 2: 14-18). Peace is also a fruit of justice and an effect of charity. It also passes through the proper distribution of common goods. For the unfair distribution of the common goods can only cause frustration among people.

It is therefore urgent for the politicians to improve the living conditions of people.  The basic norm of the State must be in pursuit of justice. The aim of a just social order is to guarantee to everyone, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity, its share of the common good. A State which would not be governed by justice would be reduced to a large band of rogues, as Saint Augustine once said: “Remota itaque iustitia quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia? (The City of God, IV, 4). Justice and peace are the goals and therefore the intrinsic measure of any policy.

Conclusion

Peace is not an already acquired good, but the goal to which all of us must aspire. No one can elude this essential task of promoting justice and peace. It is on the basis of this awareness that each one according to his own skills and responsibilities must mobilize his spiritual, moral and material forces to work for justice and peace.

Policies, on the other hand, need to improve the working conditions that are often not compatible with family responsibilities and ultimately make it difficult to provide children with the most valuable assets. Policy-makers must help families and educational institutions to exercise their right and duty to educate. Motherly and fatherly support should never be lacking. The Church must not be left behind; by its social doctrine, it must play its prophetic role to defend the rights of the needy.

In order to be truly a peacemaker and artisan of justice, we must not only educate ourselves on this, but we should be active vectors in the community without which the world cannot be human. The advent of a better world requires education in justice and peace.

 

Fr. Olivier Mulombo Sukisa, CMF

(Fr. Olivier is a member of the Independent Delegation of Congo. He was ordained in 2010. After his priestly ordination, he was assigned as vicar and econome at Pay-Kongila, then at Saint Ignace Masamba. Later, he was designated as administrator and formator at the Pere Claret Scholasticate in Mont-Ngafula Kimbondo (Kinshasa, R. D. Congo). Today, he studies at Pontificia Università Gregoriana (Rome, Italy) taking a specialization in dogmatic theology.

CLARETIAN FORMATION AND THE NEW GENERATION

CLARETIAN FORMATION AND THE NEW GENERATION

The Claretian Formation: Objective and Frame of Reference: The General Plan of Formation (GPF) rightly presents a pen picture of the entire formation process that we need to undergo in forming the new generation. It obviously speaks, “The current world offers us both new hopes and hitherto unheard of challenges that affect our formation” (GPF 43).  The “current world” is the reference of the new generation. Alongside with the positive elements of “hopes”, it furnishes us with a caution. Although written 22 years ago, the GPF classifies the tendencies of the new generation under the different heads: the socio-cultural, ecclesial and Congregational situations (44-49). With the influence of media in the world today, there are no longer continental disparities in qualifying the new generation.

Let us explore and understand the context of this new generation. A generation is a theoretical construct therefore it is the continuity of human progress and development. In our formation centers, we get vocations from the new breed of the youth of today.  They have lots of advancements both in up building and jeopardizing. The modern youth perceive the future based from career paths and planning. In addition to this, the concepts of the new generation revolve around consumerism, individualism, materialism and hedonistic interpretation of human existence.  The distortion of human sexuality and freedom really enthrall the youth of our times and deviate themselves away from reaching near to God in silence.  The Catholic community now modeled on diverse and at times, contradictory to the values and practices of the Catholics.

In light of this context, in discerning one’s call to religious life or to a ministry, it is extremely important to keep in mind that this particular vocation is primarily a calling to dedicate one’s life to the service of God. Nevertheless, it is much different from just deciding to choose a particular career. It is not just a call to do anything, to go anywhere, or to become somebody else; though these may be part of the response. To point out the process of discerning one’s call, it is an effort of both human and divine.  It is to choose a state of being that expresses one’s best in response to God’s providential care and love. As such, it can never be undertaken alone since it calls for the interaction of two persons – the person of the discerner and the Person of God. Thus, this discernment is always within the context of one’s personal relationship with God.

Moreover, the Claretian Formation envisages among the new generation a revitalized formation process by growing deeper in our identity as missionaries, which is pointing towards our holy founder St. Claret, with his refined charism. In our formation centers we need to produce a new breed of consecrated persons who are spiritually prepared, psychologically and emotionally mature to face the challenges of the new generations for a constant and radical transformation.

The Claretian formative plans are rich in contents. But to re-shape this new breed of candidates who are presented before us according to the spiritual rootedness of our Congregation is a task and a challenge, a task wherein a formator should walk shoulder to shoulder with the formandi.  Relentlessly, it needs personal accompaniment of the formator, and to take ‘rest’ on follow up is the loophole wherein we lose the formandi; a challenge wherein we need to be a Claretian formator and take, U-turn if we ever lost our specific identity. If we fail to address the realities and challenges of the new generation in their vocational discernment, we need to understand and, “acknowledge that we are still not full of fire that burned in the heart of St. Claret” (GPF 48). Therefore, the formators in our formation centers should be a life witness to the formandi, true sons of the Heart of the Blessed Mother. The world is fast changing, and we the Claretians need to move faster through our spiritual revival, encompassing the values and virtues that our Holy Founder identified as mandatory for his missionaries.

Fr. Siby Njavallikunnel, CMF
Prefect of Formation & Spirituality
St. Thomas Province, India

************************
(Fr. Siby had been a Vocation Promoter and Prefect of Students for three years and was also an econome of the aspirancy community for another three years. He was once a parish priest before serving as school principal for thirteen years. Currently, he is the Prefect of Formation of St. Thomas Province.)