Challenges and concerns in the area of formation
(Excerpt from the report of General Government to the XXIVGeneral Chapter)
Out of the 32 responses gathered from the reports of the organisms, the following are the principal challenges that they face in the field of formation (number of responses are given in brackets)
- Lack of prepared formators (17) Accompaniment (2)
- Lack of vocations (7)
- Sense of belonging to the Congregation, passing on the cmf patrimony, to sustain passion, cmf identity (7)
- Human formation (4)
- Interculturality (4)
- The challenges from the external world: media, relativism, secularization (3)
- Integration (2)
- Acceptance and formation of adult vocations (2)
- Apt selection (1)
- Insufficient funding (1)
We have enough structures of formation in most places and the developing missions are progressively procuring the needed formation structures through the sharing of goods in the Congregation. The challenges that we face are with regard to formation process and the preparation of formators. Though formation in different parts of the Congregation has different exigencies, the core issues in formation are related to how we can be formed to become relevant and committed missionaries in our society today. Some of the important challenges are the following:
1.To move from mediocrity to excellence
Every field of human activity gives priority to the preparation of personnel to carry out their respective missions in the society. The many years of formation of missionaries and the investment of personnel and resources do not seem to achieve the proportionate results in the quality of the personnel formed in most of our formation centers. Mediocre missionary life, easy defections and secularizations found in quite a few of our missionaries raise the question whether the formative programs sufficiently reach down to the core of the formandi so as to effect a transformation in their lives. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. A major challenge in formation is to raise the overall quality of initial formation to move from mediocrity to excellence in the various dimensions of formation making use of the means available to us today.
The current formative scenario shows that the emphasis given to academic studies is generally complemented by apostolic activities in our centers. There has also been due emphasis on human and Claretian formation and the support of psychologists and counselors in very many centers when required. Perhaps, the great challenge in the formative process is to have an integral vision of formation where all dimensions of formation achieve a healthy equilibrium around the center who is Christ crucified and risen. This would mean that the formative processes have as their point of departure and point of arrival the mystery of Christ. For us Claret’s life centered on Christ remain a model and inspiration for an integral formative journey and the metaphor of Mary’s heart as the forge of Claretian formation is an effective icon of formation. Often this central aspect of spiritual transformation is sidelined or left to the private zone of the formandi with occasional exhortations to give importance to spiritual life.
3.Formation leading to transformation
Another major challenge is to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the formative itinerary. We often presuppose many things just by the fact of knowing them and of talking about them. It calls for a formation that involves a genuine process of conversion and progressive personal transformation that bridges the vocational ideals and lived life. One of the major concerns of formators is knowing how to evoke and accompany such a process of transformation in a formandus. As it is the work of grace in a cooperating individual, the formator’s preparation involves, apart from other qualifications, an ongoing conversion into God’s surprising love for individuals in unpredictable ways.
Another dichotomy that has serious formative consequences is the wonderful exhortations made in the formative environment and the contrary life style and lived values practiced in the organism. The missionary culture of the province/delegation has greater impact on the formation of its personnel than the teachings they receive in the formation house.
4.Centrality of the Word of God in daily life, discernment and pastoral commitment
To become prophetic servants of the Word at the service of life, the word of God has to become the guiding torch of our lives, the power of our preaching and the criteria for discernment and decision making. The Word-Mission project has not been part of the formation of the present generation of formandi. Though Lectio Divina is in the program of formation in many centers, it is to be acknowledged that our formation has to evolve concrete ways to further the study and daily reflection of the Word, and animate the pastoral outreach. Often important decisions in life are taken by the pressures of immediate needs and conveniences rather than serious discernment in the light of the Word of God.
5.Updating of formative process
Another challenge in formation pertains to updating our formation with the help of the findings of contemporary social sciences and the science of education. There is rapid progress in all sciences as well as media of communication. They offer tremendous resources and opportunities to equip ourselves better in the field of formation. The prudent use of the media and integration of findings of sciences towards a holistic formation is important to become relevant in our times.
The thirst for God and spiritual meaning is manifested in different forms in the present world today. If our lives have to be relevant today, we have to participate in this quest and become a Christian response to it by our very lives. It calls for a healthy and lively spirituality which gives space for interiority and historical commitment .
Most of our formation houses are intercultural and progressively more and more communities are constituted by members from different cultural and linguistic back grounds. It is time to move from mere tolerance of differences to form a Claretian culture of unity centered on our charism and enrichment through our diversities that lead to authentic inculturation in the mission and empowering fraternal life in community.
7. Claretian Identity and Love for the Congregation
Love for the Congregation is nurtured in the measure that the formandi know and value our charismatic patrimony and identify themselves with it. Easy lapse of Claretians into secular clerical life often results from superficial identification with the charism. Deepening of Claretian vocation after novitiate needs more attention.
8. Formation of Formators
If we want to make significant improvement in formation, the provinces/delegations have to make it a priority to prepare adequate number of suitable formators for the formation centers during the coming years, even though other apostolic urgencies may render it temporarily difficult. Apart from academic studies for rendering service in the centers where our students attend classes, it is important that the formators receive specific preparation for formative accompaniment of the formandi. A major challenge in the preparation of formators is the difficulty to renounce short term gains in view of long term goals both in the preparation of formators and the fulfillment of their mission.
Challenges in Formation- summary
- To raise the overall quality of initial formation and to move from mediocrity to excellence in the various dimensions of formation.
- To give due importance to personal prayer, liturgical life and to the meaningful celebration of sacraments.
- To make efforts to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the formation process by insisting on a genuine of conversion and progressive personal transformation that links vocational ideals and lived life.
- To make a systematic effort in the formation centers to make the Word of God the center of our reflection and praxis through the practice of Lectio Divina and other suitable means.
- To update our formation with the help of the findings of contemporary social sciences and the science of education.
- To promote systematic learning of languages using practical and scientific methods in order to facilitate better communication at the level of the Congregation (Spanish and English) and effective evangelization in our missions (vernacular languages) .
- To form a Claretian culture of unity in our charism and in our diversities which would lead to authentic inculturation in the missions and to empowering fraternal life in our communities that are ever more intercultural themselves.
- To help the formandi know and value our charismatic patrimony and to identify themselves with it.
- To better the process of sending students for universal mission to other provinces with a proper selection, an adequate program of preparation for the mandate and a program of integration into the receiving province/delegation.
- To prepare an adequate number of suitable formators for the formation centers during the coming years.