Claretian Formation-Strengths and Challenges today

Meeting of Major Superiors, Vic, January 20-30, 2014.

1. Focus of the General Chaper (MFL 63)

  • The last General Chapter invited us to improve the program of initial formation by insisting on the “interiorization of the fundamental values of consecrated life” during initial formation and to assure personal accompaniment of the formandi through “transparent dialogue regarding various dimensions of life”.
  • We also resolved to have our formators prepared for the task and dedicated in their ministry and offer means and resources that they need for their ministry.
  • Another call of the chapter was regarding consolidation of inter-cultural formation centers and promotion of the learning of languages.
  • We were also called on to assume the responsibility of formation together and reinforce its objectives with the integrity of our lives.

2. Our response to the call of the Chapter: progress and challenges

Following the direction of the General Chapter the General Prefecture of Formation, together with the Prefectures of the Major Organisms, focused on the following aspects of formation:

  1. An integral vision of formation. In order to facilitate a formation that interiorizes the fundamental values of our Claretian life and integrate all dimensions of life in our formative process, we opted for a transformative and integral formation centered on the mystery of Christ. It was central theme of the reflections of the encounter of formators in Tanzania. Workshops of formators were held in collaboration with General prefecture at the regional and local levels to deepen the theme of transformative formation in the following places: Philippines, India, Nigeria, Spain, Cameroun, Brazil, Bolivia and Colombia. The encounter of formators of Micla in Mexico also reflected on the theme. The new directory incorporated these formative ideas in nos 156#3 & 157#3. I think we could conscientize that formation needs to attend to what is happening in the life of the formandi through the various programs of formation.
  2. Importance of Practice and equilibrium. Another element that we emphasized is that we need to move from rhetoric to concrete practices in order to experience transformation in our lives. For example, it is not enough to say we value prayer in the life of the missionary and organize talks on prayer, but find time and space to actually pray in order to grow in that aspect of life. The same is valid for study and apostolates. The seminars and workshops also incorporated some moments of practical learning of skills. During the animation visits it was insisted to find the needed equilibrium and interrelation between interior life and external action and also between prayer, study and pastoral activities.
  3. Formation of formators: In the meeting of major superiors in Colminar Viejo we have identified at least 5 elements in the formation of formators (natural grace, pastoral experience, school of the heart of Mary, academic study, training in formative accompaniment). Many provinces have taken steps to prepare their formators. In this sexennium 61 formators participated in the course for formators in Vic and 73% them are now working in formation related ministries. There are a few major organisms who have most of their formators qualified while some others have very few prepared formators, even though they have many vocations. The lack of preparation is mostly in the area of accompaniment.
  4. Accompaniment of the formandi. There has been significant improvement in offering better formative accompaniment of the formandi. This is done by the qualitative presence of the formator in the formation house and his availability to the formandi. The formators are expected to give conferences on Claretian themes once a week and meet personally at least once a month to the professed and even more frequently at the level of the novitiate and earlier stages. Unfortunately there are formation houses where the frequency of personal meeting with formator is too rare (twice or thrice a year). This is due to multi tasking of the formator and the larger number of formandi he is expected to accompany. For example, there are formators who are constrained to take care of formation, administration of the house, vocation promotion etc., apart from other ministries of personal interests. There are formators who have the responsibility for large group of formandi (for example 30-40) together with other important responsibilities. We need to insist more on effective accompaniment of the formandi and help the formators to qualify themselves to do it effectively.
  5. Formation Resources: Formatives resources both for the formandi and the formators are significantly related to achiving the objectives of formation. Following the observation of the chapter regarding libraries (MFL.14) we made an effort to improve the libraries and assist the formation houses to improve facilities. Several formation houses were assisted through the mission procura and helping agencies to improve their libraries and computer facilities. But the development of personal resources are more important for formation. It is one thing to have libraries and yet another to develop reading habits. Cultivation of spiritual, intellectual and psychological competencies that are important for Claretian missionary life is slowly gaining ground in our formation process. One of the ways a few basic skills are promoted is through online learning. An online course on Self discipline was profited by about 22 formators and it is translated into portugese. Internet offers a wonderful venue for programs of self-empowerment which could be better profited for formative purposes. An online support program for formators was started in English, but we could not proceed because of the illness of the facilitator. Many formative resources are made available in internet.
  6. Learning Languages. Spanish and English are promoted as the official languages of the congregation. Many major organisms are facilitating the learning of these languages. A three-language formula (English, Spanish, French) is more conducive for many African countries and the US. Asian Claretians have less motivation and opportunities to learn Spanish. Though there is progress in the learning of languages, we need to adopt concrete and practical ways to make it possible. The prefects of formation were challenged to prepare themselves to understand English and Spanish for the encounter in Tanzania, but only one prefect did meet the challenge and many of them made some improvement.
  7. Intercultural formation: Most of the formation communities are inter-provincial and intercultural in their constitution. Many of the students whom Fr. General has assigned across the continents have completed their initial formation and are working in the respective missions. We are now more conscious of the importance of intercultural formation for our missionary life. Various encounters of formators and several formation centers have organized seminars on this theme. The secular world is more adept in preparing themselves for intercultural group living and work as global networking is becoming part of normal life. Perhaps, out next step is to move towards that stage of intercultural community living where we are able to enrich each other with our cultural differences around the Claretian charism that unites us while endeavoring to inculturate to the culture of the people to whom we are sent to serve. We also need to evolve some guidelines for intercultural formation and strategies of preparation for the missionaries who are sent to a foreign mission.
    We could not put into practice what the chapter was asking regarding the multi-cultural composition of formation teams in the intercultural formation centers owing to the dearth of available prepared formators.
  8. Ongoing Formation. A good program of initial formation is the best preparation for ongoing formation. The basic competencies of missionary life which are carefully cultivated during initial formation are consolidated during the initial years of ministerial life and support the life and mission of our missionaries. Hence the period of quinquenium takes prime place in ongoing formation. Almost all major organisms are giving considerable attention to this period, though some limit this formation to annual meeting of the missionaries in quinquenium. The challenge of the period is to accompany the young missionaries by listening to their struggles and supporting them to integrate the learning of initial formation into their new context of life. It requires regular personal contact, evaluation of their progress and learning new skills related to their life and ministry. Inter-provincial collaboration is very fruitful especially for organizing encounters that give opportunities share their concerns and to learn life related skills and competencies.

3.  Looking towards future: How shall we further enhance our formation program?

    1. Updating the General plan of formation. It is going to be 20 years since the GPF was presented to the congregation and it has made tremendous contribution to the congregation. In some of the recent meetings of formators I have been asked about its updating and incorporation of the formative wisdom of the last two decades.
    2. Criteria for promotion to successive stages of formation needs to take into account not only completion of academic requirements, but also positive signs of transformation in the person in accordance with his age and level of formation.
    3. Preparation of formators and their service. We need to make it possible for all formators to participate in the Heart of Mary School of Formators or Encounter with Claret in Vic as well as at least one course for formators in their respective country or continent. We need to avoid multi-tasking of formators that impede them from giving their best to the formandi. The proportion of formator-formandi also needs attention. I suggest a maximum of 20 formandi for a formator. The encounter of formators at the level of organism and region is an opportunity to empower themselves in different skills of formation.
    4. Guidelines for the acceptance of adult vocations and ex-seminarians. There is an increasing number of adult vocations (above age 30) and ex-seminarians in some of the provinces. It is important that we evolve some general criteria based on our experience and ecclesial directions in this regard to help the promotion and accompaniment of these vocations.
    5. Make use of the arena of online learning to supplement aspects of formation that are important for a holistic formation but not available in the academic formation. They could be support programs to cultivate competencies in different dimensions of formation.
    6. We need to give attention to the processes involved in intercultural living and grow into greater maturity in this dimension in order be more available for universal mission.

Conclusion:

Formation has been always proclaimed as priority of priorities. But many emergencies in the Provinces/Delegations take the toll of our attention and leave formation to the back seat. We shall strive to give our best to the young missionaries in formation so that they will offer their best to the congregation and the Church. It is a formation for true love and joyful commitment in the style of Claret. “True love unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life” – Lumen Fidei, 27.

– Presented by Mathew Vattamattam to the meeting of Major superiors held in Vic, 2014

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