Father General to all Claretians 2003-2009

TO ALL CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES

Excerpts pertaining to formation from the Letters of Father General, Joseph Abella, to the whole congregation after the intensive council meetings in the years 2003-2009.

November 2003

             The future of the Congregation is at stake in this area. We are well aware of this and we wanted the Plan of Action to reflect this. I will now highlight some points:

             We see the need of sending formators to some centres that urgently need them. Large groups of Claretian seminarians are springing up in places which still do not have sufficient indigenous personnel. Attending to this need is going to be a priority. I am issuing a call to those who think they can offer their services in this area. To accompany the birth of the Congregation in those countries must be a priority for all Claretians.

            Another initiative we are going to continue and strengthen is the “Heart of Mary” School for formators. This offers new formators the essential elements of the Claretian charism and introduces them to those topics that are basic for inculcating the Claretian identity in those being formed. A solid Claretian formation will be the basis that will then allow us to confront the topic of inculturation of the charism and assure that the Congregation grows in fidelity to it.

             In the area of formation, you will also see that there is mention of the international formation centres that have to be accompanied with special care, and a plan of specialized studies for the Congregation that can respond to the needs that we have on the world-wide level in various areas.

 April 2004

Concern for vocations. This is another topic that concerns most of the Organisms. It is a topic that has been treated from a two-fold perspective: the quality of our life and ministry and their ability to attract others, and the need to define a youth vocation ministry that is able to awaken a vocational restlessness in young people and to accompany the processes of discernment.

As far as the area of formation is concerned, the General Prefect has visited some of the formation centres in Spain, taking advantage of his stay there to learn Spanish. In addition, the courses of the “Heart of Mary” School for Formators are being planned as well as various animation visits to formation Centres in Africa and Asia.

March 20, 2005

 The Prefect of Formation reported on his visit to the Formation Centers of India and on the workshop he held with all the formators of the three Provinces. Personal accompaniment, Claretian identity and openness to interculturality were the principal themes for these days of study. The Provinces of India, despite the fact that each of them has a number of formandi sufficient for creating centers of their own, have opted to continue interprovincial collaboration in formation programs, because they feel that it is a very positive element in the formation of the students. He likewise shared the rich experience of the Encounter of formators and formandi of the Southern Cone of CICLA, which studied the theme of interculturality in formative processes and in our communities.

 We see the need of insisting on the “Week of Claretian studies” that has been established for all the Formation Centers of the Congregation. We have noted that in many of them the response has not been sufficient. I am issuing a call to all formators to take the greatest interest in this initiative.

 From April 1st to June 22nd, the program of the School of the Heart of Mary for formators will unfold in Vic. This time the course will be in English and it will have 12 participants.

 September 30, 2005

 The General Prefect of Formation reported on the Heart of Mary School for Formators, which ran from April through June in Vic, involving thirteen formators from English-speaking organisms and a number of Claretians as presenters. Evaluations were highly positive. The prefect emphasized that this course is designed for Claretians currently working or planning to work in the field of initial formation. Some major superiors fail to cooperate, when the time comes to designate participants from their organisms. This is not just a “renewal course”. A new course, this time in Spanish, is already set for April through June, 2006. I invite major superiors of the Spanish-speaking organisms to determine as soon as possible those who should take part. Preparation of formators must be a priority throughout the Congregation.

             We also heard about the meeting of formators of IBERIA and about the Claretian Studies Week in the centers of formation. Both received favorable evaluations. We recognize the importance of improving the Claretian Studies Week, which ought to be an opportunity for in-depth study of fundamental issues related to our Founder and the history of the Congregation. There will be a yearly publication, presenting topics developed by students. The major superior ought to see that these study weeks take place in all our centers of formation or at the inter-provincial level, when possible or more convenient.

             We planned the activities of the prefecture, especially visits to the centers of formation and meetings of formators to take place in the coming year. The General Prefect shared with us a number of especially interesting postings to the web site of the prefecture, which provides very interesting materials for the promotion of this dimension of Claretian life.

             Finally, I must share with you my disquiet with respect to the presence of missionaries in formation in major organisms. We would not like any organism to be without missionaries in initial formation. Their presence provides hope, energizes our missionary work, and helps us broaden our horizons with respect to the future. We must step up our efforts in vocation ministry. It is necessary to send missionaries, who are still in initial formation, to organisms lacking personnel to make up for the scarcity of native vocations. These students are meant to be incardinated in the organisms that receive them.

 April 8, 2006

 The Prefect of Formation informed the council about his visit to the formation Centers of Sri Lanka and India, and of the workshop that was held for the formators and vocation promoters of the three Provinces of India. The workshop focused on the criteria for the selection of candidates and the demands that the formative process places upon the formators. He also visited the formation centers of east Africa where he also held an encounter with the formators of the area. The main focus of this workshop was the definition of criteria for the various stages of formation. The objective of the dialogue was to strengthen the relationship among the formators responsible for the different formation centers and to offer some practical exercises. The growing number of students that we have in this area of the Congregation is a very strong challenge to our community. Formators are needed who will accompany the new vocations that the Spirit is sending to the Congregation. This responsibility falls upon all of us.

 The formation Centers have been celebrating “the Claretian study week” in a variety of ways and with varying results. It is a first step. We request all formators to send to the General Prefecture of Formation and CESC the results and works of these weeks.

 The Heart of Mary School for formators began on April 1 and will continue until June 26 in Vic, Spain. This time the course is in Spanish and has 12 participants.

October 2006

The Prefect for Formation told us about workshops for directors of formation in Africa – first, the directors from the area of East Africa, then Nigeria, and finally those of French-speaking Africa. Africa is an area of the Congregation, where the Lord is blessing us with numerous vocations. However, the competence of some formation teams, which in some cases have had to improvise as they moved along, causes us concern and we see the need to strengthen them. On the other hand, we are encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment on the part of those, who have been put in charge of formation. We note that there have been frequent changes in the formation team in some organisms, and without a stable formation program it is difficult to provide an adequate formation. The General Government has instructed the organisms of Africa to focus in the near future on the specialized training of formation directors. Other things will have to wait.

 April 4, 2007

Formation: The Prefect of Formation, during these last months, has had the opportunity to visit the formation centers in different continents. Once again we must give thanks to the formators for their generous dedication. The General Plan of Formation contains some solid criteria for each phase of formation. There is a need to continue to highlight them in the formation plans of each center. There are ever more students of diverse cultural origins who receive their formation in centers belonging to other Organisms. We see the need to evaluate the experience accumulated until now and of elaborating more precise guidelines for the future, either about formation itself, or about the on the coordination between the different Provinces and Delegations and their Superiors in the operation of these Centers. The Prefecture of Formation will prepare a workshop on this theme.

Another topic on which we have reflected has been the location of the novitiate year within the formative process. In some Organisms this is done before beginning the studies of Philosophy, after a first year of introduction to the Claretian life that includes the time of Postulancy. We see that, frequently, it is very difficult for these young men to assimilate the contents of the novitiate year as indicated in the General Plan of Formation. After speaking with those responsible for the formation of some of these Organisms and with their Governments, they have been asked to place the novitiate after the study of philosophy or after the second year of this phase when it is four years. We see the need to implement this guideline in all the Organisms of the Congregation.

From the reports of the General Visitors, we have also seen the necessity to ask that some Provinces also relocate the experience of the pastoral year. In some of them this pastoral year is done immediately after the novitiate year. We do not consider this to be the best time for this experience. In the years that follow the novitiate it is necessary to develop a formation program that fosters the progressive assimilation of the content that was received during that period, and this demands a community atmosphere and a personal accompaniment that cannot usually be guaranteed in apostolic communities. Thus, it is necessary to revise this practice as soon as possible. I request that the Organisms concerned undertake with due interest the indications that have been made to them by the General Visitors.

September 24, 2008

The Prefecture of Formation organized, in Vic, a three month course for formators. This time it was for formators who speak English. As always, the experience was given a very positive evaluation by the participants. I wish to make two observations: The first is the need for all formators to make this course. In it they are given the necessary Claretian elements for formation programs. It is important, then, to program it for the participation of the current formators who have not yet made the course and for those Claretians who are going to be assigned to formation. The second observation is for the Major Superiors: the School of the Heart of Mary is neither a renewal course nor an experience which is offered to those who have been working for some years in apostolic activities. It is only “a course for formators”. There are other kinds of programs for other people.

 March 22, 2009

 The Prefect of Formation informed the Council about the workshop on “The Intercultural Reality of the Formation Centers of the Congregation.” The workshop was held in Vic from November 3-12. Participants reflected upon the experience in our formation centers during recent years and made some proposals for the future. All of this material can be found in the Formation section of the Congregation’s website.

 Several important visits were made by the Prefect to the formation centers of the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. These are all centers which have a good number of students in formation. In Vietnam the formative process is ever stronger. From here we now have four professed students studying theology in the Philippines, in addition to one student from Myanmar. This year there have been two novices, and in Vietnam, we have 30 young people at different levels of the pre-novitiate formative stage. The Prefect’s visit to eastern Africa and his meetings with the formators and students there was also very important.

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