This is a practice that is done in many formation communities. But they can have different formats. I would like to share a format we tried last year.
Practice: Seminarians sit in half circle. All have enough sheets of paper and a pen. The prefect is present and animates the session. For 10-15 minutes a seminarian sits in a chair kept in a place where all others can see him. When the prefect gives a signal, after a pause all begin to write first about the strengths of the seminarian in point. Then they also list things/areas they would like the seminarian to improve. All this is done in silence. Soft, soulful music can be played. When others write about him, the seminarian in the chair does the same on himself. He lists his strengths and areas to improve as he sees himself. The practice comes to an end when everyone has had a chance to sit in the chair in the middle.
What follows: the prefect collects the papers and he creates a template with three columns: 1) Strengths; 2) Points for consideration; and 3) Your evaluation about yourself.
And he puts under relevant columns what was written during the practice. On top he writes the name of the seminarian. In the personal talk the material is taken up for discussion. A variety of things can be done: the prefect can ask the seminarian to read what he has written about himself and then to see if there are points that resonate with what others have said about him; prefect can ask if there is anything that a significant number of people have written but he was unaware of; prefect can ask him to single out a few points that he would like to consider for his own growth; prefect can affirm some of the observations others have made or he himself has made about him. The material can be taken up in subsequent personal conferences as well.
We found it to be a useful practice, time-consuming though. This is a communal practice done with the growth of the person in view. The sheet prepared by the prefect can be kept in the personal file of the seminarian. It helps evaluations in different stages. Consistent patterns can be detected.
(N.B.: The seminarians have to be given a good orientation to the whole exercise and be persuaded to do it seriously. A short presentation on Johari Window before getting into the practice is a good thing to do as we did. They have to be “warned” about negativity dominance and prejudices getting in the way).
Joseph Jeyaseelan, CMF