Claretian Missionaries, Rome, 1994
FORMATION OF MISSSIONARIES GENERAL PLAN OF FORMATION
I am pleased and happy to present to all my brothers, the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretian Missionaries), the GENERAL PLAN OF FORMATION (GPF). It appears under the title “Formation of Missionaries,” because the entire work is aimed, in a harmonious, systematic and progressive way, at fostering the vocational growth and maturity of those who feel called to share our missionary life in the Church.
Fr. Jesús María Palacios, the Prefect General of Formation, who was in charge of preparing the GPF, prefaces it with some historical notes on formation in the Congregation and on the course that was followed in drafting this work. From what he indicates, one can readily appreciate the importance that formation has always held among us. In fact, the interest, concern and incentive to acquire a serious and solid formation for the missionary life have been evident throughout the history of the Congregation. Today we are deeply convinced that our future depends on formation.
The introduction points out the nature and precise objectives of the GPF, which must always be interpreted in connection with the guidelines and dispositions of the Church in matters of formation, and with the Constitutions and Directory. Other than this, the text speaks for itself, so that perhaps no further presentation is needed. Yet in order to grasp any text really well, one must understand its context. Hence, I am adding these reflections.
1. Rather than considering the GPF as a compendium of guidelines, criteria and norms on formation, we must see it as a proposal for missionary life. Our Congregation has the conviction that it is a community of disciples, servants and apostles of Jesus Christ, raised up and animated by the Spirit. It regards Saint Anthony Mary Claret as the historical intermediary of its origin and organization. It is persuaded that Mary exercises her maternal action over it and teaches it to listen to the Word of God, to embody it in its commitment and to announce it readily. It feels that it is sent to announce, with burning charity and prophetic daring, the entire mystery of Christ throughout the world. It keeps itself alert to the challenges of times and places, and strives to keep itself engaged in the cause of the Kingdom for the poorest and neediest. All of this enables it to affirm and continually re-create its identity, to be assured of its future and to have the capacity to receive, initiate and accompany all who feel moved by the same spirit and want to be missionaries in the style of Claret in our apostolic community
Our GPF can only be explained and make sense within the continuity of the charismatic life of the Congregation and, for that very reason, within a belief in the gift of one and the same vocation and mission. Only through faith in this gift, which is a life shared and spread and followed, and a principle for unifying the diverse ways in which the members of the Institute think and act, can we set forth the proposal of this formative itinerary whereby we aim at involving the life of the formandi in such a way that they may become the kind of servants of the Word that the Church needs in its evangelizing mission.
Moreover, the publication of this GPF is an expression of the hope-filled life of the Congregation. I believe that the Congregation has always had a lively awareness of what it is in itself and of what it stands for in the Church, and that it has lived in a continual attitude of watchfulness and discernment in facing the challenges and opportunities that have kept arising for it. In the present moment, too, and for this very reason, it can face the future with serene hope. In fact, only those who have hope can make plans. Hope leads us to plan, because planning is the decisive way to transform and deal successfully with the challenges that we meet. In this case, techniques become a highly effectual means for enhancing our energies and advancing our services. In deciding to publish the GPF, the Congregation is manifesting its hope that new vocations will be incorporated into it and that it will thus be able to strengthen and intensify its missionary service to the Church. From this viewpoint, the GPF is a lasting reminder of the impulse of the Spirit that gave rise to us, and a continuing invitation to recreate the missionary mystique that accredits us as authentic servants of the Word.
2. If we examine the context of the Congregation’s life, we can appreciate the fact that the GPF is appearing at an appropriate moment in the process of renewal. Many radical changes have shaken the life of peoples, of the Church and of the Congregation during the last thirty years. Their impact on formation was shattering. In the immediate aftermath of the Vatican II Council, questions arose not only on the means and methods of formation, but on its very aim and meaning. The radical nature of the questions that arose as to the identity of the religious, priestly and missionary life obliged us to undertake a profound revision of perspectives and positions, and to seek a solid grounding and coherent expression of the content of our vocation in the Church and in the world. The General Chapters held since that time have been moments of grace and light. They have allowed us to make an updated synthesis of those essential and indispensable values of our Claretian life that we can continue to validly transmit in the formation process.
These postconciliar years have not passed us by in vain. Our Congregation, like other religious institutes, has lived through an intense process of renewal that has affected not only our ideas, but also our lifestyle. Within its condition as an ecclesial reality and subject, which renews itself in the measure that it is faithful to the Spirit and to the people of its time, the Congregation has had to travel the two-way street leading from its life-experience to the formulation of its self-understanding (the Renewed Constitutions and Chapter Documents), and from this formulation to the reorientation of its own life. To accomplish this we have boldly relied not only on our many brethren who opened up new missionary fronts among poor peoples or moved to the outer edge in order to live among the poor and marginalized, but also on the no less forceful witness of creative fidelity of many others who took up the cause of renewal in their accustomed positions and impregnated the life and apostolic services of their communities with missionary spirit.
The process of renewal is ongoing, and though we move amid lights and shadows, we can at present rely on a rich fund of experience that we have picked up on the roads we have travelled, and on an accumulation of values and deeds that reveal the level we have reached in the process of renewal. The Congregation has a mature self-understanding of its identity and a good capacity for discernment. It trusts in its ability to keep facing, in a serene and warranted way, the challenges that arise from the continual changes at work in the world and in the Church. It is from this vantage point and from this maturity that the present proposal on formation has been drafted.
3. Father Claret stated that his spirit went out to the whole world, and his prophecy is still being fulfilled throughout the nations. From the time of the Council up to the present, the Congregation has kept on opening itself to ever broader missionary horizons, with an attendant enrichment of cultural values and of new religious and social sensibilities. The incorporation of a good number of vocations from Asia and Africa in the Claretian community has obliged it to take into account their ethnic groups and traditions, the social contexts in which they live, and the terms with which Claretians define themselves among these peoples. These new vocations are contributing a new way of viewing, interpreting and expressing the consecrated life and the Claretian life. They are establishing a fruitful dialogue between their own longings and the charismatic inspiration of the Institute. They are searching for a way of being faithful within other presuppositions. This newborn shaping of the Congregation has been fairly crying out for a Formation Plan that would promote the re-creation of Claretian identity by blending the values characteristic of various peoples with the charismatic bent of our universal missionary vocation. This explains why the Claretian stamp is highlighted throughout the GPF. What is now expected of all Claretians is that we apply ourselves, with humility and effort, to an in-depth living of the evangelical and evangelizing charism of Claret in our diverse historical, cultural and social contexts. Inculturation, which is a challenge for all, is not achieved by decree; rather, it is the end product of a process that begins in one’s first formation and goes on providing a new understanding and living of the foundational insights gained in our surroundings. We hope that the GPF will be a good help in this process.
4. The GPF can quite fittingly be considered as the Magna Carta on Formation that the Congregation, as mother and teacher, offers its members, and above all its new missionaries. One need only review the history of the drafting of the GPF in order to become aware of this. In it we find in concentrated form the whole formative experience of our Organisms which, throughout the years of renewal and relying on the guidelines of the universal Church and of particular Churches, have drafted their own respective Plans of Formation. In our Major Organisms, the drafting of a GPF appeared as a “felt need,” and the plans of our Provinces and Delegations have been used as a point of departure for the base text that the International Commission prepared and then sent out to the whole Congregation to make its observations on it. I do not intend to recount this process here, since it appears in the historical notes to the Plan, but I would like to underscore the good degree of participation and co-responsibility, as well as the quality of the contributions and suggestions received from many of our brethren, for the final drafting of the GPF.
This is the reason why the GPF can be considered as the “Magna Carta on Formation,” since all shared in its writing and were moved by an urgent desire to corporately spread the charism that we have received as a gift from the Spirit in order to announce the Good News to the poor. Assuredly, the proposal on formation that we are presenting is both stimulating and demanding. It could hardly be less for men who want to live the so-called “definition of the missionary” and to carry out the radical options that our evangelizing commitment entails. Hence it would not be right to reduce the GPF to a more or less well made document aimed simply at fulfilling the norm traced out in the Constitutions and the Code of Canon Law. In the light of what we have embodied in it, we must persevere in this exercise of formative co-responsibility and help those who have been given to us as brothers to grow in vocational maturity. In this way, all of us working together will form the renewed Congregation, ready to offer a witness of evangelical life and capable of facing up to the evils that hinder the growth of the Kingdom.
5. All of us working together have gone about completing the formative proposal that the GPF offers. It gathers up the core essentials of our missionary life and highlights its dimensions: charismatic, Christocentric, ecclesial, cordimarian and human. It is important to take note of its all-embracing, differential and progressive character. Always standing at its center is the person, the formation candidate, with his unavoidable responsibility toward the challenges that arise in their own contexts. It seems to me that it is important to underscore the open and dynamic aspect of the GPF. It is not a point of arrival, but rather a point of departure for receiving, discerning and promoting vocations and orienting them toward the future. The GPF contains a series of values agreed upon as essential in our educative proposal, but it does not impose uniformity. It is drafted in such a way that each Organism of the Congregation can adapt it in keeping with its own context and exigencies. And this must be one of the primary tasks in our Major Organisms during the next months: to draft their Provincial Plan of Formation.
Although we may all congratulate ourselves on the work accomplished, I believe that we must state a special debt of gratitude to the Prefecture General of Formation and to the International Commission involved most directly in the preparation of the GPF. We know the great faith, love and dedication with which they have worked throughout these years.
Today we commemorate the 145th anniversary of the Founding of the Congregation. The General Government places this work under the protection of Mary, Mother and Foundress of our apostolic community. May she keep us all in her Heart and make us disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, the Word of Life for the world.
Aquilino Bocos Merino, C.M.F.
Rome, 16 July 1994
Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and the 145th Anniversary of the Founding of the Congregation
DECREE OF PROMULGATION OF THE GENERAL PLAN OF FORMATION
The XXI General Chapter of the Congregation (Rome, 1991), in keeping with Canon Law (can. 659 & 660) and with the Constitutions (no. 72), decided that during the current six-year term a General Plan of Formation should be drafted to include the core essentials of our charism. At that time it gave responsibility for this drafting to the Prefecture General of Formation, with the help of an International Commission on which the different cultural areas of the Congregation should be represented.
On 14 December 1991, the General Government appointed the International Commission and approved the process to be followed in preparing the General Plan of Formation. As the same General Chapter had indicated, the work carried out by the International Commission was presented for study and revision to all the Organisms of the Congregation. After the year allowed for the presentation of observations and suggestions for the plan, the International Commission has met again to discern and integrate the input it received.
After several days of intensive session devoted to studying and revising the final text of the Plan presented by the Commission, the General Government, in its Council Session of 25 June 1994, unanimously approved the definitive text of the General Plan of Formation, which will be published under the title of “Formation of Missionaries.”
By the present Decree, according to the tenor of our legislation (Dir. 19), the GENERAL PLAN OF FORMATION for the whole Congregation is promulgated and will come into effect on 1 January 1995.
Rome, 16 July 1994
145th Anniversary of the Founding of the Congregation
Aquilino Bocos Merino, C.M.F.
Gaspar Quintana J., C.M.F.
HISTORICAL NOTES ON FORMATION IN THE CONGREGATION
The General Plan of Formation (GPF) has its setting in the history and process of formation in the Congregation. The GPF is not an initiative that is just appearing at the present moment, detached from the life of the Congregation, nor is it a pedagogical tool without Congregational roots. It is set in the rich formative tradition of the Congregation, begun by our Father Founder himself, continued by the Co-Founders and consolidated by our General Chapters and Superiors General.
In what follows, we offer some historical notes on the evolution of formation in the Congregation, as seen through official—and some officious—documents of a general nature, along with an exposition of the process followed in drafting the General Plan of Formation, and a brief description of its characteristics.
I. Evolution of formation in the congregation
1. First Years in the Life of the Congregation (1849-1857)
The Congregation was founded by Saint Anthony Mary Claret with such a small group of priests that, during its first years of existence, it could hardly contemplate the possibility of incorporating students.
2. Students in the Congregation (1858)
2.1. Fr. Xifré, concerned for the expansion of the Congregation, consulted the Fr. Founder on the opportuneness of admitting students into it. In reply, the Founder wrote to the Fr. General, suggesting that if he saw a well-disposed young man, he should admit him, even if “he is not yet a priest, or even ordained, so well as he is well along in his studies”. The economic straits of the Congregation, which were troubling Fr. Xifré, also conditioned the possibility of accepting young men who had not finished their studies.
In another letter, full of gospel spirituality and of trust in the Lord’s providence, the Founder encourages Fr. Xifré in these terms: “And so, don’t hesitate to admit subjects whom you consider fit by reason of their learning and virtue and who offer hopes of proving useful, even though they are young and not ordained at all”.
At that time, the Founder only spoke of persons who were advanced in their priestly studies, were well disposed and had a will to belong to the Congregation and to persevere in it. At any rate, this was a crucial step that would in future days change the very face of the Congregation.
2.2. On 28 May 1859, the First Junta (First General Chapter) of the Institute was held in Vic. It was a brief gathering, focused mainly on ascetical and disciplinary matters.
On this occasion, Claret and Xifré had to talk about students and the possibility of making their studies in houses of the Congregation. This we gather from a letter of 15 June 1859, in which the Fr. Founder informs Fr. Xifré that he had talked with the Papal Nuncio on the matter, and that the latter had granted permission for the students of the Congregation to pursue their studies in our own houses as if they were in seminaries. This faculty, as we gather from a letter of the Founder to the Nuncio, dated 11 June 1859, was granted orally in a conversation which must have taken place three days earlier, on June 14th.
In order for Claret to obtain the faculty in writing, the Nuncio must have asked him to submit an official and formal request in writing. This he did via a letter of 28 July 1859. Some days later, on 11 August 1859, the Nuncio replied, granting him the faculty in writing, adding certain observations in the writ of concession.
On August 12th, the Founder informed Fr. Xifré of the faculty granted by the Nuncio, and at the same time sent him some very brief pointers of his own on the studies that ought to be made in the Congregation, entitled “Plan of Studies of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. This letter is of historic worth mainly because it is the first formation document that the Fr. Founder wrote for the Congregation.
2.3 Notwithstanding the foregoing, an event took place that was going to disturb the peace of Fr. Xifré in this matter. On 25 September 1859, the Fr. General sent Fr. Claret a petition to handle before the Holy See, in which he asked for the approval of the Institute and of its Constitutions. He also asked for several other favors, among them, the faculty allowing the students to do their studies in our houses under the supervision of the Superior General. It was the same faculty that the Nuncio had granted verbally and in writing to the Fr. Founder and the Congregation, which Fr. Xifré now wanted to assure with pontifical approval. The reply to his petition, which arrived a year later on 19 October 1860, was negative.
In view of this reversal, it was only logical that Fr. Xifré should ask the Founder about the validity of the faculty granted a year earlier by the Nuncio. The Fr. Founder set the General’s mind at peace and at the same time promised to consult the Nuncio for some assurance in the matter. The Nuncio’s reply must have been affirmative, as our Founder’s letter to Fr. Xifré, dated 12 December 1860, bears witness.
2.4. In practice, the Congregation continued using the faculty granted by the Nuncio as if nothing had happened. In fact, although our Founder already had a fair idea that a negative reply would come from the Holy See, he wrote a letter on 29 June 1860 counseling the admission of a student—the future Fr. Donato Berenguer—who had not yet completed his seminary studies, and added some norms on how he might finish those studies. And on 3 May 1861, after the negative reply from Rome, he wrote to Fr. Xifré, stating his satisfaction on the establishment of a chair of Canon Law, adding some practical norms on oratory, moral theology and the advisability of learning French.
2.5. This is how the first formation centers of the Congregation began to spring up in Vic. The year 1861 saw the inauguration of the first novitiate for priests and students. It had to begin somewhat earlier for the brothers, so that they could attend to the needs of the candidates who were entering. From 1861 to 1868, the period in which the Congregation had to leave Spain because of the Revolution, there were two novitiates in Vic, with their respective masters and formation regulations.
The scholasticate, too, probably began in 1861 with the candidates who had first been admitted, although some classes had already been given them. One set of statistics mentions 5 students in the course of 1864-65, 7 in 1865-66, 10 in 1866-67, 11 in 1867-68 and 11 in 1868-69. Among the professors were Fathers James Clotet, Bernard Sala, Lawrence Font, Paul Vallier and Felix Bruch. During the summer, lectures were given by the aforesaid professors and others, including Fr. Xifré. It seems that the Master of students and novices was also the Prefect of the professed students.
3. Acceptance of Students in the Constitutions of 1862
3.1. General Chapter of 1862
As prescribed by the Rules, the second General Junta (II General Chapter) of the Congregation was held in Gracia, July 7-14. This was a very important chapter for many reasons, but especially in the matter of formation.
By a decree correcting article 5 of the 1857 Constitutions, the classification of “Students” was established. The constitutional text now read as follows: “The Congregation will consist of priests, students and adjutant brothers.” Decisions were also made concerning the aspirancy, the novitiate, consecration and incorporation into the Congregation.
After the Chapter, the Fr. Founder immediately set about drafting the Congregation’s first document on formation as a whole, and not just on studies. According to a letter he wrote to Fr. Xifré on 2 August 1862, our Fr. Founder, who was then in Segovia, (on 18 July 1862) had already handed over to Fr. Clement Serrat the Particular Regulation for the Students and the Particular Regulation for the Pedagogue of the Students of the Congregation. The chapters on Aspirants, Novices and their Master and his Assistant were drafted a few months later, between August and December of 1862, with the title of “Regulation for the Aspirants, Probandi and Students of our Congregation, and for their respective Masters”. In fact, our Fr. Founder sent Fr. Xifré these documents in definitive form on 20 December 1865, as we know from the letter he wrote to him on that day.
The text of these formative Regulations was included as an Appendix to the Constitutions of 1857 and were sent thus to Rome for definitive approval in the early months of 1863. Later the Appendices went on to become part of the Constitutional text approved for a ten-year period on 25 December 1865. Finally, they were smoothly integrated into the text of the Constitutions when these were definitively approved on 11 February 1870.
3.2. Other Formation Documents of 1862
With a view to making the Congregation known, in 1862 Fr. Xifré wrote a “Very Important Instruction for Aspirants to the Congregation of Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” First published in the Revista Católica of Barcelona on 20 June 1862, before the celebration of the General Chapter, it was republished in the same review on 10 August 1862, after the celebration of the Chapter. The second printing, which included some retouches of an apostolic character added by the Fr. Founder, echoes some of the changes introduced in the Congregation by the Chapter.
Another result of the matters dealt with in the Chapter was the document which Fr. Xifré published toward the end of September, entitled “Very Important Maxims at all times and for all of the Missionaries, but most especially for those who are in the year of probation”.
4. Formation Guidelines and Documents between 1862-1899
4.1. In view of some difficulties that Fr. Xifre set before the Fr. Founder on admitting students, the latter answered him, proposing several solutions. And he adds a thought which—as the Saint himself says—“You and your Consultors can ruminate on.” What the Founder had in mind was the possibility of admitting students who had “a good disposition and vocation and offer some well-founded hopes,” so that they could complete their study of the Humanities in the Congregation. He goes on to say that these students could be distributed in several of our houses, pursue their philosophical and theological studies in the seminaries of the cities to which they were assigned, and perform some apostolic practices or other works compatible with their studies.
4.2. In 1886 Fr. Clotet, with the approval of the General, published a “Regulation for the Studies of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”, along with a program of “Conferences for the Adjutant Brothers”.
4.3. In 1888, Fr. Xifré ordered the publication of a book for the formation of the novices, titled “Spiritual Practices for the Use of the Novices of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. The Fr. General himself wrote two documents on formation in our own centers: “Important Advice to the Professors of our Schools,” dated 3 November, and “Important Advice for Professed Students,” dated 20 December. Finally, in 1894, he drew up a “Regulation for the Postulants’ Schools of the Institute of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.
5. A New Plan of Studies: Statuta pro Studiis Congregationis Filiorum Immaculati Cordis Beatae Mariae Virginis (1900-1922)
5.2. After a broad consultation with the Professors of the Congregation, the General Government drafted a new Plan of Studies, which was published on 25 August 1900 under the title of Statuta pro Studiis Congregationis Filiorum Immaculati Cordis Beatae Mariae Virginis.
5.3. This Plan was promulgated ad experimentum for three years. At the end of these three years Superiors, Prefects and Professors were asked for their observations on it. After collecting these observations, the General Government introduced some changes in the Statutes, which were published on 10 September 1903.
5.4. The Extraordinary IX General Chapter, held in Selva del Camp (April-May 1904), asked the General Government to establish a Permanent Commission on Studies to examine, among other things, the existing Statutes and Regulations and to draw up a Regulation for Prefects. This Commission made some new observations on the Statutes for Studies, which were published on 14 July 1904.
5.5. The Statutes were confirmed and published again in 1913 and in 1916, with a few corrections and several interpretations worked out by the Permanent Commission on Studies. During this period there were no substantial changes, “while awaiting what the Holy See sees fit to resolve regarding studies in Religious Institutes”.
6. The Ordo Studiorum Generalis (O.S.G.) XII General Chapter (Vic 1922)
6.1. The XII General Chapter, held in Vic between August and September of 1922, five years after the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law (1917), asked for a new ordering of studies in the Congregation.
6.2. A Commission appointed for this purpose was at work drafting the Plan for seven years until August of 1929. On 12 November of that year, after approval by the General Government, it was promulgated ad experimentum by Fr. Nicholas García, the Superior General, under the title, Ordo Studiorum Generalis pro Missionariis Congregationis Filiorum Immaculati Cordis Mariae Virginis, which came to be referred to in everyday speech as “the OSG.”
6.3. Besides the guidelines given by the Chapter, this Plan of Studies included the proposals of the Congregation at large, as channeled through the Prefectures of Studies, along with other documents emanating from the Holy See, from Religious Institutes and Congregations, from Seminaries and from Ecclesiastical Universities.
6.4. The OSG of 1929 remained in force throughout the Congregation for almost thirty years. However, an important event was going to lead to its revision and adaptation. On 31 May 1956, Pope Pius XII promulgated the Apostolic Constitution, Sedes Sapientiae, containing some general statutes. In it, religious congregations and institutes were asked to accommodate their Plans of Studies to the norms and guidelines of this Apostolic Constitution. The Congregation carried out the adaptation asked for, which was promulgated on 7 March 1959 (then the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas), after almost three years of work.
7. The Code of Additional Law and Other Documents Affecting Formation
7.1. Special mention should be made of the Codex Iuris Additicii (C.I.A.), which went through three editions, each with its own revisions and adaptations (1925, 1940 and 1953). Although it was a document of a markedly juridical character, gathering together the Congregation’s legislation since the time of our Founder, we mention it here because it set forth, in the form of norms and guidelines, the principles that governed formation in the Congregation throughout the years that it remained in force.
7.2. Besides the CIA, the Circular Letters of the Superiors General on Formation have always been a source of inspiration for our formation centers, especially those letters written by Fathers Martin Alsina, Nicholas García and Gustavo Alonso.
7.3. We should also recall here some other books which, although they were not official documents of the Congregation, nevertheless served to orient the formation of our members for many years. Among them we might mention Fr. Ramón Ribera’s On the Threshold of the Religious Life, the Mirror of the Postulant and the Handbook of the Claretian Seminarian.
8. Second Vatican Council. General Chapters of Renewal (1967-1985)
8.1. The Second Vatican Council meant a profound change in the life of the Church and of religious institutes. With it began a process of adaptation and updating, both of the religious life and of formation.
8.2. The XVII Special Chapter of Renewal (1967)
This was a Chapter of transcendental importance for the life and mission of the Congregation. Along with the Council guidelines, it listened to and dealt with the concerns and unrests of the whole Congregation. With it began a profound and wide-ranging process of congregational renewal that was to be prolonged throughout the ensuing years.
On the level of formation, it drafted a document titled Decree on Formation. This took up the teaching and guidelines of the Council on formation, as further enriched by the other documents drawn up by the Chapter. In it there are some very radical and innovative changes aimed at giving impulse to a new style of formation. It is a document on formation as a whole and not just a simple plan of studies. It seeks a total renewal of formation, dealing with all the dimensions, surroundings and stages of the formative process, with great breadth and pedagogical competency.
Formation is solidly grounded in the Claretian charism, joining both the spirit of our Fr. Founder and the experience of the Congregation’s tradition. The aim of formation is essentially missionary, stressing from the outset that the apostolic dimension must be the polar center for all other dimensions of formation. Although the document did not explicitly derogate the OSG, it introduced such substantial and sweeping changes in formation that the latter was for all practical purposes superseded. It was a key document for the renewal of formation in the Congregation and by reason of its charismatic and pedagogical richness it remains today a constant source of formative inspiration.
On 6 January 1973, the General Directory asked for by the Special Chapter was promulgated. Part Two was almost entirely devoted to formation, as was Chapter XIII of Part One, which speaks of excellence in studies. This Directory included the changes approved by the Special Chapter, some elements of the CIA were kept and, until the holding of the upcoming General Chapter (1973), the Congregation’s faculties and guidelines on formation in the novitiate, in keeping with the Instruction Renovationis Causam (1969), were introduced.
8.3. The XVIII General Chapter (1973)
This Chapter continued the process of congregational renewal, with special reference to community life.
It drafted and promulgated another formative document titled simply “Formation.” This document, setting out from an analysis of reality, studied the crises and difficulties that were arising in the formative phenomenology of the Church and of religious congregations, and offered some lines for solving the problems indicated in a concrete and operative fashion. It gave guidelines for the planning of vocation ministry, stressed the community dimension in formation and set forth, for the first time, some broad and varied criteria for ongoing formation. This Chapter’s formation document superceded both the OSG and the Permanent Commission on Formation created at the preceding Chapter.
The 7th of May 1975 marked the promulgation of the “CMF Directory” which, in keeping with the prescriptions of the XVIII General Chapter (1973), was a re-drafting of the previous one. Hence, there were many changes in this new Directory: it was more centered in the General Chapters of 1967 and 1973, and ceased citing the CIA, although it continued regarding this as a source of inspiration.
8.4. The XIX General Chapter (1979)
This Chapter made a deep study of the apostolic mission of the Congregation in the present moment, and drafted a single document, entitled “The Mission of the Claretian Today” (MCT).
On 30 May 1982 the new “CMF Directory” was published. It took the place, as it states explicitly in its presentation, of the CIA and previous Directories. Its drafting started out from the previous Directory (1975) and assumed many of the guidelines of the last General Chapter, particularly as regards the MCT.
8.5. The XX General Chapter (1985)
This Chapter focused on the person of the Claretian and drafted a document called “The Claretian in the Process of Congregational Renewal” (CPR). A brief and programmatic document, it contains some very concrete and particular orientations for the animation of the Congregation.
The CPR speaks of formation as one of the central points for the renewal of the Claretian. It understands formation as an “ongoing” process which lasts throughout life and whose efficacy depends above all on personal conviction. Hence the need for each Claretian to draw up a personal plan of formation. It also attaches great importance to reality and to apostolic experiences, along the lines of the MCT, in formative processes.
On 24 October 1987, a new “CMF Directory” was promulgated. It included, in keeping with what was agreed on by the XX General Chapter (1985), the accommodation of our norms to the new Code of Canon Law, promulgated on 25 January 1983. Regarding formation, the necessary changes were introduced in conformity with the new legislation of the Church.
II. The General Plan of Formation (GPF)
1.1. In the Congregation, from the very outset, there have been well defined plans of studies, both for students and for brothers. These plans, under different titles, have had a fundamentally academic thrust.
From an overall point of view, even though in the strict sense plans were not drafted, formation in the Congregation has been very well articulated and directed. The Regulations written by our Fr. Founder, the directives of Frs. Xifré and Clotet, the decisions of General Chapters and some of the Circular Letters of various Superiors General, together with the different Constitutions and the CIA, have been the sources that formators have drawn on for inspiration in fulfilling their formative mission. Likewise, the Congregation has always had a strong oral and written formative tradition handed down by several generations of formators, a tradition that has been continually enriched by experience, by interchanges between formation centers and by various commentaries on the Constitutions.
From yet another standpoint, there has been no lack of well ordered and planned formative tools, or of precise pedagogical guidelines. The book, Spiritual Practices for the Novices of the Congregation, published at Fr. Xifré’s bidding, aims at “presenting, as it were, a summa of the practices of our dearly beloved Congregation,” for the Claretian formation of the Novices. In 1932, Fr. Nicholas García, speaking on how spiritual formation must be personalized, stated that it must likewise be gradual, in keeping with “a joint plan which they [the Prefects] should develop in proportion to the plan of studies”. His own circular letters on formation are themselves veritable treatises on Claretian pedagogy that are quite well put together methodologically.
1.2. Starting with the Second Vatican Council we can begin to speak of formation plans in the strict sense.
In its Decree on Formation, the Special Chapter of 1967 asked that the General Government take responsibility for drawing up a General Plan of Formation for the Congregation. This request, along with the drafting of a Plan of Studies, was included in the General Directory of 1973, in keeping with the indications of the General Chapter, also establishing that Provincial Plans of Formation be promoted for our own Students and Brothers, and that local regulations be made for our Schools and Colleges. The Directory of 1975 spoke along the same lines.
In the Directory of 1982, what was said of the General Plan of Formation in the previous Directories disappears, but there is an insistence on plans of formation on the provincial and local levels and on a formation plan for the Brothers. And in the Constitutions of that year, regarding the missionaries in formation and their prefect, it is stated in general terms that formation be carried out “observing our own characteristic method of instruction”.
The Plan of Formation appears again in the Constitutions of 1986. They do not speak of forming our students according to our own formative planning as the previous Constitutions had done, but of doing so “according to our own formation plan,” in accord with can. 689.2 of the new Code of Canon Law (1983). The Directory of 1987 also speaks of the plan, but in a very broad sense and in reference to canon 650.1 of the new Code. It does not speak of a General Plan of Formation for the Congregation in the strict sense, but of a plan of formation as a formation project in which those called to the Claretian life should be formed, a plan which should include the elements pointed out in the Directory. These elements are offered for the drafting of provincial and local formation plans, on which it continues to insist. Finally, once again it calls for a formation plan for Brothers.
1.3. Throughout this whole period, the Congregation was working with true creativity in the area of formation, taking into account, among others, the following criteria and lines of action:
— Applying the Constitutions, Directory and Chapter Documents to formation;
— Drafting provincial and local plans of formation, both initial and ongoing;
— Working out a systematic program of initiation into the apostolate;
— Searching for common guidelines that are inculturated in the different areas of the Congregation, through encounters and gatherings of formators and formandi.
Nevertheless, little by little we began to see the need for having, over and above the principles of the Constitutions and the pedagogical orientations of the Directory, a proper Plan of Formation that would gather together the formative riches, both theoretical and practical, of the Church and of the Congregation in the postconciliar period. During the six-year period of 1979-1985, there was talk of a sort of vademecum that gathered together the most important formative themes. In encounters and courses of formators, the General Government was often asked to draft such a document. The Superior General, Gustavo Alonso, in his circular letter Claretians in Formation, stated that it was “a matter pending”. The criterion followed by the General Government during the 1985-1991 term of office, was that the Plan of Formation should have the consensus and support of the whole Congregation and that the question must, for that very reason, be dealt with in the following General Chapter.
2. The XXI General Chapter (1991)
2.1. This Chapter drafted the Declaration, Servants of the Word (SW). Regarding formation, it states that one of its core aspects must be initiation into the ministry of the Word, understood as an authentic way of being, acting and signifying.
After a process of discernment, the same Chapter approved the proposal to draft a GPF in the following words:
During the six-year period a Plan of Formation for the Congregation should be drafted, in which the core essentials of our charism are gathered together. The Prefecture General of Formation will be responsible for this drafting, relying on the help of an International Commission, on which the different cultural areas of the Congregation will be present. It will be an object of study and revision in the Provinces before its promulgation by the General Government.
3. Decisions of the General Government
Shortly afterwards, the General Government, in Council Session of 14 December, made the following decisions: the appointment of an International Formation Commission (IFC), subject to adequate criteria and approval of the methodology to be followed in drafting the GPF. Regarding this last point, it chose, among the members of the IFC, a smaller commission to do the preparatory work. Then it set the place and concrete dates for the next two meetings.
4. The International Formation Commission
In appointing the International Commission, the General Government chose persons who were experienced in the field of vocations and formation, and who would represent all sectors and areas of the Congregation.
5. Methodology Used in the Process of Drafting the GPF
The GPF has been drafted following a process approved in all steps and moments by the General Government.
5.1. First of all, the reduced Commission met in Rome from 1 to 7 February 1992. The objectives of the meeting were to make an outline draft of the GPF and to prepare for the general meeting of the IFC in April-May of 1992.
5.2. Next, the IFC met in Rome from 23 April to 15 May 1992. Its objective was to draft the projected GPF and send it out to the whole Congregation for study and revision.
In the course of the encounter, three drafts were made and at the end the General Government was asked to appoint a second reduced Commission, made up of members of the IFC, to complete some work that still needed to be done.
During the Encounter of Major Superiors of the Congregation (5-21 October 1992), they were presented with the projected GPF (still without Appendices), informed of the process followed in drafting it, and afterwards made some overall contributions and suggestions that were gathered up for consideration.
5.3. The second reduced Commission appointed by the General Government held two meetings (July and December 1992). In these meetings, the Commission rounded out the text of the GPF with the latest suggestions offered by the members of the IFC, integrated the observations made by the experts consulted and by the Major Superiors, and drafted the Appendices. Thus the Commission completed the text of the GPF in its fourth draft.
5.4. The Prefect of Formation presented this fourth draft of the text to the General Government in the Council sessions held at the beginning of 1993 (January 2-15). The General Government determined that it be sent to the Congregation for study and at the same time approved the process and methodology of the consultation, allowing a space of about a year for responding to it (until 1 December 1993).
5.5. The ordering of the “Contributions from the Congregation” to the GPF was completed on 1 January 1994. From the 17th to the 21st of that month the second reduced Commission met in Granada to begin the work of incorporating the contributions from the Congregation in order to facilitate the task of the IFC. The latter, meeting in Rome from 22 May to 11 June, concluded the work of incorporating these contributions and prepared the definitive text to be proposed to the General Government for its approval.
6. Characteristics of the GPF
Besides the characteristics mentioned in the Introduction of the GPF, it may be helpful to underscore the following:
6.1. The text approved and published by the General Government is the fifth draft of the GPF.
6.2. Throughout the process, the greatest possible participation of the Congregation has been sought in the drafting of the GPF. Besides the specific contributions of the IFC and the experts, the Major Organisms were consulted with sufficient time for them to study and offer their observations and suggestions for it.
6.3. Among the various titles it could have been given (plan, guide, ratio, orientations, compendium, etc.), it seemed best to call it the “General Plan of Formation.” In the first place, because this is what it has been called throughout the Congregation in recent years and because it was approved to be drafted as such by the last General Chapter. Secondly, because the pedagogical guidelines for the formation of our missionaries are offered in a methodical and planned manner; that is, they are presented in a systematic, organic and gradual way and according to a process that follows well defined formative stages.
6.4. The breadth of the GPF has received special consideration. A middle term has been opted for. It seemed opportune to develop rather broadly the charismatic elements of Claretian formation (which could have been somewhat simplified) in order to facilitate the formative mission of the communities. It was deemed that in the present situation of the Congregation a sufficiently broad organic synthesis of formative principles and orientations might be more helpful in formation. Besides, there was no intention to make the GPF a document that would exhaust all the points it deals with, particularly as regards vocation ministry and the various stages of formation. References to original sources and to the appendices allow for a broadening and deepening of contents.
6.5. The GPF is fundamentally a pedagogical instrument with a strong Claretian stamp, such as the last General Chapter asked for.
— As a pedagogical instrument, it is oriented toward the formation of Claretians. The GPF, in the first place, sets forth and develops, in an organic and pedagogical way and in a universal perspective, the formative principles and norms that appear in the Code of Canon Law, in the Constitutions, in the Directory and in other documents of the Church and of the Congregation. In the second place, it has aimed at translating in a pedagogical key some other not explicitly formative contents of our project of missionary life in order to facilitate a better transmission and assimilation in the process of formation.
— As a Claretian instrument, it aims above all at covering the core essentials of our charism. Hence it stresses, while not neglecting other necessary formative elements, those elements that are most proper of our specific project. Moreover, the GPF presents our charism not in a summarily essentialist fashion, but in a pedagogical manner aimed at facilitating the transmission of formation to new generations. It gathers together the experiences of formation that have been accomplished or are being carried out in the Organisms of our Congregation, and expresses our identifying traits in such a way as to safeguard, on the one hand, their universality and unity and, on the other, the particularity and diversity of their concrete expressions. Finally, it sets forth, as a pedagogical model, the allegory of “the Forge.” Understood as a charismatic and pedagogical process lived by our Founder, the Forge serves as a symbolic inspiration to help interpret and illumine the different stages of the formative process of the Claretians.
Jesús Mª Palacios, C.M.F.
Prefect General of Formation
Rome, 11 June 1994, Solemnity of the Heart of Mary.
 CMF, Espejo del Postulante o sea Directorio para los Postulantes Hijos del Inmaculado Corazn de Mara, Vic 1917. This is the second edition of the work. The first, published without place or date, was titled:Espejo del postulante o sea Directorio para los postulantes del colegio de Vich: AG CMF 10,1,13.
For the GENERAL GOVT Frs. Jess M. Palacios, Prefect General of Formation and Gaspar Quintana, Secretary General.
For ACLA Frs. Segundo Alonso (Canada-Cameroon) and Charles Amadi (Nigeria).
For ASCLA Frs. Antonio Paneque (East Asian Delegation) and Cyriac Njayarkulam (Bangalore).
For CEC Frs. Franco Incampo (Italy) and Piotr Liszka (Poland).
For CICLA Frs. Antonio Rangel (Mexico) and Bras Lorenzetti (Southern Brazil).
For IBERIA Frs. Gonzalo Fernandez (Castille) and Miguel Fernandez Fariñas (Betica).
For NACLA Fr. Lawrence Christian (USA West).
For BROTHERS Bro. Israel Rivera (Western Colombia).
For STUDENTS Mr. Branco Cestnik (Slovenia).