The Missionary in the Process of Ongoing Formation
1. Nature and aim of ongoing formation
— Open. It lasts all life long. Ongoing formation has no closing date. In order to be suitable ministers of the Word we need to be in a permanent or ongoing process of formation. It is proper of a disciple to be constantly listening, open to the surprises of the Word and of the Spirit.
2. Need for ongoing formation
2.1. In order to be faithful to our own personal project of life
462. Ongoing formation is a must for every Claretian. As persons, we achieve our personal fulfillment by developing our potential in relationship with other human beings and within our shared setting in the history and reality of peoples.
463. Likewise, because he has received the gift of vocation, each Claretian should be in an attitude of constant growth and fidelity to it. Vocation is a dynamic gift. God is constantly calling us. And we ought to answer this call with fidelity. Our vocational charism and the gifts of nature and grace that we have received are dynamic forces that make us grow as persons in order to develop our own project of life.
464. As a person called by the Lord to the Congregation to live in a missionary community, a Claretian grows and fully develops in fellowship with his brethren and in carrying out the community’s mission. The Congregation, as a community in constant growth and renewal, is the natural milieu in which each Claretian should achieve the greatest personal growth.
2.2. In order to be faithful to the renewing action of the Spirit
465. The same Spirit who raised up the charism of the Congregation is the one who spurs it on and develops it in the Church and in history. Hence, the action of the Spirit demands of us that we undergo a continual renewal as persons and as a Congregation, and a constant charismatic and institutional development. It is imperative, then, that we respond, personally and communitarily, to our need for a continual formation, especially in critical moments of our life, in order to prepare ourselves adequately to become fitting ministers of the Word.
466. Ongoing formation requires that we pay particular attention to the signs of the Spirit in our time, in order to offer an appropriate response. It also spurs us on to integrate creativity in fidelity. Following Christ means setting ourselves on the march, freeing ourselves from sclerosis and atrophy in order to be able to offer a living and true witness of the Kingdom of God in this world.
467. Our Founder unceasingly sought wisdom and knowledge in order to keep his apostolic orientation toward missionary evangelization alive. One proof of this eager quest was his practice of a daily, vocational reading of the Bible, because for him, being a servant of the Word required that he be immersed in that Word. In the Word, Claret found the experience of the dynamizing and renewing action of Spirit, so that he was able to say, as a disciple of Jesus: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.
468. The Congregation has also reminded us of the need to allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit in order to be able to fulfill the mission to which we have been called and thus to achieve maturity in our vocation. In order, then, to be able to be living and true witnesses of the Reign of God, we acknowledge the need for the renewing action of the Spirit in our life, both as persons and as a community, in such a way that the Spirit of the Risen Lord may, through ongoing formation, continue to restore the joy of our youth.
2.3. In order to be faithful to the process of Congregational renewal
469. The charism of our Father Founder, as an experience of the Spirit transmitted to all Claretians, must be lived, guarded, deepened and developed constantly in attunement with the Church, which is in continual growth. Fidelity to our charism, as a dynamic gift, keeps pressing the Congregation to maintain an attitude of constant renewal. Ongoing formation, as an expression of this attitude, has an impact on members, and through them, on our communities and apostolic mission. The renewal of the individual Claretian will pave the way for a renewed style of community life and for a constant revision of our apostolic positions.
470. This renewing action restores our personal and community energies and readies us to respond as servants of the Word to situations in our world. We must be an evangelized as well as an evangelizing community. A community is evangelized in the measure that it maintains itself in a state of ongoing conversion. It always takes the Word of God as its point of reference, based on which it cultivates a dialogue that awakens an attitude of service in its brethren, giving them confidence and helping them remain faithful to the commitments they have undertaken. From this starting point the community discerns whatever happens and allows itself to be evangelized by the events that affect human beings, especially the poor and needy, to whom it has been sent.
2.4. In order to be faithful to the challenges of mission
471. Ongoing formation is not just for ourselves. The reason why we need to attend to the signs of our time and to adapt to new situations as they arise, is to help us, as missionaries, to tackle the ever-new urgencies of evangelization. We must keep in step with history.
472. As Claretians, we are all called to live a solidly-rooted spirituality capable of assimilating changes and developments in the world and in the Church in continual docility to the Spirit. We need to acquire a deep and living knowledge of the human and religious situation of the people we intend to evangelize. The new reality of the world, the Church and the Congregation becomes a challenge of the Spirit spurring us on to support the Church’s call to a missionary evangelization, within our charism as servants of the Word and in keeping with the options of our mission.
3. Charismatic thrust of ongoing formation
473. An outstanding characteristic in our Founder’s life was his interest in renewing and updating himself. In him, there was no break between his initial formation and his dedication to reading and study after ordination. He dedicated himself to it intensely and systematically, in order to deepen his knowledge of the Scriptures, to renew his theological and pastoral learning, to become acquainted with the philosophical thought and ideologies of his time and learn how to situate himself in the different realities in which he had to exercise his apostolic ministry. His motivation was always clear: on the one hand, to grow in the knowledge of God in order to grow ever closer to Him and to live in communion with Him; on the other hand, to be faithful to his apostolic mission in a creative and ever new way, thus steadily becoming a more apt instrument for the salvation of all people. Among the means that he utilized, a personal plan and library were highly effective.
474. In the Congregation, the times set aside for study, spiritual renewal and preparation for the apostolate have always been a deep-seated tradition. In the retreat our Founder led for his missionaries in 1865, he told them: You will direct your study to missioning. Besides the times assigned for spiritual renewal in the monthly day of recollection and in the yearly retreat, our Founder himself prescribed a yearly period of about four months in which his missionaries would devote themselves to ongoing formation based on studies. From the very outset, the Constitutions set forth the times and subject-matters that had to be studied and reviewed both by the priests and by the brothers; and they insisted on the need to have a well-stocked and updated library.
475. Ongoing formation continues to be a must in the life of the Claretian, since he must grow in conformity with Christ the Missionary and be up to date with the times in order to respond to his apostolic mission. Moreover, at the moment, ongoing formation is an urgent need for all Claretians. During its most recent Chapters, the Congregation has questioned and challenged itself in a decisive way, going so far as to call for a charismatic “re-initiation”.
4. Congregational criteria for ongoing formation
476. The Congregation’s richest resource is its members, for each Claretian is an image of God, an unsuspected newness of the Spirit, and a missionary vocation that is a grace for the world. Hence, ongoing formation must be set in the perspective of the person. Indeed, ongoing formation would not be possible without the collaboration and active participation of the person, beginning with the conviction that it is something indispensable for missionary life.
477. Ongoing formation is a prolongation of the process of initial formation. For that reason, the Claretian must avoid any break between initial and ongoing formation. He must view himself from the outset as being involved in a never-ending process. A good initial formation should underscore this need.
478. As a guideline, we would say that ongoing formation should be carried out:
— In line with our missionary charism, in order to prepare ourselves better to be fitting ministers of the Word, of our options and preferential recipients, and of a sensibility to the problems of justice and peace.
— In contact with the world and open to reality. Hence, it will foster all those initiatives, both within and without the Congregation, which can favor the openness of each Claretian to the reality around him and throughout the world, and the critical study of this reality in order to respond to its challenges within out missionary charism.
— In a universal perspective, making us aware of the Church’s situation and enabling us through the study of languages to provide missionary services in any part of the world.
5. Agents and those in charge of ongoing formation
479. First and foremost, there is the Claretian person himself. It is indispensable for each of us to come to a personal conviction that we need an ongoing formation in order to fulfill our missionary vocation. Hence, each Claretian must feel the need and urgency of formation. This is the key to the effectiveness of ongoing formation. Without personal conviction, all the means and helps one has at one’s disposal will not produce the desired effect.
480. In the second place, there is the community. Since it is the normal milieu in which the life of the Claretian unfolds, it constitutes the privileged place for ongoing formation.
— The community’s style of life and mission is the first parameter of ongoing formation for a Claretian. Its fidelity to the Claretian project and to the ordinary dynamisms of sanctification, life and mission are constant stimuli spurring the Claretian to grow. When the community feels renewed and acts in keeping with the criteria and guidelines of Congregational renewal, each of its members is renewed, grows and matures in his fundamental option.
— The role of community animator, which is proper of the local superior, is very important in this matter. Under his direction, the community should promote the pastoral renewal of its members so that they can constantly improve in the performance of their ministries.
— The General Government and Provincial Governments must promote initiatives of ongoing formation, so that all Claretians may be duly prepared for the ministry of the Word and may offer a response to the challenges of the times in which we live.
— It belongs to the General Government to animate and organize the ongoing formation of the Missionaries of the Institute.
— The same responsibility belongs to the governments of Provinces and Delegations within their respective Organisms. In order to animate ongoing formation, a special commission may be established in the Province. Its members should be well prepared and have clearly defined responsibilities, and be in charge of drafting a plan for the term of office of each government.
6. Ways of doing this
482. As a first criterion, on the different levels of the Congregation, plans for ongoing formation must be drafted, in which the moments, dynamics, means and instruments of formation are to be programmed in a well-ordered and systematic manner.
6.1. Ordinary ways
6.1.1. Personal level
483. Special attention to the Word of God. We should listen to the Word of God in personal prayer, in the events of history, in cultures and in the life of the people, in their silences and in their outcries. This demands that we devote a fundamental amount of time to reading, studying, meditating on and contemplating the Word.
484. Each Claretian must have his own formation plan or commitment to personal growth, which will both provide for his personal wholeness (spiritual, physical, psychological, intellectual and apostolic-ministerial dimensions) and meet with the agreement of his community and his superiors. It can take into account such diverse matters as: physical exercise and sports, diet, the harmonious distribution of the day, the type and frequency of reading and study, and the means and dynamics of the spiritual and apostolic life.
6.1.2. Community level
486. In drawing up its community project, the Claretian community should program its style of life and mission in a stimulating way, seeing to it that its members have the necessary and adequate means for growth in the faith of their calling (times for prayer, study and rest, and professional help).
487. In this community project, it will likewise program its specific ongoing formation, taking into account its needs and the demands of its mission. This plan should include, among other things, the study and assimilation of the documents of the Church and of the Congregation, of the Constitutions and the Word of God in particular.
488. The community should likewise encourage and help its members to draw up their personal formation plan, suggesting ways in which it can be done. Among ordinary initiatives, one should mention the “weekly community day”, which consists of setting aside a time, each week if possible, to praying in common, planning, evaluating, sharing experiences and recreations.
490. All communities should likewise take advantage of inter-community, diocesan, inter-provincial, congregational and inter-congregational initiatives as means for their formation, above all for what they can contribute by way of openness and of contrast.
491. Communities can also organize themselves in such a way as to assure their members of some longer periods (two or three months) for specific objectives of formation (pastoral experiences, courses, retreats).
6.1.3. Provincial level
492. Within the framework of the plan for ongoing formation, all Major Organisms should draw up a yearly program of formation initiatives. These initiatives can also be carried out with other Organisms or by areas of the Congregation when this is deemed suitable. Among the more widely practiced initiatives of this sort, one might single out the following:
— Yearly spiritual exercises.
— Systematic and periodic encounters of sectors of the Province: formators, educators, pastors, itinerant missionaries of the Word, economes and others.
— Encounters of communities as a whole or by zones, over a period of days, to study and reflect on themes of interest.
— A yearly day of the Province or Delegation.
— The periodic publication of the bulletin or newsletter.
493. Superiors and those in charge of formation will provide the Missionary Brothers lifelong training in those formative elements they need in order to perfect their missionary commitment, their cultural improvement, their doctrinal and spiritual preparation, and their pastoral and technical enablement, in keeping with the ongoing formation programs of each Organism.
6.1.4. General level
494. The General Government should also draw up a yearly program for the whole Congregation, in keeping with the GPF and the guidelines of the General Chapters. This program includes:
— Encounters, organized through the General Prefectures, for the different sectors and diverse areas of the Congregation or of the interprovincial conferences.
— The offering of structures (communities and centers) in service to the Congregation for renewal courses, sabbatical years and specializations.
— The drafting of study helps on specific topics.
6.2. Extraordinary ways
495. Specializations have as their objective the completion of initial formation through more specific or fuller studies leading to a suitable degree or title. They should be promoted in keeping with the aptitudes and inclinations of the person and with the missionary needs and option of the Province and of the Congregation.
497. It is necessary for Provinces to oversee the formation of true specialists in ecclesiastical sciences, in order to achieve a more profound missionary action and to contribute to the initial and ongoing formation of the members of the Congregation.
498. We should also pay heed to those secular specializations that may be useful for a missionary dialogue with culture or in order to exercise more competently other mission commitments that demand a deep knowledge of the human sciences.
499. Within the provincial formation plan, the provincial government will draw up its own plan for specializations and will keep programming them periodically.
500. Among us, ecclesiastical studies cannot be pursued simultaneously with courses of studies for other careers. But certain pastoral specializations can be pursued during the last years of initial formation, in keeping with different circumstances:
— In some cases, this might involve studying some particular subject matter or pursuing short courses of another type, both during the school year and during vacations, without having to matriculate in specialized institutes. In these cases, it is necessary to maintain an obligatory proportion with the principal disciplines.
— In others, it might involves studying some pastoral specialty, once the candidate has completed the basic instructional studies required by the norms of the Conferences of Bishops.
501. After a period of pastoral experience, a set time may be devoted to specialization in faculties or institutes of higher studies, obtaining the corresponding diplomas and academic degrees.
6.2.2. The sabbatical year
502. The sabbatical year is a determined time (of about a year), in which each missionary, freed of apostolic and community commitments, can draw up a personal plan, suitably accepted by the Superiors, corresponding to his needs for rest, spiritual renewal, missionary qualification and contact with new realities of evangelization.
503. Every Claretian, and most specially those who have not had other opportunities for renewal, should be offered the possibility of making a sabbatical year. For this, one should take the personnel situation into account within a provincial plan that makes provision for the needed coordination and adequate financing.
6.2.3. Missionary experiences
504. Apostolic experiences can open our spirit to new horizons and values. In this sense, it is fitting to promote diverse experiences (above all, in mission places). These experiences, which can vary in length, should be programmed by the different parties responsible for them in a coordinated way.
7. Particular situations
505. Although ongoing formation is a lifelong task, it should take on a special intensity in certain given moments, in keeping with our personal development and the need for us to face up to the demands of mission. Here, we will call special attention to two of them: the “fifth year” and the “third age.”
7.1. The “fifth year”
506. The first peak moment of ongoing formation, called the “fifth year,” is the stage that immediately follows initial formation with the passage to the first experience of a more autonomous life.
507. In this stage, the Claretian should discover a new way of remaining faithful to God, in such a way that he can offer an adequate response to the challenges that arise for him in his new situation.
— To pastoral accompaniment, so that the Claretian may keep on integrating his ministerial preparation with his experience of life.
— To the psychological process of adapting to community and to missionary service.
509. The XXI General Chapter recommended in a special way that the Congregation should offer some help, by way of certain initiatives of formation, to priests during the first five years of their ministry and to brothers during the first five years following their perpetual profession. Concretely, this help can be offered:
— By assigning these persons to communities that earnestly live the missionary project of Claretian life in all its dimensions.
— By entrusting them with responsibilities that do not exceed their capacity and are adjusted as much as possible to their personal situation.
— By assuring that they have continual accompaniment.
— By offering them yearly encounters on formation and revision.
510. Besides the initiatives offered by the Congregation, it should be realized that young Claretians take advantage of courses and encounters organized on the diocesan, interprovincial and intercongregational level for young priests and religious. These means should be integrated into the provincial plan.
511. This period can be closed with an encounter of one or two months’ duration, conceived of as a renewal encounter, with an at least partial suspension of other activities. Its aim is to update the participants’ knowledge and especially to intensify their spiritual formation as adapted to the real life that the missionaries are leading.
7.2. The “third age”
512. Claretians of the so-called “third age” are those who, after several years of service, can no longer keep up their full dedication to the exercise of the ministry. They carry out their missionary life by prayer, sacrifice, life witness, sharing their wisdom with others and sometimes by some appropriate ministerial activity. Those of us who have imitated Claret during his years as an apostolic missionary must also imitate him in the way he lived during his years of diminished apostolic activities, illness and exile.
513. The aim of this stage is to strengthen the Claretian in the mission that he is still able to carry out and, from a standpoint of faith and the Word of God, to maintain a serene and hope-filled attitude in his new life situation.
514. On the part of the individual, this implies:
— Accepting his own situation (age, illness and other limitations) and preparing himself to live it in a serene way.
— Having an attitude of humility in order to allow himself to be accompanied and cared for by his brethren. Like Peter, he must apply to himself the Lord’s words: When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.
515. On the part of the community, this implies that it should:
— Show a delicate sensitivity to the needs of the person and a great respect for his experience.
— Discern what each can still contribute to the Congregation’s overall mission.
— Respect his need to be integrated into a community, and not to feel isolated or forgotten: Let us continue to acknowledge and value those missionaries who because of their age, health or some other reason, collaborate in the service of the Word by praying and suffering, and continue sharing our projects with them.
— Offer him the help he needs in order to be able to adjust to his new situation.
516. Formation should tend to integrate the Claretian as much as possible into the life of the community and of the Province. In order to achieve this integration, he should be provided with:
— Medical and psychological orientations.
— Assistance toward accepting himself as he is.
— A true spirituality of the third age, which supposes a special living of contemplation, a more intense dedication to apostolic prayer and an offering of his own life on behalf of mission.
— Pastoral updating for the types of ministries that he is still able to perform: the sacrament of reconciliation, pastoral care of the sick, spiritual direction and other ministries.
— Opportunities for exercising his personal likings and any sort of collaboration in which he can feel useful.
517. Some missionaries who need little assistance can live in communities dedicated to the apostolate and can perform different activities in them, in keeping with their state and their preparation. These Claretians contribute toward giving the community a sense of stability. They can also share the wisdom of their experience with other members of the Province, especially with the novices and missionaries in formation.
518. For those who are still able to work, but live in countries where retirement is obligatory at a certain age, there remains the possibility, if they so desire, to carry on their missionary work by transferring to another country that does not impose these limitations.
519. In some circumstances it may be necessary to create special communities, particularly for those who need regular assistance and intensive care that they cannot receive in other communities. This solution assures a proper community environment and climate. These communities should have a realistic community project. Moreover, care should be taken to appoint superiors and personnel who are suitable for such communities.
520. Each Organism should also arrange excursions, recreational activities, retreats and other initiatives that can serve as a formative experience for missionaries of this age and keep them connected as closely as possible with the life of the provincial community.