(General Plan of Formation)

Our Congregation is blessed to have committed formators and relevant guidelines on the formation of missionaries in the course of our history which has left a beautiful formation legacy for us to follow. GPF 2020 is a milestone on the same path.

Development of Formation guidelines in the Claretian Tradition

Formation of missionaries has always been a priority in the evangelizing project of St. Anthony Mary Claret and his successors. Father Claret recalls in his autobiography a sermon of his bishop Pablo de Jesús Corcuera during his seminary days which had left a deep impact on his attitude to formation:

“If I can have good students now, I’ll have good priests and good pastors later.…. It isvery important for students to be continually nourished spiritually during their studies; otherwise they will grow up to be proud, which is the worst they can bring upon themselves, and pride is the source of all sin.I would rather have them know a little less and be pious, than to know a great deal with little or no piety and be puffed up with the wind of vanity[1].

Our Founder was deeply aware of the negative consequences of the presence of poorly formed apostolic workers in the Church. From his vast pastoral experience of accompanying lay people, religious and priests, Father Claret points to the danger of unintegrated priests driving away the faithful by their gross behavior and unmortified passions instead of attracting them by their good manners and radiating “Christ’s good odor everywhere”[2]. He exclaims: “How much we need to be men of discipline, education and holy manners”[3] and “How very important it is for missionaries to be mortified, virtuous, and exemplary in their conduct”[4].

Convinced of the need for well-formed pastors in the Church, Father Claret dedicated himself to give quality formation for seminarians from various dioceses of Spain in El Escorial and wrote the two volumes of “The Well Instructed Seminarian” for both initial and ongoing formation. His book “Golden Key” is a good manual of advice for priests, especially confessors. Father Claret’s best gift for the formation of missionaries is the Autobiography written by the mandate of the Superior General, Fr. Josep Xifré, in which he presents his own transformative experience of being a missionary formed in the forge of the heart of Mary and sent in mission. Indeed, the autobiography is a proposal of the Claretian project of life in a narrative format.

As the Congregation began to accept students in 1858[5], our Founder himself wrote the first formation guideline for studies, ThePlan of Studies of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in 1859. After the Chapter of 1862, our Founder wrote the first general document on formation, Particular Regulation for the students and Particular Regulation for the Pedagogue of the Students of the Congregation.

The Superiors General of the Congregation have kept alive this holistic vision of the Founder about the preparation of suitable men to become committed missionaries, and they gave timely guidelines.[6]

Following the decision of the VIII General Chapter[7], the first systematic plan of formation was prepared after broad consultation with Claretian professors under the title, “Statua pro Studiis Congregationis Filiorum Immaculati Cordis Beatae Mariae Virginis” in 1900. After a period of three years ad experimentum, it was revised and published in 1903. Following the direction of the XII General Chapter[8] to prepare a new Ordo studiorum, a commission was set up to prepare it and the Ordo Studiorum Generalis pro Missionariis Congregationis Filiorum Immaculati Cordis Mariae Virginis (OSG) was promulgated in 1929. This document was renewed in 1959 adapting itself to the Apostolic Constitution, Sedes Sapientiae” of Pope Pius XII (1956).

After II Vatican Council, the Congregation welcomed the Council’s call for aggiornamento (renewal) of the charism and mission of religious life in the Church, and the Congregation undertook the task through its renewal Chapters[9]. One of the last fruits of the renewal process was the General Plan of Formation prepared by an international commission led by the General Prefect of Formation, Fr. Jesús María Palacios in response to the mandate of the General Chapter of 1991[10]. The General Plan of Formation promulgated by Fr. Aquilino Bocos on 16th July 1994 has greatly enhanced the formation of our missionaries for over two decades.

A new General Plan of Formation (GPF 2020)

Twenty one years after the publication and implementation of the aforementioned General Plan of Formation, the XXV General Chapter of 2015 resolved that: “we will review the General Plan of Formation keeping in mind our charismatic traits and the challenges of our time, and will define our formation (initial and continuous) as truly transformative processes[11].

The General Government entrusted this task to the General Consultors animating the third process of transformation (Prefectures of Spirituality and Formation)[12] and an international commission was formed to assist them.[13] The commission came together in September 2017 and studied the results of a survey sent to all formation houses to evaluate the GPF and to give suggestions for its revision. The results of the survey affirmed that the existing GPF continued to be relevant and needed only updating while there was need for instruments to implement the GPF. The suggestion of the commission was to prepare two volumes of the GPF: an updated version of the existing GPF and a new volume as a manual containing tools for the application of the first volume. The General Government in its session on 14 October 2017 accepted the proposal. Accordingly, the commission began working in two groups.[14] As the work was progressing, it was found that the second volume of practical applications required that the first volume be completed. Hence, attention was given to have the revised GPF completed before going ahead with the second volume. The proposal to have a second volume was changed to prepare it as a workbook for the application of GPF 2020 rather than as a second volume of GPF. The nomination of Fr. Leo Dalmao, the General Prefect of Formation, as the prelate of the Territorial Prelature of Isabela in the Philippines[15] delayed the work which was close to its completion. Mons. Leo Dalmao deserves our heartfelt thanks for his dedicated service in the making of GPF 2020. The prepared draft was further studied and improved by the Meeting of the Prefects of Formation held in Guatemala in May 2019.

Fr. Joseph Mbungu, the new General Prefect of Formation, took charge and continued the work of finalizing the revised GPF (GPF 2020). Meanwhile, the draft was further enriched from the insights of different encounters organized by the Holy See to address concrete issues in the Church. Two of them in which the Superior General participated deserves to be mentioned: the Meeting called by the Holy Father on “The Protection of Minors in the Church” (21-24 February, 2019) and the first“International Congress for the pastoral care of the Elderly” organized by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life (29-31 January 2020). Both meetings inspired the improvement in the part of ongoing formation.

The General Government approved the final draft of GPF 2020 in its session on March 19, 2020. GPF 2020 is a fruit of the synodal nature of our Congregation which assures our collective responsibility for the life and mission of the Congregation.

As we can see, this document is a reference book for the whole Congregation to form her sons in the missionary spirit that impelled the life and mission of our Founder. GPF 2020 proposes a formative process that covers the entire lifespan of a Claretian. Hence, it is the responsibility of each Claretian to creatively apply the formation guidelines of GPF 2020 to his own life and be formed in the forge of the Heart of Mary as her son anointed and sent to proclaim the joy of the Gospel in the world in the style of Claret.

Fr. Joseph Mbungu, CMF

General Prefect of Formation

[1] Aut 92.

[2] Cf Aut 815.

[3] Aut 812.

[4] Aut 816.

[5] The first student to be accepted was Hilario Brososa, as a recently ordained deacon on 1 July 1858. Cf. Mariano AGUILAR, Historia de la Congregación de Misioneros Hijos del Ido. Corazón de María, tome I, Barcelona 1901, p. 100.

[6] For a detailed information on the history of Claretian formation, Cf. Jesus Maria Palacios, Historical notes on Formation in the Congregation,Roma, Prefectura General de formation, 1997.

[7] VIII General Chapter was held in Vic in December 1899.

[8] XII General Chapter held in Vic in August-September of 1922, asked for the updating of congregational documents in accordance with the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1907.

[9] The General Chapters that undertook the renewal process called by the II Vatican Council. They are the Chapters of 1967, 1973, 1979 and 1985.

[10] Cf. Minutes, 14, 13 September 1991: Annales 60 (1991) 255.

[11] MS 75.1.

[12] The XXV General Chapter invited the whole Congregation to undertake three processes of transformation (MS 62-75) and the General Government organized itself in three teams to animate the three processes of transformation.

[13] The commission was composed of the following members: Theophine Yene and Kenneth Oguejiofor (ACLA), Vianney Lusi Emi and Sid Ching (ASCLA East) James Kannanthanam and Bhyju Anthony (ASCLA West), Paul Smyth, and Jose Ramon Sanz (ECLA), Fernando Kuhn and Marcos Garnica (MICLA) and the General Prefect of Formation, Leo Dalmao, and the General Prefect of Spirituality, Gonzalo Fernández.

[14] For the first volume the team consisted of Fernando Kuhn, Marcos Garnica and Paulson Veliyannoor coordinated by Gonzalo Fernández. The second team consisted of Paul Smyth, Jose Ramón Sanz, Theophile Yene, James Kannanthanam, Anthony Bhyju, Kenneth Oguejiofor and Babu Sebastian to be coordinated by Leo Dalmao.

[15] The nomination was made by the Holy Father, Pope Francis on 25 March 2019.