Chapter 6: Formation in the Post-Conciliar Renewal 1967-1997
The Vatican Council II brought about a deep change in the life of the Church and of the religious Institutes. With it, a process of renewal, adaptation and accommodation of religious life and began and, within it, a similar process of formation for the same. The Congregation, always faithful to the Church, fully involved itself in the process of conciliar renewal, looking forward to the future with great hope.
I. Period of 1967-1971
1. XVII Special Renewal Chapter. Rome 1967
This is a Chapter of transcendental importance for the life and mission of the Congregation. Together with the conciliar orientations, it listens to and welcomes the concerns and worries of the entire Congregation. With it, a deep and broad process of congregational renewal begins, which would be prolonged throughout the following years.
1.1. At the formative level, it drafted a document entitled Decree on Formation. In it we find very radical and innovating changes to set forth a new style of formation. It seeks the total renewal of formation, dealing with all the dimensions, fields and stages of the formative process with great extent and pedagogical competence.
1st. Formation is solidly founded on the Claretian charism, taking up the spirit of our Fr. Founder and the experience of congregational tradition. The aim of formation is essentially missionary, making it clear from the beginning that the apostolic dimension should guide all other formative dimensions. It was a key document for the renewal of the congregational formation and, even now, because of its charismatic and pedagogical richness, it still is a constant source of formative inspiration.
2nd. The following points may be underscored as specially important:
* It is a document of global formation, not just a plan of studies.
* It takes on all the conciliar doctrine and orientations about formation.
* It is enriched with all the other Chapter documents that were already written or were being drafted.
* It does not explicitly repeal the O.S.G. Even more, it frequently quotes it. However, such substantial changes are introduced in formation, that it is practically abolished.
1.2. The Chapter gave the go-signal to the institution of the permanent diaconate in the Congregation and, with a new spirit, it tackled the theme of the brothers in the Decree on the Coadjutor Brothers, with several numbers dedicated to their formation. Among its orientations, the following may be highlighted:
2. General Directory (1973)
On 6 January 1973 the General Directory requested by the Special Chapter was promulgated. Most of the second part was dedicated to formation, as well as chapter XIII of the first part that deals on the improvement of studies. It takes up the changes approved by the Special Chapter of 1967, retains a number of elements of the C.I.A and it introduces the formative faculties and orientations of the Congregation about the noviciate, valid until the forthcoming General Chapter (1973), in keeping with the Instruction Renovationis Causam (1969).
In accordance with the General Chapter, a General Plan of Formation and a Plan of Studies are requested, as well as provincial formation plans and local regulations for our seminaries. The drafting of formative plans for brothers is also requested and guidelines are given for their elaboration. All the formative orientations that are given still presuppose that the formation keeps being imparted in our own academic centres.
3.1. Renewal of the Noviciate
In 1970 the Instruction Renovationis Causam about the noviciate and the profession began to be implemented in the Congregation. First, a survey was made among all provincial governments, a study by an International Commission, and a proposal-consultation to the Congregation regarding some decisions to be made. Once the responses to the consultation were gathered, the General Government, on 27 June of the same year, promulgated a decree containing the norms and orientations that should be applied to our formation. It was not a matter of replacing the Decree on Formation of the Special Chapter of 1967, but rather confirming and boosting it with new perspectives. The aim was to reinforce and actualise our “religious-apostolic-Claretian” formation in order to make it more mature, authentic and efficacious.
Among the faculties granted for experimentation, the following may be underscored by reason of their importance:
1st. The establishment of a period of Postulancy for all candidates in accord with the mind of the Renovationis Causam.
2nd. During the Noviciate, the introduction of formative activities outside of the noviciate itself, the pursuance of certain studies useful for the formation of the novices and a new style of relationship of the latter with the professed members of the Institute.
3rd. The acceptance of temporary bonds (or promises) before the temporal or perpetual profession.
3.2. Formation of the Missionary Brothers
In line with what was discussed in the 1967 Special Chapter, Fr. Leghisa wrote the circular letter Criteria for a right formation of the missionary brothers Criterios in which he addresses the theme of the formation of brothers. The idea of the circular “surfaced with the contact with our Junior Brothers of Salamanca last month of January”. It does not purport to be a doctrinal treatise but a message of cheer and encouragement for the brothers, as well as an analysis of the present and the future towards their promotion.
1st. The mission and apostolate (exercised in various ways, both within the community and toward the outside) should be a fundamental dimension in their formation and in their life.
2nd. It is indispensable that the entire Congregation collaborate. To this end, it should be open, through understanding and dialogue, to this new spirit that animates the renewal of the brothers. All its members must strive to create a positive atmosphere to make it a reality.
3rd. In order for the renewal and promotion of the brothers to be fruitful, both should be the result of a healthy formation and preparation. This implies, on the part of everyone, the awareness of the need of this formation, the full and mature development of the personality of the brothers and the creation of formative structures and stages with the adequate contents and objectives.
3.3. Establishment of Permanent Diaconate
On the occasion of the approval of the diaconate by the Holy See, Fr. Leghisa addressed to the Congregation the circular letter On the establishment of permanent diaconate in our Congregation. Taking into consideration the historical importance of this approval, he deemed it fitting to make a commentary on the same.
First he explains the origin and the reasons for the Chapter decision to establish the permanent diaconate in the Congregation and the place of the deacons in it; then he offers some norms about them. Starting from the renewed Constitutions, which included them in n. 4 and in Chapter X of part II, he asserts, regarding formation:
1st. In principle, the orientations given by the Holy See and the Bishops’ Conferences about the conditions for admission, the reception of the ministries of Lector and Acolyte, the exercise of the Order, etc., as well as about their academic and pastoral formation, must be followed. However, with regard to the last aspect, the Congregation reserves to itself the right to erect its own formative centres for this purpose.
2nd. Taking into account the stability of the permanent diaconate, in principle it should not be considered as a step toward the priesthood. The candidate should declare this intention in writing. However, if some deacon should at a later time decide to accede to the priesthood, he must solicit it from the Superior General. In the case of a positive answer, he should complete his studies.
3rd. In his Claretian life, he should exercise and experience the characteristics of a diaconal spirituality fitted to his state.
II. Period of 1973-1979
1. XVIII General Chapter. Rome 1973
This Chapter continues and, at the same time, revises the postconciliar renewal process of the Congregation, with special attention to community life.
1.1. It elaborated and promulgated another formative document entitled Formation. This document starts from the analysis of the formative reality, going beyond simple theoretical approaches.
1st. Concretely, it studies the crises and difficulties that appear in the formative phenomenology of the Church and of the Congregation. Lines of solution are offered, adapted to the indicated problems in a functional manner. And, lastly, it gives formative orientations for the future, assuming, especially in the field of formation, the community dimension that was amply studied by the Chapter.
2nd. Among the more particular aspects, the following may be emphasised:
* It gives suggestions towards the planning of the Vocation Ministry.
* It approves “ad experimentum” for six years the faculties previously approved by the Congregation regarding the noviciate, according to the Instruction Renovationis Causam.
* It indicates broad and varied criteria for permanent formation.
* It abolishes the O.S.G. and the Permanent Commission on Formation and Studies created in the previous Chapter. However, it asks that meetings and commissions “ad casum” be fostered at the general, interprovincial and provincial levels, and it gives guidelines and criteria about our own academic centres and our participation in non-congregational centres.
1.2. With regard to the brothers, after studying their situation at the present moment and what was done during the previous six-years, the Chapter asks that the orientations given in the previous Chapter be implemented. But it insists, above all, on the organisation of the juniorate and on the preparation for perpetual profession.
2. CMF Directory (1975)
On 7 May 1975 the CMF Directory was promulgated, which is, as prescribed by the XVIII General Chapter (1973), a revision of the previous one. Therefore, there are numerous changes in this new Directory. It centres more on the contents of the 1967 and 1973 General Chapters, the C.I.A. is not quoted any more (although it continues being a source of inspiration), the texts are drafted in a new style, and both the internal and external formats are different.
The Chapter still asks for a General Plan of Formation in line with the 1967 Chapter, the development of provincial plans and the drafting of Statutes for Major Seminarians. One chapter (IX) dedicated to the Missionary Brothers still asks for a formative plan for them and gives concrete guidelines to this effect.
3. General Assembly. San José de Costa Rica 1976
This Assembly held in Costa Rica was very important for the Congregation from many viewpoints. The problems of the Congregation in the renewal period were analysed and suitable solutions were given.
3.1. It discussed in depth the vocational problem and the situation of formation. It thanked God for the apparition of Claretian vocations in new countries. It verified the scant efficacy in the promotion of brothers. A certain formative disorientation in the last years was detected and the urgency of preparing good formators was acknowledged.
1st. The intensification of vocational ministry was urged, with a team dedicated to it and special attention to be given to youth ministry.
2nd. Minor seminaries should be well oriented; from the beginning they must be vocation-oriented and the formation of personality dimensions should be given progressively and simultaneously.
3rd. A special time should be established for postulancy and, before the noviciate, the personality of the candidates (human basis, attitudes, motivations, community life and apostolic concern) should be painstakingly analysed.
4th. Doctrinal lines were offered toward the elaboration of programs to be developed in the Noviciate, pointing out that other matters not related to the consecution of its aims should be avoided. The creation of interprovincial noviciates is encouraged.
5th. A good many precise indications were given regarding the major seminary. Such are, fr. ex., the necessity of the existence and presence of formators; the possibility of giving the formation in a Province different from one’s own; the complementarity of Claretian formation in our own centre in continuity with that given in the noviciate; the seriousness of the academic studies and the doctrinal and practical initiation in the apostolate; the right and critical formation regarding the socio-political reality, and the future pastoral orientation of those who are in the last years of their career. The formators, who must be endowed with prestige and excellence, are asked not to inhibit themselves in the exercise of their functions.
6th. By secret ballot, the formative theory called Community Creativity or Social Cybernetics was rejected, being considered a risk for our formation.
7th. The elaboration of a basic formation program was put forward, amplified with monographic commentaries, to be transmitted during the formative process.
8th. It was decided to actualise, as a priority during the next three years, all that was said by the previous Chapters about the brothers, especially about vocational promotion and their renewal.
4. Fr. Anthony Leghisa
4.1. Mary, Mother and Formatrix
The circular letter of Fr. Leghisa The Heart of Mary and the Congregation in its Present Moment was a very important step in the renewal of our Cordimarian spirituality. The purpose of the circular was to help the Congregation surmount the critical moment, of a general nature, that it was living at the time, and to impel it to a greater fidelity to the Cordimarian dimension of our vocation.
From the viewpoint of formation, and in harmony with the mind of our Fr. Founder, the Heart of Mary is portrayed above all as Mother and Formatrix. As Sons of Mary, she shapes us inwardly in accord with her person and life and this brings us to conformity with her Son Jesus, establishing a real and genuine relation of sonship. And as evangelising missionaries, Mary plays a direct and efficacious role in our apostolic formation. From this outlook, Mary’s maternal presence should be underscored as early as the initial vocational ministry. Living our apostolic sonship toward Mary, the Mother of divine grace and the faithful Virgin should be deeper and more explicit. This would be an aid to perseverance in our vocation. The young missionaries should be well prepared in methods of forming the people in true Marian piety and in organising their apostolate.
4.2. Other Matters
III. Period of 1979-1985
1. XIX General Chapter. Rome 1979
This Chapter painstakingly studies the apostolic mission of the Congregation in the present moment and draws up only one document entitled The Mission of the Claretian Today (MCT).
Number 228 has been a very dynamic and profound principle that has given origin to studies and meetings in the Major Organisms and in the Interprovincial Conferences with a view to adapting the formation plans to the orientations of the MCT. We can say that it has been the occasion for a deep renewal of formation in the Congregation.
2. CMF Directory (1982)
On 30 May 1982, the new CMF Directory was published. As is expressly mentioned in the presentation, it replaced the C.I.A. and the previous Directories. Its elaboration started from the previous Directory (1975) and took up the orientations of the last General Chapter, particularly the part that referred to the MCT.
From the formative viewpoint, it must be noted that what the previous Directory said about the General Plan of Formation disappears. On the other hand, insistence is once more made on the formation plans at the provincial and local levels and on the formative plan for brothers.
3.1. Mission and Formation of our Missionary Brothers
On the mission and formation of brothers, Fr. Alonso wrote the circular letter The Brothers and the Claretian Mission Today. The theme had been dealt with on many occasions in the last years. However, he writes again because, besides the fact that their vocational situation is critical, it is clearly perceived that the process of renewal of the brothers has not reached its fullness. In this context, the brothers gathered in Rome (June-July of 1980) asked him for a word of orientation and clarification that might arouse a greater awareness and responsibility of the entire Congregation regarding the problems that affect them.
From the formative viewpoint, in general it’s a question of emphasising a new form of understanding and organising their formation, in such a way that it may fully assume the social changes and the new perception of a brother’s being and doing. And in a more concrete manner, it’s a question of urging on the practical application of certain very important orientations that were already given on previous occasions, but are not being implemented in the Congregation. Thus:
1st. The formation periods established for the brothers: postulancy, noviciate, juniorate and intensive preparation for perpetual profession, should be strictly observed.
2nd. During their formation, they must be integrated in a formative community.
3rd. Brothers should not be formed in a generic and as it were neutral manner, but totally for the Claretian mission.
3.2. The Renewed Constitutions
On the occasion of the definitive approval of the Constitutions, Fr. Alonso wrote the circular letter on The Renewed Constitutions on the significance of their approval for the Congregation. After describing the process followed from the Vatican II Council to the present moment and the sense they have after their approval, he makes some reflections so that our Constitutions may be understood and accepted as a book of life for our community. It’s a question of making them truly an instrument designed “to give a new quality and orientation to our life as followers of Jesus”. To this end, we must accept them with positive attitudes, live them and experience them with active responsibility as our life project and use them as an instrument of community animation.
Although Fr. Alonso’s message as a whole has a formative value in itself, however, it explicitly highlights the fact that the Constitutions must play a relevant function during the formation period. The vocational discernment of those in formation and their identification as Claretians would not be possible were it not for the Constitutions. They must, under the orientation of the formators, form part of the contents of the formation programs. The circular ends acknowledging the certainty of Mary’s presence in the whole process of renewal of the Constitutions and the assurance
“(…) that, through this instrument of grace, she will also form us in the forge of her maternal love (Aut., 270), moulding in all the sons of the Congregation the same apostolic spirit that she instilled in Saint Anthony Mary Claret.”
IV. Period of 1985-199
1. XX General Chapter (1985)
It centred on the person of the Claretian and came up with the document The Claretian in the Process of Congregational Renewal (CPR). It is a brief and programmatic document, with very concrete guidelines for the animation of the Congregation. In particular,
1st. The CPR speaks of formation as one of the central points of the renewal of the Claretian.
2nd. It understands formation as an “ongoing” process that lasts for life, whose efficacy depends, above all, on personal conviction.
3rd. It gives great importance to the reality in the formative process, provided it be analysed, discerned and adequately assumed.
4th. It encourages apostolic experiences, following the lines of the MCT, and asks for the elaboration of a program of apostolic initiation.
5th. It urges every Claretian to draft a Personal Plan of Formation.
2. CMF Directory (1987)
On 24 October 1987 a new CMF Directory was promulgated. It takes up, in keeping with the decision of the XX General Chapter (1985), the accommodation of our law to the new Code of Canon Law promulgated on 25 January 1983. With regard to formation, necessary changes were introduced in accord with the new Church legislation.
As regards the Plan of Formation mentioned in canon 650.1, it is said: “The plan of formation for those called to missionary life (c. 650.1) is composed of the following elements”. There is no mention of a General Plan of Formation, but of a formation plan in general, in an unspecified manner. In addition, it is indicated that the formation plan must include the elements specified in the Directory; that is to say, elements are offered for the elaboration of the provincial and local formation plans, on which it keeps on insisting. Lastly, once more the plan of formation for Brothers is requested.
3.1. Government and Constitutions
In the encounter of Major Superiors of the Congregation (September 1986), Fr. Alonso gave them a message entitled Government and Animation from the viewpoint of the Constitutions, in which he discussed the role of the Constitutions in the animation of our communities. He further developed, in a very fitting situation, some of the reflections that had been briefly indicated in the 1982 circular.
Although the circular refers to superiors and communities in general, the pastoral orientations for the government may be applied, with the proper adaptations, to formation. We must count on them to promote “the quality growth of each Claretian person and community”.
3.2. Marian Experience of the Congregation
Fr. Gustavo Alonso, following the orientation of the 1985 General Chapter, promoted the study of the Marian experience of the Congregation with the aid of the Secretariat of the Heart of Mary. Through a wide-open survey, he invited the entire Congregation to a faith communication on the experience of our Marian spirituality.
About one third of the Congregation responded to his invitation. From this survey we can draw several conclusions, some of which refer to formation. Among others, that Marian spirituality is a life experience in the Congregation, lived in connection with the charismatic experience of our Founder; and that, for many Claretians, Mary has exerted an efficacious presence in their vocational itinerary.
3.3. The Formation of the Claretians
The occasion of the circular letter Claretians in Formation, addressed to all Claretians, was the experience of the year 1990, a year that was very rich in materials on the subject of formation, in the Church as well as in our Congregation. The thrust of this letter is not to develop a doctrinal study or an organised treatment on formation. It only aims at being a testimony of the formative processes (facts, endeavours, projects, ideas) that since quite some time come together in our present moment of the Church and of the Congregation. Among the many aspects that he deals with, we will only emphasise those that are related to initial formation:
Formation is a process that lasts throughout our whole life. This means that formation is inconceivable without a plan, without organisation and continuity and also that formation is for all ages, and each age has its own formative phase.
a) Formation is a personalised process. In the pedagogical field, where the person in formation occupies a central place, it is an axiom that formation must be personalised. It must tend to form persons open to God and to others, from the standpoint of their very nature and of faith. This is the outlook of our congregational orientations when they state that “it is only in communion and in community mission that we achieve personal development as Claretians”.
b) Welcoming the candidates. On entering the Congregation, the candidate is entering into a new relational world. He enters into a community of life with welcoming capacity. Today’s Congregation is still in need of these kinds of communities, organised and structured with a view to welcoming others, such as the Minor Seminary and the Postulancy.
c) Gradual formation. Formation is a process subjected to the law of progressiveness, which implies a differentiation of formative stages. It is a gradualness with a view to the maturation of all dimensions of personality, which demands, on the one hand, the differentiated organisation of the formative groups in keeping with their proper objectives and goals and, on the other, an active accompaniment toward vocational discernment during the whole process.
The formative itinerary is for us “a following:” a personalised following of Jesus which is for us a project and a gift. In order to form the personality of the young, it is fundamental that he develop an intense “disciple” relationship with Christ. He gives this relationship an all-embracing and personalising sense such as no other master could lay claim to. This personalised relationship with Jesus comes, above all, through his Word and the Eucharist as well as through his presence among us in the person of the poor.
The person in the process of formation, as a disciple, is an apprentice who, like Claret, imitates Jesus in an active manner. Our Fr. Founder has told us this in countless manners in the Constitutions. He has even synthesised it in the picture of a Missionary: “A Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (…) has no other thought except how he can best follow and imitate Jesus”.
When speaking about Claretian formation, it is not possible to leave aside the Heart of Mary. Starting with Jesus, the Son who was sent, the formation of all missionaries is entrusted to Mary. She, whom the Constitutions call “formatrix of apostles”, forms us in the missionary attitudes and behaviour. With Mary, the Claretian pursues his own itinerary of growth and identification with Christ.
The Claretian formative community is a missionary and apostolic community of persons. It is a community with meaningful fraternal relationships with a view to mission; a community that constitutes a life-long option with special characteristics in accord with the experience of our Founder and the project of the Congregation. The formative community is not an invertebrate community. There is in it a diversification of functions to be performed, according to their diverse responsibilities, by the person in formation, the formator, the formation team and the members of the formative community. Both for the Congregation and for the Church, the formative community must always have a formation director, called among us prefect or master. By his function, he is personally responsible for the formative project and the person whom the Congregation offers to each candidate for spiritual direction or personal dialogue.
Beyond its communion with the congregational reality, the formative community must have, within the Claretian context, references that affect the local Church and the society in which it is rooted. All this must be done so that the candidates may be prepared to help their fellow human beings more effectively.
In this context must we understand the openness of the Congregation to the creation of formation centres of insertion in popular and poor milieus, the attempts to inculturation of formation and the congregational collaboration in the field of formation.
Claretian formation is meaningless if it is not projected to mission. This mission must be understood as beginning with Jesus, in communion with the Church, as a peculiar service to God’s people and to the world, and carried out within an apostolic community.
In the framework of a missionary formation, the world must be understood from the dimension of universality, since its mission is for the entire world. This implies fostering an asceticism of detachment, availability, contact with cultures, knowledge of the more universal problems of humankind and the urgency of learning languages.
In consonance with our specific ministry, the ministry of the word, the Word of God must occupy a privileged place in the formation of the Claretian. The candidate should make of the Bible his favourite book; he must study it, welcome it in prayer and place it at the basis of his own apostolic spirituality in communion with the Church and as the key to discern the formative apostolic activities and techniques.
7th. Looking to the Future
In terms of the future, we must prepare ourselves for the new evangelisation, increasing the ministry of vocation promotion and revising our formative system and the quality of our formation. All of this should bring us to elaborate a Ratio Formationis, which is a still-pending matter which the challenge of the new evangelisation should spur us on to confront”.
V. Period of 1991-1997
1. XXI General Chapter. Rome 1991
1.1. This Chapter drafted the declaration Servants of the Word. The title Servants of the Word summarises our charismatic mission in the Church and the subtitle Our Missionary Service of the Word in the New Evangelization underscores the adapted direction of our charismatic mission in the present moment. The declaration is a reflection and a functional proposal for the whole Congregation on Our Missionary Service of the Word. As “keys” of interpretation of the SW we may point out the following:
1st. From the standpoint of the Word of God, the Chapter directs our reflection towards our life and activity. It also offers operative proposals with a view to fostering community life, the proclamation of the Gospel, spirituality, the renewal and revision of apostolic structures and means, initial and ongoing formation, and the apostolic diversification in the five continents where the Congregation is established. The Word of God and our missionary service of proclaiming it are the fundamental keys to interpret the renewing effort that the Chapter asks from the Congregation. We may say that this is the great NOVELTY of the contribution of the XXI General Chapter to the Congregation and to the Church.
2nd. The missionary service of the Word appears in the declaration as an integrating dynamism of our being and of our doing, and not just as a mere pastoral action or an appendix to our apostolic mission. Following the example of Jesus and of our Fr. Founder, everything in us should become a sign and expression of the Word of God.
3rd. As regards formation, it is said that one of its core aspects should be the initiation in the ministry of the Word, understood as an authentic way of being, doing and signifying. From this perspective, some formative orientations are given:
* To give a serious academic formation, giving a relevant place to the sapiential and exegetical knowledge of the Bible, and to put into practice the daily reading of the Word of God in Claretian key, the “Lectio Divina” and other forms of reading.
* To promote in the young missionaries community orientation; capacity for silence, listening and dialogue, discernment and analysis of reality; the use of techniques of communication and language, as well as openness to the universal mission, through availability and the study of languages.
1.2. After a process of discernment, the Chapter approves that a General Plan of Formation (GPF) be prepared in these terms:
“During the six-year period a Plan of Formation for the Congregation should be drafted, in which the core elements 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, in 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”.
2. Fr. Aquilino Bocos
Within the many interventions of a formative character interspersed in his teaching, it is good to highlight those written on the occasion of the beatification of our Martyrs of Barbastro. We can synthesise the central idea of his message in the expression “The martyrs, models of perfect Claretian formation.”
2.1. The Testament of our Martyrs
On the occasion of the beatification of our martyrs of Barbastro he wrote the circular letter Missionary Testament of our Martyrs. With it he invites the Congregation to live this event both as a memorial and a commitment.
Although the entire circular has a clearly formative reference – after all, the martyrs were all formators and persons in formation –, however there are certain proposals that have a special incidence in the field of formation. In general, we can say that they are for us a true model of what a Son of the Heart of Mary should be, from the Magnificat (discovery and acknowledgement of the vocational gift) to Calvary (total and definitive self-oblation till death). Thus:
1st. The martyrs made it clear that martyrdom belongs to us as a charismatic heritage. It is the martyrial spirituality that our Fr. Founder lived and embodied for the Congregation in the “definition of the Missionary” or “memorial of the Son of the Heart of Mary,” which has shaped the great men of the Congregation.
2nd. The martyrs, moulded in the forge of the Heart of Mary by the action of the Spirit to proclaim the Gospel, felt Mary’s presence in their martyrdom. Mary, Mother and Teacher of Missionaries all along their formative itinerary, was omnipresent at the crucial moment of their vocation, martyrdom. Mary, the New Eve and the Woman victorious over the Evil One, sustained them in the test, encouraged their fidelity till the end and introduced them into the mystery of Jesus’ death.
3rd. The young Martyrs showed a very high degree of vocational maturity. The fact that they were in the period of initial formation was not an obstacle for them to offer in jail the example of an admirable maturity in the living of fraternity and the mystery of community. Being enthusiastic with their priestly and missionary future, they learned to forgo their dreams and projects, because they understood that mission is not only action; it is also passion. They were aware that their fidelity till death was a glory, never a loss for the Congregation. In their martyrdom, their life project and each of the aspects that make it up gained full meaning.
4th. Looking forward to the future, we cannot remain indifferent. Among other endeavours, we must commit ourselves to make the Congregation grow in quality and in numbers.
a) A good human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation has been a distinctive note of the Claretians, who have learned to be in the midst of people, being popular without becoming vulgar. Nowadays, in order to be abreast of the times, we must progress in knowledge and virtue. Only thus can we offer a quality missionary service of the Word.
b) We should desire that the Congregation grow also in numbers because we want to spread God’s Kingdom throughout the whole world. If we want to fulfil the testament of the blood shed by our brothers, we must assume the pressing task of promoting and taking care of vocations. Let us pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to his harvest. We should also remember that our words and missionary lifestyle are the best invitation to welcome God’s call.
c) The formators are charged with the task of having new blood revitalise the Congregation. Everyone is fully aware of how delicate and demanding this mission is. For this reason, their generous and joyful dedication is more worthy of our gratitude. This beatification should be a source of encouragement for them and a unique opportunity for both formators and formandi to revive enthusiastically those values of the Claretian vocation that made possible in our martyrs their heroic and moving fidelity till death.
2.2. To the Missionaries in Formation
On the occasion of the renewal of vows of the students from IBERIA in Rome on the Feast of our Fr. Founder and on the eve of the Beatification of the Martyrs of Barbastro, Fr. General wrote the Letter of Father General to the Claretian Missionaries in Formation. After writing the previous circular to the whole Congregation, he addresses this letter to the missionaries in formation in a more confidential and familiar way, “because its dense and vibrant message belongs to you in a special way”.
On reading the testimonies of the martyrs, he was impressed and touched, especially by the interest of those young men in letting the then Superior General know of their state of mind and their final will. In this new context, Fr. General, moved by the testimony left us by the martyrs, exhorts the formandi to bring their own missionary restlessness and hopes face to face with those that they exhibited.
1st. To feel happy to be Sons of the Heart of Mary and to belong to the Congregation. To be attentive to the missionary challenges of their time; prepared with a universal outlook for their future ministry; capable of integrating persecution into their spirituality and disposed to face death for what they had professed.
2nd. Having a little more passion and enthusiasm in sharing the life and mission of Jesus, daring to leave everything for the sake of the Kingdom; reviving our faith and increasing our love for Mary, the Church and the Congregation. To revise our criteria and our attitudes of indifference, scatteredness, laziness and cowardice.
3rd. To be consistent and adjust our everyday life with the demands of our unconditional commitment to the cause of Jesus, which is the cause of the poor, the marginalised, the defenceless and, as Claretians, not to abdicate our resolve to follow Jesus because of some momentary whim or caprice.
4th. To be faithful to the future which the martyrs opened up with their sacrifice and to the “prophetic cry of their blood,” loving the Congregation as they did, to the extent of giving up their life for it.
The martyrs thought of the Congregation as an open-ended project to be carried out by all its members, those living at that time and those who were yet to come. In this sense, “the Congregation is awaiting your personal contribution.”
3. The General Plan of Formation (1994)
Regarding the General Plan of Formation we refer to the next chapter. It will be treated in a broader and deeper way.
4.1. The idea of organising a School of Formators has two motivations. The first is the urgency of forming formators, insistently mentioned in ecclesial and congregational documents, especially regarding the charismatic and congregational elements. And the second is the present situation of the Congregation which, after publishing the GPF, must help the formators study, assimilate and deepen it.
4.2. Therefore, the objective of the HMSF is clear. It is a matter of forming the formators of the Congregation in the charismatic and formative elements proper of our Congregation. It is addressed, above all, to the formators who are beginning their formative mission. It will be conducted for two and a half months, with the Claretian experiences of Vic and Barbastro and the study in Rome.
4.3. From the juridical viewpoint, the School will depend on the General Government. Its management is entrusted to the General Prefecture of Formation, with a Director appointed by the General Government.
 We will structure the post-conciliar period contained in this Chapter 6 by six-year periods. This is more pedagogical to grasp the evolution and development of the renewing process that has taken place. On the other hand, taking into consideration its wealth and broadness, we will concisely present only the most important decisions and orientations on vocations and formation.
 Other themes related with the formation in ANTHONY LEGHISA, Letter Ordo professionis fratribus nostris proponitur [An Ordo Professionis is presented to our brethren] about the rite of profession on the Congregation (Cf. Annales, 51 (1972), pp. 122).
 A. LEGHISA, circular letter A los Superiores Mayores de la Congregación sobre la “Renovationis Causam” [To the Major Superiors of the Congregation on the “Renovationis Causam”], Annales, 50 (1970), pp. 293-296. A. LEGHISA, Decree of the General Government La aplicaciópn de la Instrucción “Renovationis Causam” a nuestra Congregación, [The application of the Instruction “Renovationis Causam” to our Congregation], Annales, 50 (1970), pp. 296-319.
 “It is meant as a guideline for the Congregation with a reference to one of the broadest and deepest dimensions of our missionary charism in the Church of God (…) to single out a few guidelines and suggest a few concrete lines of action aimed at overcoming the present crisis, so as to lead the Congregation toward a greater fidelity in guarding this special gift it has received in the Church” (Cf. A. LEGHISA, The Heart of Mary…, p. 4).
 Hence, “the importance of Mary’s maternal presence in our vocation programs, both among those who promote them and in their presentations. The Marian aspect of our charism should be adequately represented to help those who have already received some initial acquaintance with her spiritual maternity, to take it more seriously into account and to discover the Congregation as an adequate place where it is really lived” (Ib., p. 44).
 A. LEGHISA, open letter to the President of Iberia De cursu formationis permanente [On the On-going Formation Course], Annales 52 (1976), pp. 285-290; Message A los participantes al Encuentro de responsables de la pastoral vocacional de Latino América [To the participants of the Meeting of persons-in-charge of vocation ministry in Latin-America], Annales 54 (1979), pp. 37-38.
 In this six-year period the following are also interesting: G. ALONSO, Claret vivo [Claret alive], Presentation of the book: SAN ANTONIO Mª CLARET, Escritos Autobiográficos, ed. prepared by José Mª Viñas and Jesús Bermejo, B.A.C., Madrid 1981. Also, El presbítero claretiano en nuestros documentos posconciliares [The Claretian Priest in our Postconciliar Documents], conference in the First Priestly Week of Vic (19 May 1985). It is also found in G. ALONSO, Al servicio de una comunidad misionera [In the Service of a Missionary Community], Rome-Curia 1991, pp. 87-115.
 In this six-year period, the General Prefecture of Formation published, among other aids, the Cuadernos de formación claretiana [Booklets on Claretian Formation] and the Itinerario formativo claretiano [Claretian Formative Itinerary] (1990).
 Cf. circular letter on La comunicación de nuestra experiencia mariana [The communication of our Marian experience], Annales, 58 (1987-1988), pp. 98-100; cf. also G. ALONSO, La Espiritualidad mariana que vivimos [The Marian spirituality we live], Communication during the XXXV Semestral Encounter of the Union of Superiors General, Villa Cavalletti, 25-28 May 1988, in Al servicio de una comunidad misionera [At the service of a missionary community], Rome-Curia 1991, pp. 178-182.
 “In fact, many of our brothers speak of a presence of the mystery of Mary that has inspired and guided them in the fundamental moments of their life: birth of their vocation, spiritual growth during their formation years, overcoming crises, etc. In sum, a well-defined maternal presence” (G. ALONSO, La Espiritualidad mariana…, pp. 180-181).
 “These lines are addressed to all Claretians in the sense that all of us, in keeping with a very strong conviction in the Church (Cf. Potissimum Institutioni, nn. 66-71) and in our own Institute (Cf. CPR., nn. 20-31, 66-71), are in either an initial or an ongoing phase of the process of formation” (G. ALONSO, Claretians in…, p. 51).
 In the Church, by the publication of the document Potissimum Institutioni (February 2) and the celebration of the Synod of Bishops devoted to the Formation of Priests in the Present Circumstances. In the Congregation, because a cycle of Claretian Renewal Courses was completed, addressed primarily to formation personnel from the different geographic areas of the Institute and because the General Formation Prefecture has continued to distribute study helps on formation topics (Cf. G. ALONSO, Ib., pp. 50).
 At any rate, it is good to notice the call to reinstate the “Five-Year period” in line with the congregational tradition. “I feel obliged to say that, in view of the situations of our time, there is an urgent need in the Congregation to reinstate a project which, more or less along the lines of our former “Five-Year period” (Quinquenio), can provide our major organisms with a tool for the formation-accompaniment of young Claretians (brothers and priests) during the first years of their ministerial life.” (G. ALONSO, Ib., p. 57.)
 “To have well thought-out and articulated this welcoming phase is a sure sign of the sense of responsibility with which an organism is presently concerned with the question of vocations and, at a deeper level, of the way in which its members are living and expressing their own vocation” (G. ALONSO, Ib., p. 54).
 “It is, in effect, a community which has its beginning in God who gives an identical spirit to a group of persons (Aut. n. 489) with a view to their collaborating in the apostolic ministry of the Word (Letter to the Nuncio, 12 August 1849) and to a “perfectly common life” (Aut. n. 491) which must forcefully express fraternity (nn. 609-613) and hospitality (n. 608), and is at the same time is inspired in an evangelical rule of poverty, sharing and work (Letter to Caixal, 5 September 1849; Aut. n. 608). While it is strongly projected on external activity, this community is characterised by an intense inner dynamism of prayer, study, ministerial preparation, etc. (ibid.) It is understood as being a project that is to last for one’s whole life and which, as an offering of grace, calls for a response in fidelity and perseverance (Aut. n. 490). It is the Holy Spirit who, as in the case of the community of Apostles (cf. Introduction to Rules for Secular Clergy), sustains and encourages this community with a charismatic gift that deeply binds it to Christ, the Son sent by the Father through Mary (Aut. n. 687)” (G. ALONSO, Ib., p. 63).
 “All of these aspects, which the renewed Constitutions have carefully articulated, are proposed not only as goals, but also as educative elements whereby the community plays an active role in the itinerary of initiation of the future missionary” (G. ALONSO, Ib., p. 63).
 In the next chapter we will speak of the message he wrote on the occasion of the promulgation of the GPF. He has also addressed other formative messages to the various areas of the Congregation on the occasion of assemblies, courses, encounters, etc….
 During the present six-year period, besides the GPF and the HMSF, the Commentary to Part II of the Constitutions is being finished. The General Formation Prefecture has kept on publishing the Booklets on Claretian Formation and is about to complete the drafting of the formative project of Initiation in the Ministry of the Word (IMW).