Chapter 7: The General Plan of Formation 1994
The General Plan of Formation (GPF) is engraved in the history and in the process of formation in the Congregation. The GPF is not an initiative that appears in the present moment, disconnected from the congregational life, neither is it a pedagogical instrument with no congregational roots. It is inserted in the Congregation’s rich formative tradition initiated by our Fr. Founder himself, continued by the Co-founders and consolidated by both the General Chapters and the Superiors General.
1. As we have seen, from the very outset there have been in the Congregation well-defined plans of studies both for Students and for Brothers. These plans, under different titles, have had a fundamentally academic thrust.
We have also said in the introduction that, from an overall point of view, even though plans in the strict sense were not drafted, formation in the Congregation has been very well articulated and directed. Also, there has been no lack of well-organised and planned formative tools, or of precise pedagogical guidelines.
2. In fact, there have been several unsuccessful attempts in the past to elaborate a Ratio Formationis or equivalent. This has been a desire, several times expressed at various congregational levels: to have a Plan of Formation, Ratio Formationis or Regulations for the students as well as for the brothers.
As early as 1932, Fr. Nicholas García, speaking on how spiritual formation should be gradual and personalised, asserted that it should be in keeping with a joint plan “which they (the Prefects) should develop proportionally to the plan of studies”. His own circulars on formation are themselves veritable treatises on Claretian pedagogy that are well put together methodologically.
Recalling in a synthetic way what was said in the previous chapter, the XIII General Chapter (1934), speaking about formative plans, decreed the “drafting of an Ordo pietatis and an Ordo disciplinae, which, together with the Ordo studiorum, would form the basis of the education of our missionaries”. And somewhere else, dealing on the subject of the formation of formators, it stated that, in addition to the testimony of life, they should stand out for a good preparation in “ascetics and ecclesiastic and religious pedagogy.” To this end it proposed the preparation of a Ratio Formationis that would gather together the extensive experience of the Congregation.
The XIV General Chapter of 1937 insists on this same idea when it asks that “a little book” be written for formators, on the formation of Novicemasters. And the XV General Chapter, on the other hand, does the same when it asks for a Book of regulations for Brothers, where all these points would be gathered together.
Lastly, the XVI General Chapter (1961), recalling the recommendation of the previous Chapter, urged the writing of an Ordo Formationis “in order to attain a good and, as much as possible, uniform formation of our members”. It also asked for the revision and publication of the Mirror of the Postulant. It left to the General Government the drafting of a Book of Regulations for the brothers on the formative aspects that have been discussed, particularly those related to their assignments during the years following their first professions.
3. From the Second Vatican Council on, there is again an insistence on the elaboration of formation plans for students and brothers in a stricter and more defined sense.
In its Decree on Formation, the 1967 Special Chapter asked the General Government to take the responsibility of drawing up a General Plan of Formation for the Congregation, and in the Decree on Brothers it makes the same request with regard to formative plans and programs for them. These requests, along with the drafting of a Plan of Studies, were included in the General Directory of 1973, in keeping with the indications of the General Chapter. At the same time it was established that provincial plans of formation be promoted for our own Students and Brothers, and that local regulations be made for our Formation Centres. The Directory of 1975 speaks along the same lines.
In the Directory of 1982, what was said of the General Plan of Formation in the previous Directories disappears, but insistence is made on plans of formation at the provincial and local levels and on the formation plan for the Brothers. And in the Constitutions of that same year, regarding the missionaries in formation and their prefect, it is stated in general terms that formation should be carried out “observing our own characteristic method of instruction. During the six-year period of 1979-1985 there was talk about a sort of “vademecum” that would gather together the most important formative themes, but at the end it was not carried out.
The Plan of Formation appears again in the 1986 Constitutions. They do not speak of forming our students according to our formative planning as the previous Constitutions had done, but of doing so “according to our own formation plan,” in accord with canon 659.2 of the new Code of Canon Law (1983). The 1987 Directory 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, and which should include the elements pointed out in the Directory. These elements are offered for the drafting of the provincial and local plans of formation, on which the Directory keeps on insisting. Lastly, once more it calls for a formation plan for the Brothers.
4. In the postconciliar years, although there was no general plan, the Congregation worked in the formation sector with great creativity, taking into account, among others, the following criteria:
* applying the Constitutions, Directory and Chapter Documents to formation;
* drafting provincial and local plans of formation;
* working out the systematic program of apostolic initiation;
* and searching for common guidelines that are inculturated in the different congregational areas, through encounters and gatherings.
5. Nevertheless, little by little we began to see that the principles of the Constitutions and of the pedagogical orientations of the Directory were not enough. We needed, in addition, 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. Canon Law and the Constitutions too demanded it. In encounters and courses of formators, the General Government was often requested to draft such a document. And the Superior General, Fr. Gustavo Alonso, in his circular letter “Claretians in Formation” asserted that this was “a pending matter”. The General Government’s criterion during the six-year period 1985-1991 was that the Plan of Formation should have the consensus and support of the entire Congregation and, therefore, the question should be dealt with in the following General Chapter.
II. XXI General Chapter
Finally, the 1991 General Chapter, as we mentioned in the previous chapter, decided that it should be drafted in the six-year period of 1991-1997, with these conditions:
* that it should gather together the core essentials of our charism.
* that the General Prefecture of Formation should be responsible for the drafting, with the help of an International Commission that would represent the different cultural areas of the Congregation.
* and that it should be an object of study and revision in the whole Congregation before its promulgation by the General Government.
III. Drafting of the GPF
1. Claretian Character
The GPF is a pedagogical project with a strong Claretian stamp.
1.1. As a pedagogical project, it is oriented toward the formation of Claretians. In the first place, the GPF 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. And 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.
1.2. As a Claretian project, it aims above all at covering the core essentials of our charism. Hence, without neglecting other necessary formative elements, it stresses those that are more 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 the new generations. It gathers together the formation experiences that have been accomplished or are being carried out in the Organisms of our Congregation. It also 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 the allegory of the Forge as a pedagogical model. 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.
2. The General Prefecture of Formation and the International Commission.
2.1. The General Formation Prefecture centred its attention in a special way, during the first part of the present six-year period, on the elaboration of the General Plan of Formation, in order to give enough time for its revision and application in the Congregation. At once it started to work on the same, following the orientations of the last Chapter of the Congregation, and putting into practice the operative decisions made by the General Government.
2.2. After the Chapter, the Superior General, Aquilino Bocos, promulgated the Chapter resolution about the GPF on 4 October 1991. Shortly afterwards, the General Government, in Council Session of 14 December, made the decisions to appoint an International Formation Commission (IFC) and to approve the methodology in drafting the GPF. The criteria followed by the General Government in appointing the members of the International Commission were:
* To chose persons with experience in the field of vocations and formation, apt for the type of work they were to perform (with theoretical and systematic abilities and with synthesis skills to write and compose adequately).
* They should represent all the stages of the vocational itinerary, from the vocational ministry to the on-going formation.
* They should come from the zones and cultures where the Congregation is established.
* They should represent the Fathers, Brothers and Students.
* Someone among them should have participated in the elaboration of the Claretian Formative Itinerary.
* And, as much as possible, they should speak several languages.
2.3. The IFC held its first encounter in Rome from 23 April to 15 May 1992. The objective of the meeting was to draft the project of the General Plan of Formation that would be sent to the entire Congregation for study and revision.
To carry out its task, it studied and consulted the ecclesial sources (documents from the Holy See, the Congregations and the Bishops’ Conferences), the congregational sources (documents, plans of formation of the Organisms and formative experiences) and some 30 plans of formation of different religious Institutes and Congregations. At a later date, the General Prefecture entrusted to several experts in various areas the revision of the drafted text before sending it to the Congregation for consultation.
The Formation Prefect presented the provisional text to the General Government in the Council Sessions held at the beginning of 1993 (2-15 January). The General Government determined that it be sent to the Congregation for study and, at the same time, it approved the methodology and the time for the consultation.
3. Consultation to the Congregation
3.1. Towards the end of January 1993, the General Secretariat sent the provisional project of the GPF, in Spanish and English, to the Major Superiors, the Superiors of the General Houses and of the Missions, the members of the International Formation Commission and the consultant experts. The objective, as we have said, was that the text be studied and revised in all the Organisms of the Congregation throughout the year 1993, until the first day of December. Also, the Secretariat sent a letter of the General Formation Prefect with a Methodological Guide and some orientations to carry out the work.
3.2. During the month of December of 1993 the observations and suggestions of the organisms, groups and individual persons kept on coming to the General Secretariat.
At the same time, a dossier was begun, entitled “Contributions of the Congregation” to the GPF, containing the ordered compilation of the observations, in order to facilitate the work of the IFC. The work consisted in organising all the contributions received, with no exclusions, grouping them in the same order that appears in the draft of the GPF that had been distributed to the Congregation.
The IFC grouped in the first place the overall evaluations of the GPF. In the second place it gathered together the answers to each of the nine questions of the questionnaire sent by the General Prefecture of Formation. In the third place, it put in order the observations made to the chapters, to the numbers in particular, and to the appendices. Lastly, it also included in the dossier the contributions presented by the Major Superiors on the occasion of the Encounter held in Rome in the month of October 1992.
3.3. The General Government, faithful to the mind of the XXI General Chapter, wanted the entire process of drafting of the GPF, from the beginning to the end, to be as participatory as possible at the congregational level. For this reason it deemed it fitting to ask again for the collaboration of the IFC in the work of incorporating the contributions of the Congregation into the text of the GPF. Thus it convoked again the IFC, which met in Rome from 22 May to 11 June 1994.
The prime objective of this meeting, which took up almost all the time foreseen, was to integrate the observations of the Congregation in the GPF and to prepare the definitive text for approval by the General Government. The work was finished on June 11, Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a highly meaningful day for the Congregation and equally significant for the work that was being concluded, the GPF of the Sons of her Immaculate Heart.
4. Study and Approval of the GPF by the General Government
4.1. On June 12, once the meeting of the IFC was over, Fr. Jesús Mª Palacios, General Prefect of Formation, wrote a letter to the General Government reporting on the work accomplished, and attached the newly drafted text of the GPF with a view to its study and final approval.
4.2. On June 20-25, the General Government, meeting in full Council, dedicated itself to an intense study, chapter by chapter, of the GPF. In various sessions they went about analysing and integrating opportune observations and corrections. Finally in the session of June 25 it was approved for promulgation and publication.
4.3. The Decree of Promulgation, according to the tenor of our legislation, was issued by Fr. General, Aquilino Bocos, on 16 July 1994, Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the 145th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation. In it, he indicated that the GPF would take effect in the Congregation beginning 1 January 1995.
IV. Characteristics of the GPG Project
Besides the Claretian character of the GPF and the participatory dimension in its drafting, it may be helpful to underscore the following:
1. Denomination and Title
Among the various titles that could have been given to it (plan, guide, ratio, orientations, compendium, etc.), it seemed best to call it General Plan of Formation. In the first place, because this is what it has been called throughout the Congregation in recent years and because the last General Chapter approved it to be drafted as such.
And, in the second place, 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. At the time of publication, looking even at the possibility of rendering a service to other Institutes, it was deemed fitting to give it the more generic title of Formation of Missionaries.
Its breadth has received special consideration. A middle term has been opted for. It seemed opportune to develop rather broadly the charismatic elements (which could have been somewhat simplified) of Claretian formation, 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. The references to original sources and the appendices allow for a broadening and deepening of contents.
3. Structure of the Approved and Published Text
The text approved and published by the General Government is the fifth draft of the GPF. It is the outcome of incorporating the observations and suggestions made by the Congregation to the fourth draft that was sent to Major Organisms and General Houses, as well as those that the General Government made to the text presented by the IFC.
It consists of an introduction, two parts and various appendices. The first part deals with the general aspects of Claretian formation that are common to all missionaries. The second goes through the various stages of initial and on-going formation. The appendices offer various tools that aid in understanding and applying it.
In its internal structure, the GPF takes into account the formative process as a continuous process of formation, from vocation ministry through on-going formation. It does not exhaust all the points it deals with. Often, for the sake of brevity, it refers to original sources that may be consulted in greater detail.
4. For the Entire Congregation
It is addressed to all of us who make up the Congregation, priests, deacons, students and brothers, and also to those who are called to form part of the same and are at the point of discernment and preparation. It considers, therefore, the Claretian in a continuous process of formation and in his priestly, diaconal or lay condition. However, it lays a special stress on vocational ministry and the initial formation of those called to missionary life in the Congregation.
The GPF aims at being a tool to challenge all Claretians, since all of us members of the Congregation are responsible, at our different levels, for the vocational ministry as well as for the initial and on-going formation. It aims to be a formative instrument valid for formators and for those in formation; a guide to orient and foster the drafting of Plans of Formation at other levels. All this is geared to guarantee a Claretian formation, which, in its missionary nature, must always be open to the signs of the times and attuned to the realities of the world and of the Church, both universal and particular.
V. Meaning of the GPF for the Congregation
1. A Proposal of Missionary Life
Rather than considering the GPF as a formative compendium, we must see it as proposal for missionary life.
1.1. 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 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. Through it we expect to involve 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 evangelising mission.
1.2. Moreover, the publication of the GPF is an expression of the hope-filled life of the Congregation. In fact, only those who have hope can make plans. Hope leads us to plan, because planning is the decisive way of transforming and dealing successfully with the challenges that we meet. 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 us life, and a continuing invitation to recreated the missionary mystique that accredits us as authentic servants of the Word.
2. A Proposal for the Whole World
Fr. 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.
This new 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 proper of various peoples with the charismatic bent of our universal missionary vocation. This explains why the Claretian stamp is highlighted throughout the GPF. 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 initial 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. It is drafted in such a way that each Organism of the Congregation can adapt it in keeping with its own context and exigencies.
3. The GPF, a Mature Synthesis of the Process of Renewal
If we examine the context of the Congregation’s life, we can appreciate the fact that the GPF is appearing at an adequate moment in the process of renewal.
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 and mission. The General Chapters held during 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 transmit validly in the formation process. 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 formative proposal has been drafted.
4. Magna Carta on Formation
The GPF can 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.
The reason why the GPF can be considered as the Magna Carta on Formation is that all have shared in its writing. All have been 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.
One needs only to 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. The whole Congregation has participated co-responsibly in its drafting, either through the International Formation Commission or through the many and valuable contributions and suggestions sent in by our brethren for the final drafting of the GPF.
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.
With the promulgation and publication of the GPF, the General Government has kept the commitment asked of it by the last General Chapter. Its realisation, both in methodology and in time, has also been carried out following the orientations of the same Chapter.
What was once a strongly felt aspiration of the Congregation has been made possible through the work of the IFC, the participation and co-responsibility of the whole Congregation. And, in a particular way, we have been aided by the special assistance of the Heart of Mary, our Mother and Formatrix, under whose protection the process of drafting the GPF began. To Her we give wholehearted thanks, asking Her that the GPF may be an instrument of authentic and solid Claretian formation, for the good of the Church and of the Congregation.
 CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES, Formation of Missionaries, General Plan of Formation, Rome 1994, 375 pp. In addition to the original Spanish, it has been translated and published in Polish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese.
 We have already seen that, in addition to the Regulations for the Postulants, also valid for the professed, the book Prácticas Espirituales… had, as its object “making as it were a compilation of the practices of our beloved Congregation,” for the Claretian formation of the Novices (Cf. Introduction, p. 6). In the same way, “The Well-Instructed Novice,” by Fr. Ribera, gave formative orientations to the newly professed (pp. 412-426) and special advices to the students (pp. 427-445) and to the coadjutor brothers (pp. 445-454).
 “This idea of the Missionary does not take place in a single stroke; it must keep taking concrete shape little by little in the young Missionaries. Grace ordinarily follows or accommodates itself to nature. Hence, the Prefects should have a joint plan that they should develop proportionally to the plan of studies, which is to say that, just as there is a growing progression in studies and sciences, so should there be one in virtue” (N. GARCÍA, Formación de…, Annales, 28 (1932), p. 236).
The General Assembly of Costa Rica, in order to facilitate the formators’ task, the sensitisation of the young men in the Claretian spirit and to promote a basic uniform formation, asked for the creation of a program with basic contents. This program should be such that, leaving margin for creativity, it could be imparted in all formation stages, accompanied with some monographic explanatory booklets (Cf. Annales, 52 (1976) p. 469).
 One of the fundamental approaches that were taken into account from the beginning, and one of the most difficult to pinpoint was, on the one hand, how to present our charism and spirituality in pedagogical terms. On the other hand, how to stress the Claretian nature at the time of proposing the formative values and orientations. About this theme, cf. J. Mª. PALACIOS, Elaboración de un Plan General de Formación, Boletín de Vida Religiosa, n. 11, 79 (1996), pp. 324-331; El carisma en clave formativa, Ib., n. 12, pp. 356-363.
 For various reasons some of the members of the Commission were not able to participate in the encounter. Actually, the following took part in it: Frs. Jesús Mª Palacios, for the General Government; Lawrence Christian, from USA-WEST; Anthony Rangel, from Mexico; Charles Amadi, from Nigeria; Segundo Alonso, from Canada-Cameroon; Cyriac Njayarkulam, from Sri Lanka; Anthony Paneque, from Korea; Piotr Liszka, from Poland; Gonzalo Fernández, from Castille, and Michael Fernández Fariñas, from Betica.
The IFC sincerely thanks the General Government for the trust it has accorded it from the outset, and for all the facilities and support received during this time in order to be able to effectively fulfil its commitment.
The coincidence of finishing the text on the Feast of the Heart of Mary, our Mother and Foundress, has a symbolic and providential value. From the first day, we placed our task under the protection of Mary, our Formatrix, for in the long run we were going to collaborate in the formation of her sons. As it could hardly be otherwise, she has always been present in our deliberations and decisions. Throughout this time we have felt her encouraging and enlightening presence. We thank her with all our heart and ask her that the GPF may be an instrument of authentic Claretian formation for the good of the Church and of the Congregation” (Annales, 61 (1993-1994), pp. 451, 463).
 On August 12th, the Spanish edition of the GPF was published in Madrid. The work was done by Publicaciones Claretianas of our Community of Buen Suceso. The book, entitled Formación de Misioneros, consists of 376 pages. (The English translation, entitled Formation of Missionaries, has also 376 pages [Translator´s note]). The Presentation, made by Fr. General, Aquilino Bocos, is followed by the Decree of Promulgation. Copies have been sent to all Major Superiors of the Congregation, to the members of the International Formation Commission and to the experts who intervened in its drafting. A sufficient number of copies have also been sent to the formation communities and centres of the various Organisms and General Houses. The idea of the General Government is that each person in formation should have a copy of the GPF for his personal use, beginning in the noviciate.
 As Fr. General says in the Presentation, “In the first place, 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” (p. 7).