Report on Formation-MSM Colminar 2010

Claretian Formation: Report for MSM, Colminar, 2010

  1. Introduction

The General chapter reflected on the theme of formation within the scope of passing on the fire to future generations. It is only when the Spirit is poured on the flesh that the young men shall see visions and the old dream dreams (Jl 3:1; Acts 2: 17). The Claretian formative itinerary which prepare us to be men on fire with love “spring from a real conformity with Christ the Evangelizer and from a close communion and friendship with Him,so that it will no longer be we who live, but Christ who truly lives in us” (GPF 13).

 After 10-12 years of formation, can we claim that our formandi are able to come closer to this formative goal through the formative programme in our formation centers? Do our important decisions regarding assignments, preparation of personnel and investment of funds reveal our preoccupation for passing the fire to the future generations? The major concern in formation is how to realize the excellent goals we have about formation and help the formandi to live their consecration joyfully and faithfully at the service of the Church and humanity.

The central concern of the General Chapter regarding formation has been about facilitating the transformation of the whole person of the formandus by the internalization of Claretian vocational values through proper accompaniment by qualified formators.

2.Some preliminary considerations

  1.  In the fast changing, globalized and secular context of our times our missionaries need to be prepared to communicate the gospel message in a language that would respond to people’s spiritual longing and thirst for the Word of God which are expressed differently than in other times.
  2. The recent media attention about the abuses of clergy and the ecclesiastical hierarchy has highlighted the lacuna in the preparation of church personnel that has permitted a serious discrepancy between preaching and practice, the ideals proclaimed and the values lived. Our own data regarding the number of persons seeking exclaustrations, secularizations, dispensations from vows as well as dysfunctional communities and “difficult” members should be allowed to challenge us to place selection and formation of missionaries and preparation of formators on our “high priority” list.
  3. The traditional formative approach with its emphasis mostly on conceptual learning needs to be complemented by other approaches that involve the other dimensions of the person, if we want to assure an integral and holistic formation.
  4. The specificity of religious formation has to affirm a spiritual transformation that realizes conformity with Christ as an experiential reality in the formandi and the formative means are to be gauged towards this goal of formation. In spite of updated and advanced learning methods and personal growth programs, formation can suffer seriously if spiritual transformation of the person is not targeted.
  5. Missionary formation necessarily goes beyond mere personal growth and self empowerment of the formandi to include growth in community living and effective team work which testifies and proclaims the values of the Kingdom.
  6. For a missionary it is important to cultivate skills for effective pastoral outreach to the recipients of the mission. Our formative programs should attend to learning of languages, communication skills, music and personal gifts of the formandi.
  7. A transformative formation leads finally to a generous availability of the whole person and his resources at the service of the congregational mission rather than driving him to work out personal projects unconnected to the community.

    3. The Call of the General Chapter 2009

While acknowledging the many initiatives in the area of formation, and the efforts to provide enough structures of formation in the emerging missionary zones, the chapter called for a qualitative improvement in initial formation. To realize this the chapter identified the following approaches.

3.1.Importance given to interiorization of the fundamental values of consecrated life (62). It requires:

  1. A shift of focus, from the contents of formation (inputs given) to the formation process (what a formandus does with the inputs and how he integrates various aspects of his life to his vocational project ).
  2. An integral vision of formation in which the academic training received from educational institutions is harmonized with a holistic formation for missionary life and commitment to religious life.
  3. Application of methods (regular vocational growth sessions, spiritual direction) that realize interiorization of vocational values concretely in the formandus.

Our reality

An over view of the formation scenario is given in the chart below (August 20, 2010).

ACLA

ACLA-East

ASCLA-West

CICLA

IBERIA &
CEC

NACLA

Total

Formation centers

18

14

18

28

8

2

88

Formators

41

24

56

37

11

4

173

Minor sem/prepedeutic*

68

139

300

61

6

574

Postulants*

51

23

128

74

3

6

285

novices

35

19

29

20

7

2

112

professed

183

70

148

84

19

7

511

Brothers in formation

1

6

1

8

1

17

Total formandi

338

257

606

247

36

15

1499

* The differentiation between minor seminary and Postulancy are not always clear as in some cases those in the last year of minor seminary are considered postulants. In this chart they are listed in minor seminary/prepedeutic..

In spite of the changing demographic face of the congregation, we are blessed with a number of vocations and nearly sufficient structures spread out in different parts of the world. But the real challenge is to assure the quality of formation that guarantees fidelity to the charism and mission of the congregation in the world. The development of the congregation in new cultures and places very different from that of the founder makes familiarity with the origins and the growth of the congregation less tangible to the formandi.

We witness the impact of the values of consumer culture of our globalized society on the youth. The young men who reach the portals of our formation centers carry with them deep impressions of this impact in their whole person. It is in this ground that the seed of religious vocation has to take root and grow. Such a growth calls for a more holistic and integral approach that engage the whole person in formation.

In general most of our formation centers follow an input-centered approach to formation. Often due to the demand of the studies in academic contexts, there is not much space given for other formative interventions. Often due to lack of preparation for formative accompaniment formators count on the effectiveness of inputs received from the institutes where our students study to form them. Internalization of vocational values have to take place in the affective and motivational world of the formadi in order to make them true in their lived life.

3.2.Accompaniment of the formandi (MFL. 63.1)

One of the fundamental difference of religious formation from the training of professionals in the various others fields of human activity is that the other professions focus on a particular expertise in a field (for e.g., medicine)narrowed again in a specialized sub-section (e.g., pediatrics). This training does not intend directly to affect the morals and values of the trainees. In the recent past the training of personnel in helping professions (counselors, doctors, social workers) began to give attention also to the personal integrity and holistic growth of the trainees in order to become effective professionals. Various forms of personal accompaniment and helps for personal growth are now being made part of their training.

In a religious formation the person of the formandus is at the center of his training and therefore his formation is basically a program of vocational discernment and growth. Mere intellectual grasp of the theological treatises on Christian mysteries without the corresponding spiritual awakening and growth naturally leaves room for a dichotomy between faith and life during and after initial formation. Spiritual awakening affects the whole person in his emotional, imaginal, moral, spiritual and charismatic dimensions of his life. Progressive Interiorization of the evangelical counsels radically affects the psycho-spiritual structures of the person causing inner conflicts, resistances and defenses.   The process of breaking and building involved in spiritual transformation is the work of the Spirit in a willing person, but it also requires human mediations of a guide or mentor who accompanies the formandus in his journey. In all spiritual traditions a seeker makes his spiritual journey under the guidance of an experienced spiritual master. If our formation aims at spiritual transformation of our formandi, we have to assure the presence of experienced formators who accompany the vocational journey of the formandi. An experienced formators is one who, on the one hand, is consistent in his own personal life and knows and loves the congregation and its charism, and, on the other hand, is able to understand the struggles of a student and can affirm and confront him appropriately in order to facilitate his vocational growth.

Our reality

There is the awareness and desire to give accompanied formation to the formandi in almost all our centers of formation. Different practices are in vogue in these centers of formation. Personal accompaniment is offered by the presence of the formator with the formandi, frequent personal conferences by the formator, and availing the service of spiritual directors and psychologists to the formandi in need.

On the side of frequency of personal conferences with the formandi, the common practice is once a month. There are a few centers where formators meet the formandi twice a year and in rare cases once a year. I think we have not yet developed a formative culture of personal accompaniment in many zones of the congregation. Often a formators are comfortable with the role of a disciplinarian or warden and the task of accompaniment is relegated to spiritual fathers, professional guides or psychologists. The two perspectives on spiritual direction (the formator be the spiritual director or a separate spiritual director) continue to be practiced in the congregation.

In practice effective personal accompaniment of the individual formandus is still lacking in many centers of formation due to many factors such as:

  • Too many formandi for a single formator to accompany
  • Busy schedule of the formator who has other responsibilities or interests to attend to
  • Lack of training for formative accompaniment of the young

The formator’s own experience of being accompanied and his accompaniment skills play a vital role in rendering effective personal accompaniment. Lack of cohesion in the formation team and individualistic attitude of formators also come in the way of effective accompaniment.

Accompaniment in Pastoral formation

Adequate and accompanied contact with the suffering humanity is an essential for a holistic formation. If we have to be evangelized by the poor, our formandi should have opportunities to hear their cry and listen to them with a heart and mind illumined by the Word of God. Most of our centers of formation have good pastoral programs. It is the aspect of accompaniment in pastoral programs that needs to be improved in some of the centers. In those centers where there is very little opportunity of contact and reflection on the suffering humanity, this aspect needs to be incorporated.

The JPIC secretariat of the union of superiors General (USG) has released a formation document with suggestions to improve formation in the aspect of JPIC. This could be used as a good instrument with adaptations in our formation centers.

How can we ensure effective accompaniment?

  • Major superiors give particular attention to the formation houses by occasional visits, meeting of formators etc.
  • The major superiors see to it that there are sufficient number of formators proportionate to the number of formandi .
  • Formators be trained to understand and accompany the formandi in their growth process
  • On the part of formators credible personal witness is essential for effective accompaniment.
  • We also need to strive for communion and team work among the formation community

3.3. Preparation of formators and their availability for the mission of formation (63.3)

The chapter asked for special attention to the preparation and dedication of formators (MFL 63). In a personalized and accompanied formation the role of formators is significant for vocational discernment and growth. The complex factors that affect the life of young persons who enter the congregation requires adequate preparation on the part of formators in order to understand and help them in their vocational journey. A good number of our formators are ill prepared for it. Good will and natural grace for formative help alone will not suffice to carry out the mission of formation today. Selection and preparation of formators is vital for the future of the congregation. The following indications could be of help in the preparation of formators.

  • Natural grace for formation ministry which involves spiritual and psychological maturity, relational skills and capacity for empowering others in their holistic growth (Cf. GPF 108-109, Dir. 249)
  • A minimum of 2-3 years of pastoral ministry, as far as possible, in difficult mission contexts
  • knowledge of claretian charism and patrimony. It can be gained through Participation in the school of formators in vic.
  • Specialization in some areas of study which enable the formator to participate in the academic preparation of the formandi when required
  • At least a minimum level of training (say, one year) in spiritual direction and formative accompaniment . There are short term courses available in different continents to meet this need.

Our reality

It is to be acknowledged that we have many generous and committed formators in our formation centers. Often many of them have to be content with their natural talents for formation or a specialization in a branch of theology. In the report of the provinces/delegations to General government prior to the General chapter, seventeen of them stated that the most important challenge in formation was to prepare formators. In many cases formators were assigned to fill in immediate needs without prior preparation to take up this important task.   The following are some of the difficulties in the selection and preparation of formators

–          General unwillingness of missionaries to dedicate themselves in the mission of formation

–          Short term assignments in formation to fill immediate needs without due preparation

–          Lack of long term plan for preparing formators

–          Shortage of committed and able personnel impel the assignment of those few to important ministries of the province/delegation.

–          When formators are equipped with specialized preparation, they tend to devote time and energy to respond to the demands coming from outside.

Many Provinces with a significant number of formandi are caught up in a vicious cycle of “mediocrity breeding mediocrity” . This happens when certain situations force insufficiently prepared missionaries to be called into formation ministry to meet frequently occurring “emergencies”. Perhaps, there is not enough awareness about the kind of formation required for formators. When formative culture and environment (selection and formative accompaniment) suffer due to various factors (e.g. Initial stages of mission), the limitations caused by it is carried on to future, unless conscious and bold decisions are taken to break this vicious cycle and create a culture of qualitative formation. There are several instances when the only preparation received by the formator is that of the SHM in Vic.

Attention is also required to assure that there are formation teams that effectively collaborate together to instill the sense of community and common mission in the formandi.

School of the Heart for Mary (SHM) for formators in Vic

The course for formators is conducted for the formators to become familiar with Claretian patrimony and plan of formation. Though the course is well appreciated by the participants, the impact of the course in our centers seem to be limited because only very few of the participants are actually working in formation. The following chart summarizes the data regarding the participants of SHM and their service in formation.

Year of the corse

Number of participants

Now working in formation

Total in formation

Spanish

1997

21

1

7 out of 46

1999

14

1

2006

11

5

English

2000

16

3

30 out of 83

2003

17

2

2005

13

0

2008

18

7

20010

20

14

Total

129

37

37 out of 129

Out of the 173 missionaries serving in the formation houses at present, only 37 formators (21%) have attended the Claretian course for formators held in Rome and Vic . Only 29% of those who attended SHM are serving in formation centers now. Five of them are in further studies as part of their preparation. Most of those who attended SHM seems to have worked for 2-4 years in formation.

It was pointed out in the report of the General government that the low presence of SHM formators serving in our centers of formation, in spite of the evident need to strengthen a greater sense of belongingness to the Congregation in the formandi, could be due factors such as:

  • Formators who have done some specialization were taken for granted as prepared for formation. When they have done the specialization in the universities of Europe, they were expected to know the Founder’s place and the charism well and therefore they were not sent to the course in order to give opportunity to others.
  • Persons were selected to participate in the course for formators on the basis of other criteria such as personal renewal, seniority, remuneration, group representation etc.
  • Short term difficulty to find replacements for formators during the course

Three courses of formators (SHM) are planned in this sexennium. They are courses in English in 2010 (already completed) and in 2013, and Spanish in 2011. The courses are in the months of April. May and June.

What could be done?

–          That the provinces/delegations make a long term plan so that within the next 5 years they can count on a team of prepared and committed formators who accompany the formandi in their vocational growth.

–          To make participation in SHM as part of the program of preparation for a Claretian formator.

–          In collaboration with the Gen. Prefecture of formation, the formators encounters be organized to empower the formators.

–          Sufficient number of prepared formators be assigned to take care of formation in the centers where the number of formandi are greater.

3.4.Formative resources (MFL. 63.4)

Contemporary social sciences and the science of education have made rapid progress in the past decades. They provide insights and strategies to enhance personal growth as well as tools to deal with many human problems. Personal and pastoral formation of the formandi can greatly gain from the contributions of these sciences. The prudent use of the media and the educative tools of these sciences can greatly enhance a holistic formation and help us to respond better the signs of our times.

Among the various areas of professional training, it is Perhaps religious and priestly formation that remain basically unchanged in the past several decades. We are now being confronted by the pitfalls in the lived life of the clergy and missionaries. Practical and experiential learning of the materials learnt is proper to adult learning. Ongoing formation of formators to update them in different aspects of formation will equip them better for accompaniment. The formative resources which we need to benefit more are those resources that enhance the process of personal growth and maturity.

It is also important to update the libraries with enough resources with books and multimedia resources pertaining to different aspects of our formation.

By the end of this sixennium, GPF will have completed 20 years since its promulgation. It is foreseen to have a revision of the GPF towards the end of this sexennium to make the necessary updating of this formative document.

3.5. Formative culture of the province/delegation (63.2)

The chapter highlighted the role of the entire congregation, province and community in assuring a quality formation in the congregation. Formative culture of the province seem to exert greater influence on the shaping of the missionaries in the long run, especially when there is prevalence of counter witness in terms of attitudes, group dynamics and behavioural patterns. For example, tribal/caste tensions present in province or attitudes and habits proper to diocesan clergy practiced by significant people may have more influence on the formandi’s future behaviour than all the ideals presented to them in the formation houses. Hence it is important to take stock of the subliminal messages which the life style of the missionaries communicate to the formandi.

To facilitate a formative environment in the formation centers care needs to be taken in the assignment of persons in the formation community which assures reasonable testimony of life and inspiration for the students. Presence of missionaries in formation contexts (as community members, professors etc.) with a life style uninspiring or contrary to consecrated life may easily undermine the formative journey of the young missionaries. Similarly, real formation for community life is received from the quality of fraternal life in our communities rather than by discourses on community life or recourse to our documents.

The way provinces address the practices in members that are inconsistent with religious life has great formative impact in formation. Tacit acceptance of them due to fear of confrontation easily promote hypocrisy while inconsiderate and aggressive confrontation may lead to compliance out of fear. Meaningful dealing with such issues create a culture of honesty and compassion without compromising fundamental principles of life.

3.6.Intercultural dimension in formation (MFL. 63.5)

Most of our formation houses are composed of formandi originating from diverse cultural, linguistic or ethnic groups and they bring the richness of these cultures into the community. Differences become an enrichment of the community when they are integrated within the fundamental objective of the community and the Charism of the congregation. Our future as a congregation has to count on how we build up intercultural communities at the service of the Kingdom. There are many resources available today to understand and deal with the various group dynamics in an intercultural group which affect group goals.

The international formation communities composed of formandi assigned by Fr. General at the service of universal mission is of particular importance. The workshop held in Vic in November, 2008 was an initial step to share and learn from the experiences of these communities. A further step is to consolidate the experiences and march ahead based on the suggestions of the same workshop. The suggestions regarding appropriate selection, preparation and reception of the assigned students are to be given due attention.

It has been found that it is profitable for the emerging zones of the congregation to have some of the students formed in Spain in order to facilitate the link with the historical roots in Spain. This possibility could be explored by the respective provinces after consulting with Father General.

3.7.Universal dimension

We are at a privileged moment of history when easy communications and contact among peoples in the planet is making it a global village. The congregation too is undergoing many changes both in its extension and constitution of members. Reorganization of structures within the congregation is an example of these changes. There is a growing consciousness about our common mission and joint responsibility regarding our contribution in the Church and the world as Claretians, though we are a smaller religious community. Formation of our missionaries has to take this reality into consideration so as to form missionaries to rise up to this challenge. There are three aspects to be fostered in formation:

–          Contact with the historical roots and spiritual patrimony of the congregation in the new zones of the congregation.

–          Knowledge of the claretian missions in the world and fluid communication at least among the centers of formation.

–          Availability to be sent where missionary service is most needed

Barriers in communication especially of differences in language prevents free flow of communication among us. The general chapter has invited to make the two language formula for the congregation. Learning of languages is now much easier with the help of information technology and methods of learning. We should aim at reaching the goal of achieving active or passive knowledge in either one of the present official languages (Spanish and English) of the congregation when their native tongue is different, and both in the case of the native speakers of either of the official languages.

3.8. Formation centers as Schools of the Word (MFL. 59.1)

If we are to be truly servants of the word, our missionaries are to grow in their love the Word and learn to live by it. By the end of initial formation our missionaries in formation will have to become proficient in the Word of God through biblical studies, lectio divina and other means available. Right from the beginning of the formative itinerary, Word of God needs to be given great importance. The guidelines of Initiation into the ministry of the Word are   of great help in this regard .

4.Animation of the General Prefecture of Formation

The General prefecture of formation is committed to assist the provinces and conferences in their efforts to improve the formation programs and preparation of formations. With greater communication, net working and pooling of resources we can achieve a lot for the formation of our young missionaries.

4.1.Formation collaborators from the conferences.

To facilitate team work and coordination of activities at regional levels, it would be helpful if there is a formation coordinator for each conference. They could help the General prefect of formation to plan programs of formation at regional levels.

4.2.Web page on Formation

The webpage on formation suffered a hacking in the past year and has not been recuperated yet. As there are structural changes expected in the immediate future regarding the design of the official website, a renovated page with more features is foreseen to help formators and formandi.   It will be an easily accessible source for formation materials , but it would be difficult to realize it without the cooperation of formators and claretian resource persons. Similarly, We will make use of the facilities of distant education to assist the formators and formandi with helpful resources for a holistic formation.

4.3.Encounter of Formation prefects

The meeting of formation prefects of the major organisms is a rich moment of sharing of experiences and learning together to move forward together in the area of formation. The meeting of the prefects is envisaged in 2012, possibly in the continent of Africa. As part of the commitment in formation to learn both languages, the prefects of formation are invited to learn active and/or passive knowledge of both English and Spanish so that we will do away with simultaneous translation in the encounter.

5.Conclusion

Our future depends on the quality of the formation we offer to our young missionaries and the way they benefit from it in becoming committed and effective missionaries. Any effort in this direction is worthwhile. If we take advantage of the opportunities available today and make use of the formative resources for the growth of our young missionaries, we would be preparing a ready ground for the action of the Spirit to make of us men on fire with love.

“If I can have good students now, I’ll have good priests and good pastors later. Think how much more rest I’ll have then!…It is very important for students to be continually nourished spiritually during their studies; otherwise they will grow up to be proud, 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.”

Auto 92. (Claret quotes his bishop Corcuera)

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