The Challenge of Formation

bad appleIn the context of increased media interest in the sex scandals of clergy and religious and unfounded accusations even on the pope (especially in the year of priests, 2010), the Church went through the hour of trial by her commitment to gospel values of repentance and truth. Though the campaign of hatred and vilification of clerics and religious in certain sectors of society has caused much pain in the Church as a whole, she has gained much from the ordeal to live the paschal mystery more visibly in the world.  It is perhaps, the formation of the priests and religious that has to gain more from what the clergy scandals have brought to light. We Claretians share the pain of the Church in the failures of our members in living their commitment faithfully. We also need to allow ourselves challenged in the way we go about the selection and formation of the young men who want to be part of our family.

Education and Training of personnel in every field of human activity has under gone revolutionary changes. Multiple approaches to learning with an emphasis on its experiential aspect has gained ground in the training of people in their corresponding fields of service in the society. It is perhaps the formation of religious and priests which has not changed significantly since many years. The training of priests and religious is mostly input oriented which seems to expect that theological and philosophical knowledge will automatically effect personal change and conversion in a person. Moral failures and emotional weaknesses of many clerics after many formative years in the seminary prove that personal transformation calls for a different approach to priestly formation.

Intellectual learning is one of the important dimensions of formation. Right knowledge supports right living. But emotional and spiritual immaturity in a person will certainly lead to inconsistencies in life and consequent failures in living one’s vocation meaningfully. Our last General chapter has called for a formation that help the interiorization of fundamental values of consecrated life, giving importance to closer accompaniment of the formees at all levels (MFL 63.1).

For a Christian, times of trial are moments of grace. The challenges that the Church faces today invite a paradigm shift in the way church personnel are trained to serve the people of God. We have ample documents and excellent theological principles to guide our formative journey. Perhaps, the need of the hour is strategies and tools that help us move from preaching to practice, rhetoric to reality and expositions to experience. Preaching will then flow from God experience which makes it credible because words and deeds will speak the same truth.

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