General Plan of Formation (GPF 2020)

GPF can quite fittingly be considered as the Magna Carta on Formation that the Congregation, as mother and teacher, offers to its members, and above all to its new missionaries. It gathers up the core essentials of our missionary life and high lights its dimensions: charismatic, Christocentric, ecclesial, cordimarian, and human.




161. By factors in formation, we mean those realities (persons and surroundings) that have an impact on structuring and personal maturation and on the formation process. They can be either internal or external to the person, and they are interrelated. In principle, they are not pedagogically intentional, either on the part of the formator or of the formandus. Some of them are inherited and others are natural or social milieu, received as they are, without any plan or special pedagogical purpose.

162. The lack of pedagogical thrust does not mean that these factors have no impact on the process of formation. On the contrary, they usually have a broad and intense impact, both positive and negative. Moreover, when possible, they can be given a formative thrust in an explicit way. Dealt with in this way, these factors are converted into formative dynamisms and means. Hence, formative factors have been taken into account in the GPF and should be considered in the drafting of formation projects, either as a frame of reference or as dynamisms and means of formation.

1. Personal factors

1.1. Physical factors

163. Physical factors are, for the most part, hereditary. Some, however, can be acquired, such as certain illnesses or limitations. Physical factors include health, age, sex and bodily conditions. They have an influence on personal development and on one’s endowments with qualities, aptitudes and future possibilities. Hence, both the Church[2] and the Congregation[3] refer to them in the process of vocational discernment. They indicate, for example, a minimum age for beginning the novitiate, for first and perpetual profession and for ordination. Among the various requirements for entry, they also speak of adequate health. Although they do not describe what this consists of, this generic description includes, at least, sufficient health to allow the candidate to live and fulfill the demands of the missionary life.[4]

164. Given the importance of health in personal balance and in the development of the missionary life, we should strive to take care of it through regular physical exercise, sports, a balanced diet and acquiring good habits of hygiene, cleanliness, rest and relaxation.[5]

1.2. Psychological factors

165. Psychological factors are those that describe the individual’s personality and its dimensions (sensation, perception, intelligence, interests, attitudes, aptitudes, needs and motivations). The influence of psychological personality traits on a person’s behavior is decisive. Moreover, personality is something that keeps evolving. Although it remains basically the same, it keeps changing as one matures. Hence, a good deal of pedagogical importance is attached to the development of a consistent personality.

166. One criterion for discerning a vocation is the so-called natural bent of the individual. This notion includes temperament, character and personality. Special attention should be given in the process of discernment to the study of vocational motivations, the capacity to live in community, psychological factors that affect the internalization of the values of the Kingdom, the so-called “delayed adolescence” or late maturation of today’s youth, and emotional and psycho-sexual maturity. Special attention must be given to human maturity which is the foundation of all development, given that it has a particularly strong impact on the stability of one’s vocational choice, on community life, and on an integrated living of the evangelical counsels. It is always necessary, then, to be assured of the absence of contraindications in this area (psychological illnesses as such and defects that are incompatible with Claretian life), with the help of specialists.[6]

1.3. Youth-related factors

167. Candidates for our missionary life are, as a general rule, young men who have both the virtues and shortcomings of the new generations. Today’s young people live in a great diversity of contexts and cultures, even within the same country.[7] But, at the same time, growing globalization permits us to point out some common features.

168. There are factors in today’s world which are shaping the configuration of youth culture. Young people are growing up in a world in crisis[8] that includes themselves among its vulnerable victims: there are contexts of violence, of exclusion, of lack of alternatives,[9] of ideologization, and of exploitation of youth by political and economic powers.[10]

169. There exist also factors internal to persons. Profound wounds that are the fruit of personal history, frustrated desires, the suffering of discrimination and injustices, the failure to be loved or recognized, and of errors committed.[11] Young people are aware of the importance of their bodies and sexuality in the development of their personal identity, but they find it difficult to accept their own bodies and to live their affective relationships peacefully.[12] And they experience other profound desires:[13] for God, for fraternity, for developing their personal gifts, for oneness with nature, for communication, for living a different kind of life…

170. In all these realities, certain characteristics emerge that significantly influence the process of discernment and 0f vocational development.[14] Among the more widespread values the following stand out: a sensibility for justice, non-violence and peace; openness to friendship, fraternity and solidarity; a new concept and style in man-woman relationships; an attitude of openness and dialogue;[15] mobilization for causes such as human rights, ecological conservation and quality of life;[16] a thirst for freedom and authenticity and the aspiration for a better world.[17]

171. There are also some negative features, such as an attraction to and dependence on a consumerist society, an individualistic, narcissistic and hedonistic attitude towards life and the rejection of anything that might entail sacrifice or renunciation in living spiritual and religious values,[18] the challenges of instant gratification, and difficulty in tolerating frustration and controlling impulses. To confront this negativity and defend their personal freedom, the youth clearly need accompaniment in achieving a strong inner autonomy.

172. Taken as a whole, there are many values emerging among the new generations that we ought to take into account in the processes of vocation ministry and in formation. These values, properly discerned and enhanced in the light of the Gospel, point the way to the profile that religious life and ministry will be taking on in the coming years. Given the diversity deriving from our presence in diverse geographical and cultural areas, the GPF cannot get down to a detailed analysis, but recommends that this be done in provincial and local plans.

1.4. Spiritual factors

173. Spiritual formation is oriented toward nourishing and sustaining communion with God and with our brothers and sisters in friendship with Jesus and in docility to the Holy Spirit.[19] Candidates with a great desire to search for Jesus and live intimately with Him[20] must be accompanied in this spiritual dimension of formation through prayer, listening to the Word, the devout participation in the sacraments and the liturgy, among other things.

174. There are candidates coming to us from new ecclesial movements and religious and diocesan communities. This reality presents a challenge when it comes to introducing them to Claretian missionary religious life. Our formation must place emphasis on the Claretian charism and spirituality, beginning in vocation ministry and initial formation, and deepening throughout the whole formation process.[21]

2. Environmental factors

2.1. The family

175. The family can be the normal place for the growth of children and the first agent for socializing persons. This socialization is brought about by a process of internalizing the cultural values that are lived in the family. The family, as the best school for humanizing persons,[22] is not only the direct transmitter of values through the education of children; its social situation, economic level, type of family relationships and the religious environment it creates, all exercise a special influence on the person.

176. The educational mission of the family, a community of faith, life and love, embraces all dimensions of the person. For this very reason, parents should, by means of the Christian education of their children, cultivate and preserve in them whatever favors their discovery of and response to a religious vocation.[23] In this way, when the family lives up to its mission as the domestic church, it becomes the first seminary of its children.[24]

177. Hence, the family and the family environment in which the candidate has lived constitute a decisive and conditioning factor for the vocational and formative future of the person who enters the Congregation. A sound family, human and Christian education is always a solid basis and a guarantee for the future Claretian formation of the candidate. By contrast, anomalous family situations, problems and conflicts among family members, and the values that are lived in the heart of the family, especially if these values are not very Christian and evangelical, can offer more or less consistent difficulties for the normal unfolding of his formation.

178. It must be recognized that in the world today, we see really remarkable changes taking place in family life. Divorce, single-parent families, lack of permanent commitment, union between persons of the same sex, are phenomena that challenge the basic structure of our society.[25] Candidates that come from non-traditional family structures represent a great challenge for our houses of formation as to how to respond to this lived reality of today’s young people and provide for them a more thorough and integral formation.

179. All of this makes the family a key element in vocational discernment that has to be taken very much into account during the whole process of formation, but in particular at its beginning. Throughout the process, attention must be paid to the family’s influence on the motivations and behavior of the candidate, in order to help him become integrated into the new family to which he has been called. When a candidate comes from a family belonging to other religious traditions, it will be necessary to get to know his family’s religious environment and help him to focus his whole prior religious experience on following Jesus within the Claretian community. At the same time, we need to be conscious of some problems related to specific family dynamics such as the kind of boundaries established in families and their influence, relationships between siblings, alcoholism and history of abuses.

180. An adequate and balanced formation will have to be, on the one hand, aware of the positive influence that the family can exert on the life of the formandi[26] and, on the other hand, consistent with the gospel demand to renounce one’s own family,[27] which is called for both by the process of personal maturation and by our own distinctive style of life and mission.

181. In order to better accompany them, formators must have an in-depth knowledge of the candidates’ background, their families, their social and economic situation, the character of their interpersonal relationships. Such knowledge of the family and culture of the candidate will assist the formators in distinguishing between what is cultural and what is proper to his personality. Therefore, formators are encouraged to meet and dialogue with the family of our candidates.

2.2. The physical space

182. Natural physical space consists of the physical conditions of our surroundings: landscape, climate, elevation and the physical lay of the land. Artificial space is one created by human beings in order to dominate nature. It involves an ambivalent ensemble of phenomena: the city, the noises and the frequent unhygienic conditions.

183. The relationship between physical and artificial space can be either harmonious or unbalanced, either ecological or exploitative. Hence, bearing in mind the influence exerted by our surroundings and our present-day sensibility of concern for the world in which we live, it is important to foster those attitudes which best serve a formation that is in harmony with and respectful of nature.

184. All of this has its influence on the different types of persons and cultures. Human history also records different modalities of cultures that are closely linked to the natural surroundings in which they have arisen. All of these traits must be respected and valued in formation. When they are placed in service of our common project, they enrich it and make it more universal.

2.3. Culture and society

185. The complex social reality that surrounds us already described above in the frame of reference,[28] and the educational environment have positive and negative traits that exert an increasingly important influence on the process of personal maturation. There are some values – such as an awareness of the dignity and inviolability of the person, an affirmation of the inalienable right to life, a hunger for justice and truth, a respect for pluralism, an interest and concern for the defense of nature and a growing closeness between peoples – that open up new horizons of hope and offer a positive framework for personal and community growth, and for an awakening of missionary sensibility. They facilitate the personalization that we seek and favor the acquisition of values and habits that are very much in line with our prophetic and liberating mission.[29]

186. Others, in contrast – such as the culture of destruction and death (violence, war, marginalization, and exploitation),[30] individualism, consumerism, and secularism – reflect a lack of solidarity, the unbridled lust for power and comfort, and religious indifference. These elements shape the existential horizon in which we find ourselves, marking people and hindering a sense of availability, missionary itinerancy, and the assimilation of gospel traits that are indispensable for a missionary: acceptance of objective mediations, selfless surrender, and a predilection for the poorest of the poor.[31]

187. In this sociocultural context, we are called upon to achieve a sensibility for the culture of life, justice, peace and the integrity of the created world. Our formation must provide opportunities to have contact with the most vulnerable,[32] be enculturated and must guarantee an adequate preparation that will allow us to offer responsibly, like Claret, a missionary and prophetic response to the manifold challenges that face us. We should pay special attention to a critical analysis of reality and to the practice of discernment, so that we may all learn how to interpret reality from the standpoint of faith.

188. Society assumes a different face according to the different peoples among whom we live. From them we receive a particular way of understanding life and history. The knowledge and appreciation of the symbols and values of a people’s culture will keep forming us as persons and will give us the kind of attunement we need in order to better understand the hopes and problems of those human beings whose existence we share. Jesus Christ, anointed by the Spirit, welcomed the Father’s will and shared the sorrows of his people. We contemplate the Master and welcome his word by opening up our hearts and sharing the anguish and hopes of our brothers and sisters. These people are constantly challenging us by their life-witness, their capacity for struggle and transformation and their hope in the coming of a new society. We perceive all these values when we keep in constant relationship with them. For this reason we must make an effort to listen to the Word of God in personal prayer, in the events of history and also in the cultures and life of different peoples, in their silences and in their outcries. We can only evangelize when we open ourselves to others, offering them the best of ourselves and sharing our hope with them.

2.4. Technology and communications media

189. Technology has so radically transformed the world of communications that we now speak of a new digital continent populated by millions of internet users. The world is increasingly becoming a “global village” although many peoples and individuals are still unjustly disconnected. The forms of manipulation and control also abound. The Church invites us to be present in this new continent and warns us of its illusions and traps.[33] It is from this new world that many of our candidates come.

190. We recognize the urgency, the opportunities and the apostolic effectiveness of the communications media which obliges us to use them with creativity.[34] Their use has gone beyond mere communication; they are now a way of being and expressing oneself. Therefore, formandi need norms and regulations for proper conduct while navigating Internet content. In order to prevent improper uses and possible addictions that may cause them to isolate themselves from the community and prevent their proper inculturation in the mission, the formandi must learn to use these media prudently, with a responsible and critical attitude. Workshops and seminars about digital culture, networks, and specializations in the communications media must be an integral part of our formation.

2.5. The Church community

191. Our Claretian vocation must be situated within the context of the People of God. The Church, as mother and educator of vocations, accompanies them from their birth up to their full maturity throughout the process of formation.[35] The Church is the setting in which the community lives its charism and carries out its formative mission.[36]

192. The special period of grace and opening to renewal in the Church with the Second Vatican Council, with its ensuing proliferation of fruits of evangelical life, constitutes the context to which formation should constantly make reference. The call to a new evangelization has become an updated context that stamps the formation process with a special newness in its ardor, in its methods and in its expressions.[37] The papal magisterium, which has illuminated the new situation of the Church and the world with important documents on Jesus Christ,[38] the Father,[39] the Spirit,[40] Mary,[41] women,[42] the vocation and mission of the laity,[43] the social situation,[44] the mission of the Church,[45] the problem of truth,[46] the theological virtues,[47] holiness,[48] the joy of evangelization,[49] the care of creation,[50] and the family,[51] must also be reflected in the formation of Claretian missionaries. It is also necessary to bear in mind the guidelines of the bishops and of the episcopal conferences of each region. The new Catechism of the Catholic Church must likewise constitute a reference point for growth in the sense of ecclesial communion.

193. An adequate mediation of the Church in formation entails an effort to live in harmony and communion with the Church, allowing ourselves experiences of evangelization and faith, harmoniously encouraging all vocations and offering them our own distinctive charismatic input, both for their own advantage and for the building up of the Body of Christ. In this sense, we can find enrichment in an adequate knowledge of and participation in the different charismatic experiences of the Church.

194. Thinking with the Church (sentire cum Ecclesia) and loving it will also act as a formative stimulus to work toward overcoming some of the shadows that affect it and toward promoting: an organic communion among the Church’s different vocations and between charisms and ministries; unity in pluralism; the mission of evangelizing those who have not yet heard the Good News of the Kingdom; and inculturation and openness to the world.[52] An esteem for the Church’s universality, manifested in ecumenical attitudes of concern for all churches, dialogue with other cultures and religions and openness to their distinctive traits and needs, is very much in keeping with our missionary vocation. Collaboration with other institutes of consecrated life favors our common task of building the Kingdom among all.

2.6. The Congregational community

195. Responsibility for vocation ministry and for missionary formation is incumbent on the whole Congregation.[53] It is the Congregation that welcomes those who are called to it and accompanies them in their process of formation, offering them a project of life and mission, and assuring them of the means to carry it out.

196. The witness of fidelity to our vocation and of coherence with our charism will act as a stimulus to attract vocations and as an invitation to growth and maturation. The constant renewal of our communities, their experience of God, and their happy and simple life of brotherhood can become one of the best means to help formation unfold in a harmonious way. The universal dimension of the Congregation, especially in those areas where cultural pluralism and interaction between diverse ethnic groups is most palpable, acts as a constant call to form our candidates in openness and respect for all peoples and cultures, as well as in missionary itinerancy and availability.

197. The shadows of the Congregation, analyzed in the last General Chapters,[54] also have an influence on the process of formation. Our limitations and deficiencies constitute a call to promote an authentic formation that is thoroughly human and Christian, profoundly Claretian, and constantly renewed.

2.7. The Province or Delegation community

198. Although our first and most radical belonging is to the Congregation as such, we carry out our missionary life and our processes of formation in the setting of our Major Organisms. Each one of them has its own history, is located in a determined country or region, is made up of persons whose faces are well known and carries out works in which those who become incorporated into it collaborate. Through its members it takes responsibility for formation by means of witness, prayer, fraternal life, apostolic commitments and concern for the formandi. Hence, the Major Organism is a special milieu that has a very close influence on formation. A close knowledge of persons and works, participation in designated events and collaborating in missionary tasks, are expressions that can favor the sense of belonging in our formandi, indispensable for their simultaneous growth in universal openness.

199. Members of the Congregation must take care that an inordinate love for country or one’s own culture not get in the way of their adaptation to the people they are to evangelize.[55] Hence, we need to be attentive that no national or regional culture shall be superimposed on the culture of the peoples we are sent to evangelize.

3. The places

3.1. The social and cultural setting of the formation community

200. The social setting, as a living environment, is a factor of considerable importance in the formation process. Even when this local setting may vary, in keeping with the different stages of formation, the criteria that govern the choice of a setting ought to combine the demands of a formation that is carried out in the context and praxis of mission, with adequate academic preparation.

201. Formation must always be contextualized, but at the same time open to the horizon of universality proper of our charism. When the time comes to choose the most appropriate social setting, all the elements that guarantee the integral formation of the person, as stated in this Plan, must be taken into account.

202. Among the different ways of setting up these communities, we find some that are inserted in working class neighborhoods, with a view to forming missionaries who identify with the poor and their cause, so that they can proclaim to all, in all walks of life, the Good News of the Kingdom, with a preferential option for the poor, as Jesus did.[56]

203. In communities of insertion, nearness to the people has a special impact on the process of formation. Their values and life-experiences are challenging, both for the formators and the formandi. Their relationship with the people can:

  1. Encourage our candidates to face themselves, favor a dynamic clarification of their motivations and vocational attitudes, and help them to undertake the project of missionary life.
  2. Help them grow in the experience of God and to enhance their prayer.
  3. Illuminate their studies from the perspective of the disadvantaged and the excluded and orient them toward the service of the people.[57]
  4. Help them read and proclaim the Word of God in its most probing aspects, when it is listened to with a Gospel-focused attitude.[58]
  5. Enrich and stimulate the radical character of our missionary life whenever we accept its values of solidarity and service, its lifestyle, its capacity to struggle and overcome in the face of injustice and inequality and, above all, its patience and its hope.

204. It is recommended that initial formation, above all in its initial stages, be carried out in the geographic and cultural area of the formandus, so that he can assume the values of his own culture in the light of evangelical criteria. On the other hand, the cultural pluralism of the Church and of the Congregation, as well as the universal character of our charism, might suggest that some part of our formation, for a period of time, be carried out in places other than our place of origin.

3.2. The formation house

205. The house in which a formation community lives is the physical and symbolic space in which a good part of the task of formation is carried out. Hence, it is indispensable to attach due importance to it. In order to achieve the objectives of formation, it must fulfill certain basic requirements:

  1. Above all, it should favor community life and provide a family environment, while avoiding massiveness, dispersal and individualism.
  2. It must have a witnessing character, reflecting austerity, simplicity and decorum, thereby signifying our vow of poverty and the common law of work.
  3. Along with spaces assigned to common services, which can be shared with outsiders, it should also have areas and times reserved for community life, study, prayer and rest.
  4. The formation house, situated in different cultures and surroundings, will always reflect a predilection for the poor, be sensitive to culture and will strive to be an expression of Gospel radicalism.
  5. The presence of Claretian symbols in its decoration will contribute pedagogically to create a family spirit and to visibly manifest an esteem for our charism. Likewise, formation communities will take up the symbology of the peoples, in order to assimilate the values of their cultures and to promote a greater identification with them.

[1] This section particularly has in mind missionaries in initial formation, though there are elements applicable and valid for all Claretians.

[2] Cf. PI 33, 39-41, 43.

[3] Cf. Dir 198.

[4] Cf. CIC 689 § 2.

[5] Cf. 1F 6.

[6] Cf. DVC 234-235, 240.

[7] Cf. CV 68.

[8] Cf. CV 72-80.

[9] Cf. CV 72.

[10] Cf. CV 73.

[11] Cf. CV 83.

[12] Cf. CV 81.

[13] Cf. CV 84.

[14] Cf. PI 87-89; DVM 71-78.

[15] Cf. PDV 9.

[16] Cf. ChL 46.

[17] Cf. PI 87.

[18] Cf. PDV 8.

[19] Cf. RFIS 101.

[20] Cf. PDV 46.

[21] Cf. VC 56d; VFC 62.

[22] Cf. GS 52.

[23] Cf. PC 24.

[24] Cf. OT 2; LG 11; AA 11; PDV 41.

[25] MFL 2 c.

[26] Cf. 1F 115.

[27] Cf. Lk 5:11.

[28] Cf. GPF 58-60

[29] Cf. NWNW 12.

[30] Cf. MFL 2 a.

[31] Cf. PTV 8.

[32] Cf. MS 52.

[33] MS 17.

[34] Cf. Dir 127.

[35] Cf. PI 21-23.

[36] Cf. MFL 3.

[37] Cf. AAS 65(1983) 777-779.

[38] Cf. RH.

[39] Cf. DiM.

[40] Cf. DetV.

[41] Cf. RM.

[42] Cf. MD.

[43] Cf. ChL.

[44] Cf. SRS and CA.

[45] Cf. RMi.

[46] Veritatis Splendor

[47] DCE, Spes Salvi, Lumen Fidei

[48] Cf. GE

[49] EG.

[50] LS.

[51] AL.

[52] Cf. CIC 652 § 2, 659 § 3, 257 § 1, 245 § 2.

[53] Cf. CC 58, 76.

[54] Cf. CPR 11, 13-19, 21-31, 32-38, 39-40; SW 3:2; MFL 11, 14;

[55] CC 49.

[56] Cf. Lk 4:18; MV 15.

[57] Cf. PTV 40; MFL 58: 3.

[58] Cf. SW 20-21:5.