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.




306. The Claretian Vocational Directory (CVD) guides the process of discernment, selection, and preparation of candidates who express a desire to join our Congregation. It is therefore necessary to carefully observe the criteria expressed in the CVD in order to lay the necessary foundations of the Claretian missionary vocation and thus to ensure a solid formative path.

307. Those responsible for Vocation Ministry and for the Pre-Novitiate, as well as the candidates and their families, should know the general criteria of discernment applicable for the Pre-Novitiate period.

1. General criteria of discernment

308. The general criteria of discernment allow both the candidate and the Congregation to verify whether he shows any positive signs of a true vocation.[1]

309. The following are the criteria indicated by both the Church and the Congregation:[2]

  1. An upright intention, together with authentic and valid vocational motivations and interests.
  2. Full liberty at the time of making an option for the religious life and, in particular, for the Congregation, attending to the norms of each place about legal age.
  3. The proper bent, that is, a suitable temperament, character and personality, especially for living in community, teamwork, and serving others.
  4. The requisite qualities for living the Claretian religious life and participating in the mission of the Congregation. Among these qualities are good physical and mental health, sufficient intelligence, maturity and emotional balance in keeping with the age of the individual, and adequate human, moral, and spiritual qualities.[3]
  5. The absence of vocational counter indications, in the strict sense, and of other personality traits that hinder the person from living up to the demands of a Claretian vocation.
  6. With regard to persons with homosexual tendencies who wish to enter the Congregation, or who discover this situation during their formation, in coherence with the Magisterium, the Congregation, with profound respect for the persons in question, cannot admit to profession and Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture… If they are persons with homosexual tendencies that are only the expression of a transitory problem, such as, for example, that of an adolescence not yet completed, these must be clearly overcome at least three years before perpetual profession.[4]
  7. The postulant, novice or student should manifest to the formators his possible doubts or difficulties in this matter.  It is the duty of the latter, including the confessor, to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding to profession and ordination.[5]

310. The care and the demand we show in the selection and formation of candidates should not be reduced to excluding problematic persons, but rather to guarantee a balanced path of formation for suitable candidates, oriented to holiness, and in which the virtue of chastity is contemplated.[6] When it is found that a candidate lacks sufficient psychophysical or moral equilibrium, it will not be presumed that “grace makes up for nature.”[7]

311. It is important to take very much into account a knowledge of the candidate’s family—its members’ state of physical and mental health, their social and economic situation, interrelationships, the way they live their religion and the type of values they transmit– in order to orient and accompany the candidate more effectively in his vocational process.

2. Stages of Pre-Novitiate

2.1. Aspirancy

2.1.1. General principles

312. The Aspirancy is the way in which the Congregation accepts a candidate who, in keeping with the criteria previously mentioned, shows signs of a vocation, in order to personally accompany him and continue his process of discernment. Such signs must be discernible through his basic capability to live a life of faith and religious sensibility and, at the same time, an initial will to follow Christ in the Congregation.[8]

313. The Claretian community welcomes vocations through a great variety of forms and modalities, provided in each Major Organism and already sufficiently described in Chapter 7 of the Claretian Vocation Directory.

314. Although this stage of Aspirancy may have very flexible configurations (in the candidate’s own environment, in a formative group, in a Claretian community) and varying duration in each place and for each candidate, the following general objectives must be realized by the aspirant before he is admitted to the Postulancy. We must ensure that the aspirant follows his own formative rhythm according to his level of personal maturity, not confusing his with other formation stages.

2.1.2. General Objectives.

315. Human dimension. To seek the integral human formation of the aspirant offering him tools for the harmonious development of his physical, psycho-emotional, intellectual and moral conditions corresponding to his age.

316. Christian dimension. To strengthen the gift of faith received in baptism, consolidating its theoretical and experiential Christian formation so that the aspirant is disposed to understand and respond to God’s call.

317. Claretian dimension. To continue discernment and cultivation of the aspirant’s vocation, clearly presenting to him the characteristics of our service in the Church as Sons of the Heart of Mary, in the diverse modes of living it, be it lay, diaconal or presbyteral.

2.1.3. Specific Objectives

318. Human dimension

  1. To enable the aspirant to gain such a good knowledge of himself and his own family history that he may acquire social attitudes that favor living in community and that guarantee perseverance in his vocation: a sense of order, discipline, civility, openness to dialogue, solidarity, co-responsibility and a spirit of service.
  2. To create a climate of fraternity, openness and responsibility in which the aspirant can maturely orient his affectivity and sexuality. When necessary, we shall seek help from qualified professionals.
  3. To provide a solid intellectual formation, bearing in mind the personal situation of the aspirant and the background from which he has come, giving the necessary time for the acquisition of study and language skills that will be developed in Postulancy.
  4. To facilitate the aspirant’s contact with apostolic youth groups that will keep him aware of the realities surrounding him and serve as an adequate means for his personal growth.
  5. To help the aspirant cultivate his ethical and aesthetic sense and to develop his capacity for judgment by seeing to it that he has contact with a diversity of real-life situations (poverty, sickness, suffering) and that he engages in a variety of cultural, manual, and artistic activities that allow him to develop his creativity.
  6. To educate the aspirant in forming a critical outlook on reality.
  7. To help the aspirant to grow physically and psychologically by acquiring habits of self-control, austerity and self-sacrifice.

319. Christian dimension.  

  1. To provide a solid formation (including a catechumenal process, if necessary) that will help the aspirant live his Christian faith on a deep and personal level and will lead him to an experience of encounter with God.
  2. To encourage the aspirant to value the experience of faith that has moved him to explore a missionary vocation, while also respecting other Christian and non-Christian faith communities.[9]
  3. To foster the experience of prayer and piety through assiduous contact with the Word of God, liturgical initiation and other practices of piety.
  4. To encourage the aspirant to progressively practice and live the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
  5. To initiate the aspirant into the practice of spiritual direction as an indispensable tool of discernment.
  6. To provide an initial apostolic formation according to the aspirant’s maturation process, so that he may learn to live his Christian condition as a self-gift to others, without seeking prominence. To prepare, accompany and evaluate his experiences along these lines.

320. Claretian dimension.

  1. To continue and deepen the personal accompaniment begun in the preceding stage.
  2. To present the figure of Christ as missionary and of Mary as mother and model of a faithful response to the gratuitous call of God.
  3. To make known and impart enthusiasm for the figure of our Founder as a model of imitating Christ and of vocational response, and for the Heart of Mary, in whose forge the missionaries are formed.
  4. To set forth the Claretian mission, the present situation of the Congregation and some of the salient events of its history.

2.1.4. Those responsible

321. The formator in this stage performs a very important and delicate function. Hence he should possess, besides a sufficient pedagogical, apostolic and religious preparation, a certain charisma for education that will allow him to carry out his task. He must have an enthusiasm for his own vocation and back it up with a coherent life-witness.[10] The formation team must be a true identity model for the pre-novices by reason of the authenticity, joy, fraternity and the commitment with which it fulfils its formative mission.[11] It is advisable to involve lay men and women in the work of formation, so that by their professional knowledge and experience they may contribute to the integral formation of the pre-novices.

322. Admission to the Aspirancy or dismissal from it rests on the respective formation team after hearing from those who have vocationally accompanied the candidate according to the formation plan in place.

323. It corresponds to the Major Superior, duly advised by the formation team and bearing in mind the purposes and objectives of the Pre-Novitiate, to determine the modality and duration of the Aspirancy.

2.2. Postulancy

2.2.1. Nature and aim

324. The Postulancy is the stage of formation immediately preparatory to the Novitiate.[12] Its aim is to provide the candidates with an adequate preparation for beginning their initiation into missionary life[13] and to give the Congregation the scope to form a well-pondered judgment on the guarantees that the candidates seem to offer.

2.2.2. Requirements

325. On the part of the candidate for the Postulancy, the requirements are:

  1. To show signs of a Claretian vocation, discernible through his basic personal aptitudes, upright intention, consistent human and Christian behavior, and his positive will to follow Christ in the Congregation.[14]
  2. To submit a written petition for entrance to the Major Superior before beginning the Postulancy.[15]
  3. To present his certificates of Baptism and of Confirmation (if he has received it; if not he must receive this sacrament during this stage), a declaration of his freedom to enter, as well as a medical certificate stating that he is in good enough physical and mental health for the missionary life. If deemed necessary, the services of a specialist may be engaged to verify the aspirant’s mental health, always, however, safeguarding his right to privacy and good reputation.[16] The candidate must also submit a police report which certifies that he has no record of prior criminal conduct, nor of accusations or complaints of inappropriate sexual behavior.
  4. The candidate must inform our formation team as to whether he has ever participated in the formation program of another seminary or religious community, so that our team may consult with his prior formators.
  5. At the time of admission, to make a written declaration, signed by himself and two witnesses – conformed as far as possible to the laws of the country– to the effect that his entrance into the Congregation and any tasks he may perform in it are not in the nature of a work contract, that he is aware of and accepts our existing norms on prevention of and response to sexual and financial abuses, and that he, according to the tenor of our law, has no impediment to entering the Congregation.[17] Upon completion of the Postulancy, he must submit a petition for entrance into the Novitiate to the Major Superior.[18]

2.2.3. General objectives

326. Human dimension. To acquire the degree of human maturity that is required in order to live the experience of the Novitiate profitably.[19]

327. Christian dimension. To deepen, both doctrinally and experientially, his Christian initiation[20] and the knowledge of his own vocation in the Church.

328. Claretian dimension. To acquire a sufficient knowledge of the Claretian life and mission in order to make a first serious option for it,[21] with the progressive breaking of former ties and assuming of new allegiances that this entails.

2.2.4. Specific objectives and means

a. Human Dimension

329. The specific objectives are as follows:

  1. To discover and enhance the constituent traits of personal maturity, especially those which constitute the human basis for the experience of the Novitiate.
  2. To live and develop the faculties that are involved: bodiliness, intelligence, will and sensibility.
  3. To pay special attention to and cultivate affective and sexual maturity. To enhance and cultivate a capacity for interpersonal relationship and community life.[22]
  4. To grow in the capacity for reflection and critical thinking, with reference both to himself and others, and reality in general.
  5. To take stock of and come to terms with his own personal, family and social history.
  6. To assume mature and responsible attitudes in the use of the communications and information media.

330. Means

Regarding personal development:

  1. A broad psychological assessment of the candidate and the provision of professional help to him, if needed.
  2. The offering of psychological tools that can help in knowing better one’s own personality.[23]
  3. The practice of the natural means useful for bodily and mental health, such as sports, hygiene, artistic activities, manual work, domestic chores, hobbies, and an appreciation of nature.
  4. Offering him occasions to assume responsibilities, to make decisions, to foster a spirit of initiative, creativity, service and solidarity.
  5. Creating habits of hard work, self-discipline, discernment, constancy of judgment and ability to make choices in keeping with higher values.
  6. Initiation into the practice and appreciation of keeping silence.
  7. Controlling his impulses and acquiring coherence between his actions, words and attitudes.
  8. Examining his own feelings, emotions and desires in order to compare them with the values for which he wants to make an option.
  9. Serenely accepting the difficulties, frustrations, and the conflicting elements in his own personal history, not dramatizing them or allowing them to act as a mental block, and becoming aware of his own personality weaknesses.[24]
  10. Reviewing his relationships with family and friends, so as to adopt a realistic and constructive attitude toward them.
  11. Responsible use of the communications and information media, being aware of the possibilities they offer for formation and evangelization, as well as the dangers they can pose.
  12. Cultivating responsibility and prudence in relationships that can be created and developed with other persons through the use of the communications media.[25]

331. Regarding a sensitizing to values:

  1. Acceptance and respect for the work of God in creation, human beings and all forms of life; politeness, affection and friendship towards people (especially his companions in community); self-acceptance (sexual, of character) and constructive interpersonal relationships; valuing both marriage and the vow of chastity.
  2. Appreciation of the good points in his own culture, openness to diverse cultures and ways of thinking, and artistic sensibility.
  3. Sensitivity to reality, an awareness of the value of seeking justice in situations of poverty and violence, and an appreciation and respect for the dignity and equality of women.
  4. Cultivation of openness to and interest in the life story of others.

332. Regarding studies:

  1. Education in the most essential components of human maturity, accompanied by personal reflection and by sharing and comparing this with his formator and with his companions.
  2. Acquiring an adequate academic formation and a personal method of study, reading and research.
  3. A gradual introduction into the analysis of his own sociopolitical and cultural reality.
  4. Initiation in the study of languages, especially those used officially in the Congregation (Spanish and English) and those proper to mission sites.

b. Christian dimension

333. The specific objectives are as follows:

  1. To achieve an adequate (theoretical and practical) Christian formation.
  2. To progressively discover Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, as a friend, and to create the conditions that prepare one for a personal encounter with Him (breaking with sin, valuing the world, yet realizing its relative character).
  3. To cultivate a life of prayer, the sacraments, evangelical values and the various experiences and callings of the Spirit, within one’s personal, family, social and ecclesial reality.
  4. To live the Christian virtues, especially those that have a greater impact on our vocation: availability for fraternal service, chastity, capacity for self-surrender and sacrifice.
  5. To incarnate our spirituality in effective solidarity with the poorest of the poor and the marginalized.
  6. To value the community as a space to live the faith concretely.
  7. To attune oneself to the ecclesial reality of the place.

334. Means

As regards experiences:

  1. Daily participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist and frequent celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation and, if need be, preparation for and reception of the sacrament of Confirmation.
  2. Contemplating God in nature, in events, and in one’s own life.
  3. Moments of personal prayer based on the Word of God, principally on the Gospel.
  4. Introduction to the practice of shared prayer in community.
  5. Initiation into the practice of Christian discernment
  6. Participation in popular religious celebrations and in workshops on prayer or on the Bible.
  7. Gestures of detachment from and sharing of one’s goods.
  8. Testimony of vocational joy as an invitation to other young people to embrace the missionary vocation. 

335. As regards studies:

  1. Basic, progressive catechesis that complements and guides the experience that the postulant has as the foundation of his Christian faith.
  2. A synthetic presentation of Christian spirituality, centered on the meaning of the life of grace and of vocation, based on the universal call to holiness.
  3. Basic notions on prayer (methods, liturgical or biblical forms, rosary and other devotions).

c. Claretian Dimension

336. The specific objectives are as follows:

  1. Becoming aware of the call of God as revealed in earlier vocation experiences and integrating the same into this stage.
  2. Growing in docility to the God who reveals Himself to us and challenges us in the Word and in the events of the life of the people.
  3. Discovering and accepting Mary as the mother who accompanies us on the way of our vocation, protects us amid difficulties, and is also a model of fidelity to God.
  4. Fostering missionary sensibility and the attitudes of openness to universality.
  5. Entering into contact with the figure of the Founder and broadening knowledge of the history of the Congregation and of the reality of the Major Organisms..
  6. Becoming progressively familiarized with the distinctive lifestyle of the Novitiate and training oneself in making the necessary breaks that it entails.[26]


As regards experiences:

  1. Contact with the environment they have come from (family, friends, groups), together with the gradual breaking away that is required by the project of Claretian life.
  2. Frequent interviews of formative and spiritual accompaniment and initiation into a personal plan of life.
  3. Careful celebration of Marian feasts highlighted in the liturgy and in the life of the Congregation; recitation of those Marian prayers which are most traditional among us; creating an environment that facilitates living and expressing our Cordimarian sonship.[27]
  4. Acquiring habits that favor community life (respect, mutual acceptance, generous collaboration) and studies.
  5. Performing some apostolic activities such as catechesis, enhancing liturgical services and social action.
  6. Visits to Claretian communities and localities, especially, if possible, to the Novitiate community and to others that offer pastoral experiences of significant importance in the life of the Major Organisms.
  7. Receiving information from different Claretians on the apostolic activities that are entrusted to them.
  8. Intercongregational relations which will allow them to value other charisms and get to know their own charism better.
  9. Taking advantage of digital media to familiarize themselves with the life of Congregation.

338. As regards studies:

  1. Reading the Autobiography of the Founder; becoming informed on certain fundamental episodes in the history of the Congregation and of the Major Organism; getting to know about some of our members who were and are distinguished as missionaries (for example, by reading the booklets of the collection Claretians of Yesterday and Today).
  2. Personal daily reading of the Word of God and initiation into those dynamisms and practices of piety that are most deeply rooted in the history of the Congregation (spiritual retreat, examen of conscience, rosary, visit to the Blessed Sacrament).
  3. Offering courses with Claretian content adapted to the stage being lived (for example, the Claretian Week).

2.2.3. Characteristics

339. The organizing of this stage belongs to the Major Superior.[28] Among the different places and manners for carrying it out, the following are the most common among us:

  1. In a house expressly designated for this purpose.
  2. In a community of the Congregation, although without fully sharing in its life.[29] As a general rule, it is advisable that this not be the novitiate community.[30] Indeed, it is fitting that it should be outside this house. If, however, the postulancy is established in the novitiate house, it should form a section apart.[31]
  3. In exceptional cases it can take place outside our communities, provided that there are guarantees for a specific plan, some periods of contact with the Congregation or some of its representatives and, above all, the guidance of an experienced Claretian.[32]

340. Both the admission of a candidate to the Postulancy, as well as his possible dismissal, are within the jurisdiction of the Major Superior, as duly advised by those who have accompanied the candidate.[33] If the candidate has come from another institute or from a diocesan seminary, the Major Superior is required to obtain a report from his respective former superior.[34]

341. As a general rule, the Postulancy should be made in the candidate’s country of origin and, if possible, within the Major Organism itself. However, if the postulants are few or some other reasons make it advisable, interested Major Organisms can establish a common center.

342. Major Organisms that share a Novitiate must have common general criteria and coordinate a similar preparation for the postulants that will make the Novitiate, including adequate competency in the language that will be used in the Novitiate.

343. It belongs to the Major Superior to determine the length of the Postulancy, which never will be shorter than six months nor, as a general rule, exceed two years. It should be long enough to attain the ends and objectives of this period of formation.[35]

344. The Postulancy will have a formation project approved by the Government of the Major Organism. It will contain the objectives and means proper of a Claretian postulancy, in keeping with local circumstances and with the modalities determined by the Major Superior. It should be assessed periodically to verify the progress and preparation of the candidates for the Novitiate.

2.2.4. Those responsible

345. Among the members of the Formation Team, there is a person in charge of this stage (Postulancy) who must be an experienced missionary, with an adequate psycho-pedagogical and spiritual preparation for his task, with aptitudes that enable him to be in tune with the young men, and with sufficient pastoral experience.[36] His appointment belongs to the Major Superior.

346. The formative task at this stage implies:

  1. To gather, in collaboration with the candidate, whatever facts and information may be useful in order to discern the signs of a Claretian vocation and possible contraindications.
  2. To help the postulant attain the objectives proper of this stage and to achieve the maturity needed in order to make decisions with due guarantees that he is acting freely and responsibly.
  3. To offer him, independently of the way the Postulancy is organized, an experience of Claretian community life in an environment favorable to making a discernment.[37]
  4. To ensure that the postulant receives sufficient preparation (especially linguistic and cultural) if he is to make his Novitiate in a country where the language and culture differ from his own.

347. In order to ensure adequate accompaniment and continuity in formation, the one in charge of this stage should keep in close contact with the Novice master, and with the other formators in the Pre-Novitiate.

[1] Cf. 1F 104.

[2] Cf. CIC 642; Dir 175; 1F 105; DVC 240-268.

[3] RFIS 19.

[4]Cf. RFIS 199; CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION, Instruction concerning the criteria of vocational discernment regarding persons with homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to seminaries and Holy Orders, n. 2 (4 November 2005).

[5] Cf. RFIS 200.

[6] Cf. FRANCIS, Address at the closing of Congress on combatting sexual abuse, February 25, 2019:4.

[7] Cf. SCa 64.

[8] Cf. Dir 183.

[9] MS 60, 62.

[10] Cf. 2F 14b.

[11] Dir 185.

[12] Dir 186.

[13] PI 42; CIC 597 § 2.

[14] Cf. Dir 188.

[15] Cf. Dir 190.

[16] CIC 642, 220.

[17] Cf. Dir 190.

[18] Cf. Dir 201.

[19] Cf. PI 43.

[20] Cf. PI 43; Dir 186-187.

[21] Cf. Dir 188.

[22] RFIS 63, 95.

[23] Cf. GUPAF 5-10.

[24] RFIS 96.

[25] Cf. MFL 2 j; MS 18.

[26] Cf. Dir 186.

[27] Cf. OMS, p. 51-52; MFL 34-36.

[28] Cf. Dir 189.

[29] Cf. Dir 192.

[30] Cf. PI 44.

[31] Cf. PI 44; Dir 192.

[32] Cf. Dir 192.

[33] Cf. Dir 189, 271.

[34] Cf. CIC 241 § 3.

[35] Cf. Dir 193.

[36] Cf. Dir 194.

[37] Cf. Dir 191-192.