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.



1. The need of a formation for specific vocations

428. In our Institute, there is a unity of vocation and mission, as well as a diversity and complementarity in the modes of living it.[1] Everything stated in this chapter relates to the specific preparation of missionary brothers and of missionaries called to ordained ministries.[2] It presupposes, as a common preparation, the progressive maturation that is taking place in the different formative stages and that constitutes the basis for any service in the Congregation and in the Church.

429. From the first stages of formation and throughout its course, what is specific to the diverse forms of Claretian vocation must be presented and promoted to the candidates. Thus, a better accompaniment in vocational discernment through all the stages of formation is made possible.

430. In the way of living personal vocation and carrying out the mission, we must take into account: personal gifts;[3] qualities for exercising a concrete ministry; the needs of the Church, of the Congregation and of the world; availability for universal service; the ability to work in collaboration with others.

2. The specific formation of the missionary brother

2.1. General Criteria

431. The formation of brothers, both initial and ongoing, must be an integral formation, within which those particular aspects that are more in line with their lay vocation should be especially promoted.[4] From there, he seeks and points to God in the secular realities of culture, science, human health, the world of work, the care of the weak and disadvantaged.[5]

432. Among these particular aspects, the following should be noted:

  1. A solid humanistic formation that will enable them to be in touch with today’s culture and to acquire a particular sensitivity to the world of work, of education, of economy, of art, of social communication and of human relations.
  2. A biblical-theological formation that will assure a solid grounding for the lay character of their Claretian life and of the apostolic mission they are to carry out.
  3. A pastoral formation, in line with our missionary charism as servants of the Word, in ministries proper of their lay character, so that they may become fully integrated into the Claretian mission.[6]
  4. A professional, specialized formation with a missionary thrust, leading, if possible, to a degree, so that they may become equipped to carry out qualified services in community and offer a witnessing presence in other temporal situations.[7] That through this formation they may seek God and point to his presence in the secular realities of culture, science, human health and welfare, the world of work, and care for the weak and disadvantaged.[8]
  5. A sociopolitical formation, in order to respond to the demands and options of our mission and to the challenges raised by the reality of each people.
  6. A formation that allows him to share in realities of secular and human life in a search for the restoration of the dignity and positive value of work, making himself neighbor to his simplest brothers and sisters, and self-identifying with Jesus, brother and worker.[9]

2.2. Formative Guidelines

433. In order to achieve the objectives proper to the stage of missionaries in formation, the missionary brothers will not be assigned immediately after the novitiate to apostolic works that hinder them from the further pursuit of their formation.[10] As a general rule, their period of initial formation will last until perpetual profession.[11] The respective superiors will care for their suitable missionary preparation,[12] seeking a common formation for all the members of the Institute.[13]

434. Either in the formation house or in the exceptional case of residing in another community, the missionary brother will have a formator who accompanies him personally in the growth and maturation of his vocation.

435. His instruction in theological, pastoral, scientific or technical fields will be taken in the centers determined by the Government of each Organism,[14] in keeping with the guidelines and orientations of the GPF.[15]

436. Throughout their formation process, the missionary brothers, in addition to engaging in apostolic experiences that are established in this GPF,[16] can carry out others in technical and professional fields, which must be programmed and evaluated.

2.3. Ministries Proper to their Lay Vocation

437. Brothers can exercise a great variety of non-ordained ministries proper to their lay condition, for which they must receive adequate preparation. These ministries may be either non-installed or installed.

2.3.1. Non-installed Ministries

438. Among non-installed ministries the following may be singled out:

  1. Services directly related to the missionary service of the Word:catechesis, liturgical animation, Christian education, teaching the ecclesiastical sciences, coordinating basic Christian communities, animating associations of Christian and apostolic life/ICT.[17]
  2. Services that prepare for, accompany or complement the missionary service of the Word: vocation ministry, initial and ongoing formation, charitable services or services aimed at human and social advancement (caring for the sick or the marginalized); administrative management and technical work in the apostolic works of the Congregation; activities and responsibility for internal community ministry;[18] other occupations, among them some ecclesiastical offices provided for in canon law.[19]
  3. Services developed on the frontiers, in the new peripheries that challenge our charism (NGOs, intercultural, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, presence in areas of non-believers, JPIC).[20]

2.3.2. Installed ministries: Lector and Acolyte

439. As the ministries of lector and acolyte enjoy autonomy and stability, the  missionary  brothers  can  be installed  in  one,  or  in both. of them for a service to the community.[21] Those who receive these ministries carry out, within the Church, the tasks of servants of the Word (lectors) and of servants of the Eucharistic liturgy (acolytes).

440. The functions most proper of these ministries are as follows:

  1. Ministry of lector:to read the Word of God and to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture; to announce the intentions of the universal prayer of the faithful; to lead song and guide the participation of the faithful; to instruct the faithful so that they may worthily receive the sacraments; to preside at celebrations of the Word.
  2. Ministry of acolyte:to attend to everything relating to altar service; to assist liturgical actions, principally in the celebration of the Eucharist; as an extraordinary minister,[22] to distribute Holy Communion, to bring it to the sick, to expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament.

441. For advancement to these ministries, the candidate must have reached the proper age and degree of maturity required for his present stage of formation. It is recommended that the installation in these ministries be done prior to the apostolic-community experience, or pastoral year, with which academic studies are interrupted.[23] In addition to the qualities and attitudes determined by the Conferences of Bishops, the following are required:

  1. For the ministry of lector:love and knowledge of Holy Scripture, listening to and meditating on the Word, and an effort to bear witness to it in one’s own life; a will to serve God and the Christian People by means of a faithful announcement of the Word.
  2. For the ministry of acolyte:knowledge and in-depth living of the Eucharist; knowledge of what relates to the liturgy and its spiritual meaning; daily offering to God; sincere love for the People of God.[24]

442. For admission to these ministries it is necessary:

  1. That the candidate writes to the Major Superior, manifesting to him that he is asking for them freely and voluntarily, and that he knows the obligations that derive from them.
  2. That the Major Superior knows, either directly or through others, that the candidates are well instructed, both theoretically and practically, regarding these ministries.[25]

2.4. Organizational Aspects

443. Major Superiors must provide the Missionary Brothers with the integral formation proper to all the members of the Congregation, with special care for those particular formative aspects that belong to them by reason of their lay condition.[26]

444. Within the Organism’s Plan of Formation, the guidelines indicated in the GPF for the formation of Missionary Brothers will be concretely spelled out according to its needs and missionary options of the Organisms.[27]

3. The specific formation of the missionary deacon

3.1. General Criteria

445. The specific formation of candidates for the Missionary Diaconate is aimed at enabling them to live fully their own vocational identity, in a way complementary to that of the Missionary Priests and Brothers.

446. Imitating Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, those who are to be advanced to the Diaconate prepare themselves to evangelically serve the People of God and their own community through a ministry of the Word, of the liturgy and of charity.[28]

447. The specific formation of candidates for this sacrament follows the norms and guidelines established by the universal and particular Church[29] and by the Congregation.[30] In addition to studies, it must include adequate pastoral practice, updated from the experience of the Church today.

448. As regards intellectual formation, it should be analogous to formation for the priesthood, although, in the actual distribution of subject matters, attention must be paid to directives of each Episcopal Conference within the scope of its own territory.[31]

3.2. Ministerial Functions of the Deacon

449. Among the more proper functions of this ministry are the following:

  1. To collaborate in the evangelization of peoples[32] by word and life-witness,[33] in communion with the Bishop and with the Superiors.
  2. To proclaim the Gospel and preach; to be involved in organizing and presiding at celebrations of the Word; to teach Christian doctrine.
  3. To pray for the Church and in its name, above all through the Liturgy of the Hours.[34]
  4. To administer Baptism; to prepare the Eucharistic sacrifice and distribute the Body and Blood of the Lord; to assist at and bless marriages; to preside at penitential celebrations and funeral rites.
  5. To serve the Christian community, attending mainly to its most poor and needy members, and to collaborate in initiatives in favor of life and of human rights.

3.3. Formative Guidelines

450. From a pedagogical viewpoint, specific formation for the Missionary Deacon demands that particular attention be paid to the following attitudes and behaviors:

  1. Becoming conformed with Christ,Servant of Yahweh and Good Shepherd, with all that this entails: faith and trusting surrender to the Father, freely given service, total availability for ministerial action and concern for the poor and little ones.
  2. Serving the Word, both as an inspiration for his conduct and for his proclamation of it as Good News and message of change and conversion for people today. The deacon should, in effect, transform into faith what he reads, teach what he believes and practice what he teaches.[35] Likewise, he must express respect and reverence for the Word of God, read, study and meditate continually on Sacred Scripture,[36] recognize the presence and action of God in history and in creation, and announce the Gospel by promoting the genuinely human values of each people and by promoting the dialogue between faith and culture.
  3. Serving the Liturgy,particularly the Eucharist, which is the center of worship and of Christian life itself. Hence, he should nourish his faith in the Sacraments and in the Liturgy of the Hours; he should honor the Body and Blood of the Lord; he should delve more deeply into the mystery of the incarnation and Passover of Jesus, who is also present in his brothers and sisters, especially the poor, sick and marginalized, for He is welcomed and served in them; he should attend carefully to the administration of the sacraments and to the animation of the Christian community in celebrations.
  4. Serving charity:He should follow Jesus’ example of being a poor servant; he should freely serve, share, and enter into solidarity with others like Mary, who diligently attended to people’s needs; he should be devoted to works for their advancement and so attend to the recipients of his ministries that they themselves become primary agents of their own advancement and liberation; he should reawaken a sense of justice in the Christian community, so that fraternal love may be the law of life among believers.

3.4. Admission to the Diaconate

451. In order to be admitted to this ministry, a candidate must:

  1. Have faithfully exercised the ministries of lector and acolyte.[37]
  2. Submit to the Major Superior the petition and declaration demanded by the law.[38]
  3. Comply with all the requirements demanded by the universal law[39] and our own;[40] be free of irregularities and impediments;[41] present the prescribed documents[42] and give evidence of having the necessary qualities.[43] He must also make the profession of faith.[44]
  4. Prepare himself for this ministry fittingly, in an immediate way, by means of a plan. This plan must be adequately followed up by the responsible party who has been designated by the Major Superior. In it, there will be some indication of the means for being fittingly informed of the doctrine on this ministry as set forth in Church documents.[45] He will be referred to all that is contained in the various rituals of the sacraments that pertains to the deacon and to study of the homiletic proclamation of the Gospel, the Liturgy of the Hours, the pastoral care of the sick, and social pastoral ministry.

4. The specific formation of the missionary priest

4.1. General Criteria

452. Formation for the ministry of the priesthood is aimed at preparing formandi to become fitting priests, particularly devoted to the service of the Word, as witnesses and messengers of the joy of the Gospel, in the style of Claret. From a formative point of view, it is required that this preparation be made stepwise and in progression, both through installation in and exercise of the ministries of lector and acolyte, and through reception and exercise of the Order of Diaconate.[46]

453. When the diaconate is conferred with a view to priestly ordination, its objective is to allow the recipient to exercise its proper ministry for a prudent period of time in order to mature in its specifically priestly aspects. In this sense, its aim (spiritual, ascetical, liturgical and pastoral) is predominantly pedagogical, with a view to priestly ordination.

454. The ordained ministry is a gift of the Spirit for the Church,[47] not a right or possession of the one who receives it. Hence, formation for this ministry must underscore its necessary connection with the Church and its manner of understanding it and of living it as a ministry.

4.2. Ministerial Functions of the Priest

455. The Claretian priest, conformed with Christ the Priest for the building up of his Body which is the Church,[48] participates, through the sacrament of the laying on of hands, in the apostolic ministry[49] entrusted to the bishops. Hence, he feels that he is their collaborator,[50] especially in the task of raising up and consolidating communities of believers[51] through the ministry of the word[52] in an evangelical and prophetic lifestyle[53] according to the spirit of the Church and in apostolic fraternity.[54] The prophetic exercise of the ministry of the Word implies proclaiming the Kingdom in the concrete circumstances of our time, denouncing sin and injustice and accepting the risks that this entails.[55]

456. This evangelizing and prophetic function is intimately related with pastoral and sacramental functions. The announcement of the Word creates a community of which the Eucharist is the summit and source. Hence, the Claretian priest, at the same time that he represents Christ as prophet of the Good News,[56] also exercises:

  1. The ministry of pastoral care of the communities that have arisen from the Word. In them he represents Christ the Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life for the ransom of many.[57]
  2. The ministry of worship, in which the Word, united to sacred signs, becomes the sacrament of salvation. The Claretian priest represents Christ the Sanctifier in the celebration of the sacraments, above all, in the Eucharist[58] and in Penance. In the evangelizing task of our Founder, Penance was closely bound to the preaching of the Word.[59]
  3. The priestly ministry, when it is lived with integrity as living bread offered for the people of God, manifests its intrinsic link with the proclamation of the Word and the Eucharistic Celebration.

457. These functions are born in the womb of the Church and derive their meaning in relation to the Church and to the service of the whole world. Therefore, since the Claretian priest has been taken from among men and appointed to act on their behalf in relation to God,[60] he must live with them as a brother, becoming all things to all,[61] with particular concern for the sick and the marginalized.[62] As a Claretian missionary, the offering of his life is not only an offering on the altar, but in and for the world. In the exercise of his ministry he must be mindful of what he does, imitate what he commemorates and conform his life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.[63]

4.3. Formative Guidelines

458. Formation for the priesthood should stress:

  1. An understanding of Christ as prophet, priest and shepherd, in which the students, following Claret’s example, should be steeped,[64] becoming partakers in His death and life.[65]
  2. A solid knowledge of the nature of the ministry of the priesthood, as well as its articulation with other charisms and ministries, and in particular a knowledge of the priesthood in a Claretian key.
  3. The progressive integration of both the ministerial and the religious dimension in a single vocational project.[66]
  4. The exercise of the ministry of the Word and close collaboration with the bishops, as characteristic elements of the Claretian Missionaries.
  5. Openness to new ministerial fields presented to us by the demands of evangelization today, such as JPIC, the digital continent, and the new geographical and existential peripheries.
  6. The community dimension of ministry,[67] underlining the importance of teamwork and the awareness of being sent by the community.
  7. Preparation for the exercise of spiritual direction and accompaniment.
  8. The practice of the kind of charity that leads them to pray daily for the Church and the world, to lay down their life for their brothers and sisters,[68] to commit themselves to the poor whom they serve and to be pastorally concerned for the sick and the marginalized.[69]
  9. The kind of liturgical and pastoral initiation that will allow them to perform their ministerial functions competently.
  10. Close collaboration with the priests of the local Church, to feel that they are truly members of the presbyterate and of the diocesan family.[70]
  11. The practice of teamwork with persons of various vocations in the key of church-as-communion, shared mission, and synodality.
  12. Ministry as service, avoiding clericalism and spiritual worldliness.[71]

459. The objective of the immediate preparation for the order of presbyterate is that the candidate deepen in the attitudes that unite him most closely with Christ the priest, according to the Claretian vocation, and be ever disposed to act in his name and as a representative of the Church.

460. Immediate preparation is realized by way of a plan that includes:

  1. Concrete possibilities for the exercise of the diaconate.
  2. A program of prayer, retreats, spiritual exercises, and encounters for spiritual direction.
  3. Assimilation of the theology and spirituality of the priesthood, in keeping with the documents of the Church and the proper Ritual.
  4. Deepening in the charismatic characteristics of the Claretian priesthood.
  5. A summary study of the sacraments of Penance, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick and Eucharist, and of the dynamics of celebrating them.
  6. Dialogue with someone experienced in the moral and pastoral criteria relating to confession and spiritual direction.[72]
  7. An accentuation of the Marian dimension in the priestly perspective.

4.4. Admission to the Priesthood

461. The candidate for the priesthood will send to his Major Superior the petition and declaration required by law.[73] He must meet the same requirements prescribed for the diaconate and must have exercised that Order during the time assigned him by the Major Superior, and which must not be less than six months.

462. The Major Superior, either by himself or through another, will verify whether the candidate has carried out this preparation and whether he fulfills the conditions required in order to be admitted to the priesthood.

[1] Cf. CC 7, 78; Dir 252.

[2] Cf. CPR 31.

[3] Cf. MCT 139.

[4] Cf. IM 34-35.

[5] IM 10.

[6] Cf. SW 8:2.

[7] Cf. Dir 252c, 254.

[8] Cf. IM 30.

[9] Cf. IM 31.

[10] Cf. PC 18.

[11] Cf. Dir 238; PC 18; 1B 31.

[12] Cf. MB, p. 97ff.

[13] Cf. Dir 255.

[14] Cf. 1B 30.

[15] Cf. Dir 238; Appendix 3.

[16] Cf. GPF 261-268.

[17] Cf. Dir 254.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Cf. CIC 228.

[20] Cf. MB, p. 47ff; cf. IM, p. 31.

[21] Cf. CIC 230 § 1.

[22] Cf. CIC 910 § 2.

[23] Cf. CIC 230 § 1.

[24] Cf. MQ.

[25] Cf. Appendix 3V.

[26] Cf. Dir 255.

[27] Cf. Dir 238; CPR 31; Appendix 3 IV.

[28] CC 81.

[29] Cf. LG 29; CIC 236, 288, 1031 § 2, 1032 § 3.

[30] Cf. Dir 257-260.

[31] Cf. CIC 236; Dir 258.

[32] Cf. Dir 257.

[33] Cf. CC 81; Dir 260.

[34] Cf. CC 81.

[35] Cf. RO: Ordination of Deacons, 24.

[36] Cf. Dir 260.

[37] Cf. CIC 1035 § 1.

[38] Cf. CIC 1036.

[39] Cf. CIC 1024-1039.

[40] Cf. Dir 242.

[41] Cf. CIC 1040-1049.

[42] Cf. CIC 1050.

[43] Cf. CIC 1051.

[44] Cf. CIC 833 § 6; Appendix 4; Heb 5:4.

[45] Cf. SDO; PR; Appendix 4.

[46] Cf. CIC 1032 § 2; 1035.

[47] Cf. PO 2.

[48] Cf. PO 12; CC 83.

[49] Cf. CC 82; PO 2; Aut 223-224.

[50] Cf. CC 6.

[51] Cf. CC 47, 82.

[52] Cf. CC 46, 50.

[53] Cf. CC 82.

[54] Cf. CC 85.

[55] Cf. MCT 58, 171-172, 232; IPM 18.

[56] Cf. CC 3; IPM 19.

[57] Cf. Mk 10:45; CC 83.

[58] CC 83.

[59] Cf. Aut 304, 762-763.

[60] Cf. Heb 5:1.

[61] Cf. 1 Cor 9:22.

[62] Cf. CC 83.

[63] Cf. RO: Ordination of Priests, 26.

[64] Cf. Aut 754-756.

[65] Cf. CC 83.

[66] Cf. PI 108.

[67] Cf. CC 85.

[68] Cf. CC 84.

[69] Cf. CC 83.

[70] Cf. Dir 263; PI 109.

[71] Cf. EG 93-97.

[72] Cf. Appendix 3.

[73] Cf. CIC 1036, 1050; Appendix 4.