287.  Welcoming vocations is the way in which the Congregation accepts a candidate who shows signs of a vocation, in order to personally accompany him and continue his process of discernment326. In the stages of raising up, of accompanying and discernning, welcoming vocations is set in the last two stages of the vocational process.

1.   General principles

288.  When someone looked for Jesus and asked him where was he staying, He said, “Come and you will see.”327 It is the royal road for welcoming vocations.328 In this call of the Lord is anchored the welcoming vocations that the Claretian community should offer the young person who wishes to discover and discern his own vocation. The person who becomes aware of his vocation will lead him to raise theoretical, and above all, practical and living questions. Because of this, welcoming vocations becomes pastoral ministry, rooted in the life and words of Jesus himself.

289.  Welcoming demands that the candidate comes out of himself, leaves his circumstances and starts moving toward something new, in an attitude of break off and sincere search of the will of God. This implies the capacity to leave everything and follow Jesus who had nowhere to lay his head,329 and offered himself as a place of welcome, as the only guarantee and security, as the only reason to leave everything and follow Him.330The Lord does not only make an invitation to be with Him and become his disciple, but also to follow Him sharing his life and ministry. Come and you will see will be changed to Come and follow Me.331 Welcoming, like formation later on, makes sense only in a perspective of mission; a perspective that will be present in the candidate, at least in an initial way, starting from the welcoming stage.

290.  Welcoming demands that the Claretian and the welcoming community accepts with gratitude and sincerity the gift the Lord has granted them in the person of the candidate. The concern and preocupation of the community for welcoming a candidate should not be centered on gratifying him or satisfying his needs and hopes, but rather on giving thanks to the Lord for the gift of the candidate’s person, on welcoming him with sincere warmth and guiding him to Jesus, source and origin of every call. His person and mission are the only things that must seduce the candidate.332 

2.   Characteristics of the vocational welcoming

291.  It belongs to the Animator and the provincial vocation-ministry Team to propose to the candidate, after the corresponding examination, when, how and where he may start the welcoming stage.

292.  In the Minor Seminary or in the Welcoming House there shall be at least one Claretian assigned to personally accompany the candidate. He must be aware that he exercises this delicate ministry of welcoming and discernment of vocations in the name of the Congregation. His mission cannot replace the responsibility that belongs to the whole community.

293.  This stage should have a clear vocational and Clare-tian formation thrust.333 It is situated between the moment of the awakening of the call and interest for the Congregation and the moment of his entrance into the Postulancy, immediate preparation for the Novitiate. This stage of welcome should be explicitely vocational, for the candidate who has shown signs of a Claretian vocation, must confirm them later with the personal accompaniment and discernment. It is also a formative stage, for the process of discernment should be carried out by offering the candidates, by means of an appropriate formation project, all the elements necessary to receive an adequate formation adapted to this stage.334 

294.  An experience to share in community life. Welcoming implies to accept the candidate in the Claretian community in order to share its life and mission. The community must be open to the candidate so that he can truly experience the Claretian style of life and mission. All communities of the Congregation and not only those assigned as welcoming houses, should be capable to offer prospective candidates an apostolic and community experience, in such a way that they can corroborate through them their signs of vocation.335

295.  The welcoming of vocations can take place either within or outside of a community. There are new forms of welcoming vocations and of vocational discernment: some are institutional forms, others are non-institutional. The fact that the welcoming of vocations can be carried out within or outside of the communities, depends on the circumstances of the candidate and the possibilities of each Organism.

296.  The final stage of the welcoming period can be equivalent, in some cases, to Postulancy, always safeguarding the general requisites for entering the latter and, in particular, the need for carrying out some experience of community life, for those who are entering by way of non-institutional channels.336

3.   Addressees

297.  Signs of a vocation. Those candidates who have accepted the vocational Claretian project and have been invited by the Animator and the provincial vocation-ministry Team to continue a process of discernment of their vocation are fit for admission in any of our welcoming centers. These candidates must be endowed with clear vocational traits and must be open to a definitive option for the Claretian life.337 

298.  Adequate age. The age for entering the welcoming stage is, of necessity, very varied. It depends on the personal situation of the candidates,338 on the cultural and social circumstances, and the possibilities of each Major Organism. This will be the one to apply, within its jurisdiction, the criteria related to the age of entering as gathered in this Directory

299.  In welcoming adolescent candidates the pedagogical demands of age, cultural background and personal development should be taken into account. They should be welcomed in very open structures where contact with one’s family and the realities that surround him is permitted, in order to mature his personality and, in particular, his emotions. A personal formation, adapted to individual differences, must be aimed at, avoiding the indiscriminate lumping together, offering them an open, family and demanding atmosphere in which they may achieve their human, christian and vocational maturity, according to the formative project.340 

300.  In welcoming adults special care must be taken to discern their upright intention and fitness. In particular, it is necessary to examine and clarify their motivations, and test their ability to be formed and integrate themselves fully in the community and apostolic life.

301.  Apostolic spirit. In addition to other requisites for admission and in keeping with the tradition of the Congregation,341 candidates should be endowed with and show, in some way, apostolic spirit. According to their personal characteristics and taking into account other circumstances, candidates must have shown, before their entering, some kind of concern or apostolic commitment in the place of origin (parish, educational center, university, association, professional group..).

4.   Formative objectives

302.  Candidates, welcomed in any of the forms described in the CVD and before going on to Postulancy, should have achieved the objectives pointed out in what follows:342 

4.1.   General objectives

303.  The objectives are the following:343

1º. In the human dimension: to have achieved the integral human formation of the candidate and the harmonious development of the physical, intellectual and moral conditions corresponding to his age level.

2º. In the Christian dimension: to have looked after the living of the gift of faith received in baptism and have received a complete Christian formation that will dispose the candidate to understand and respond to God’s call.

3º. In the Claretian dimension: to have continued with the discernment and cultivation of his vocation, and have clearly and adequately known the characteristics of our service in the Church.

4.2.   Specific objectives

304.  Human dimension 344

1º. The physical and psychological growth, acquiring habits of self-control, austerity and self-sacrifice.

2º. Personal self-control and social attitudes that favor the life in community and guarantee perseverance in his vocation: a sense of order, discipline, openness to dialogue, solidarity, co-responsibility and a spirit of service.

3º. A mature emotional and sexual orientation of the candidate in a climate of fraternity, openness and responsibility.

4º. A solid intellectual formation, bearing in mind the personal situation of the candidate and the background from which he comes.

5º. Contacts with apostolic youth groups that will keep him aware of the reality about him and will serve as an adequate means of his growth.

 6º. The ethical and aesthetical sense, the development of his ability to judge, by seeing to it that the candidate has contact with a diversity of real-life situations (poverty, sickness, suffering) and performs a variety of cultural and artistic activities that will allow him to develop his creativity. The formation of his critical outlook on reality.

7º. The presence of the family into the educational process by seeing to it that the candidate relates to them adequately, especially when he is living in the minor seminary or some other house of welcome (vacations, family visits and visits of the formator to the family).

8º. A sense of universality in relation to other people, cultures, religions, and love of creation.

305.  Christian dimension345

1º. A complete catechumenal formation that will help the candidate to live his Christian faith at a deep and personal level and will lead him to an experience of encounter with God.

2º. An experience of prayer and piety through assiduous contact with the Word of God, liturgical initiation and other practices of piety.

3º. The progressive practice and living of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

4º. The practice of spiritual accompaniment.

5º. The Christian commitment to others, especially to those most in need and those who do not know God.

306.  Claretian dimension346

1º. The personal accompaniment begun in the preceding stage.

2º. The contemplation of the figure of Christ as missionary and of Mary as mother and model of a faithful response to the gratuitous call of God.

3º. To make the Word of God the point of departure to continue the discernment of one’s vocation, to live the spiritual life and initiate the missionary preparation, so as to being in accord from the very start with the ideal of becoming one day Servants of the Word.

4º. Knowledge and enthusiasm for the figure of our Founder as a model of imitation of Christ and response to vocation.

5º. Study and identification with Claretians who have lived, worked and given up their lives for the Gospel, as the co-founders and our brother Martyrs.

 6º. Information on the Claretian mission, the present situation of the Congregation and some outstanding facts of its history.

7º. Initial formation in the apostolate, in such a way that he learns to live his Christian condition as a donation to others. To prepare, accompany and evaluate experiences in this line

8º. Concern for the studies of all the aspects of life that best prepare for the various ministries and fields of missionary work of the Congregation, such as the study of languages.

9º.  Awareness in front of the realities of life, especially the situations of poverty and injustice, and the awakening of the sense of leadership and response to the different challenges.

5.   Forms of welcoming vocations

307.  The Claretian community is the natural and necessary sphere for the welcoming and growth of a vocation. For this, it will have to show a flexible structure in order to become an adequate channel to welcome the vocations. Experience has in recent years underscored the validity of the rich variety of forms of organization, since nowadays candidates come from backgrounds and age-groups more heterogeneous than they formerly were.347

308.  The Claretian community carries out the reception and initial development of vocations in various ways, depending on the local circumstances, the number of houses, the availability of missionaries and the number of candidates. Welcoming of vocations can take place either within or outside of a community,348 and according to two general forms:

1ª Institutional forms (Minor Seminary, Seminary of Philosophy, house and residence…).

2ª Non-insitutional channels (Aspirants in their own homes, vocational groups…).

5.1. Institutional forms of welcoming vocations

5.1.1  The Minor Seminary

309.  The minor seminary is an educational institution established in order to help those adolescents and young men who show signs of a Claretian vocation to discern it, receive it and respond to it.349

310.  Characteristics. This institution is open only to those adolescents and young men who show traits of vocation and wish to carry out a discernment of their vocation with a Claretian life perspective. The minor seminary is characterized by its typical formative structure and by a large group of candidates accompanied by one or various formators.350 As an educational institution it must have some concrete clearly established objectives in a formative project, which will take into account progressively the age and psychological situation of seminarians.

311.  Forms. In the Congregation there are, in fact, two kinds of minor seminary strictly speaking, according to the characteristics of the candidates: the Minor Seminary for adolescents who take studies prior to the University and the Seminary of Philosophy for the young candidates who have started, before the Novitiate, the ecclesiastical studies.

312.  Each Organism, aware of the number and the family, social and economic situation of the candidates, bearing in mind its own possibilities, will decide on the convenience and form to have its own minor seminary. Wherever there will be a seminary, the Organism will have a formation project adapted and inspired in the General Plan of Formation.

313.  Academic formation. Candidates will receive their academic formation either within the minor seminary itself or in another educational Institution (diocesan, religious, State) that offers guarantees of educational continuity and quality. In any case, the accompaniment of the candidate in his academic aspects must be guaranteed.

314.  In the life of the Province. The pastoral and formative action carried out in the minor seminary cannot be dissociated from the life of the Province. All communities will support the work of the seminary and collaborate unconditionally with it by means of prayer, scholarships, fraternal welcome of the candidates, presence, talks and other activities.

5.1.2. Other institutional forms of welcoming                              vocations

315.  In addition to the minor seminary, new forms of accompanying and welcoming vocations are beginning to appear in the Church and in the Congregation. Among them we find:

1ª. Communities to experience the missionary life351

316.  Some communities of an Organism may be assigned to receive and accompany candidates for more or less lengthy periods, in order that they experience the reality of the Claretian community in a normal life-setting. The personal welcoming and accompaniment are fundamental means for the selection of vocations and personalized formation.352

317.  The Major Superior will decide what community or communities have the necessary conditions to welcome the candidates. Though all the members of the community should feel responsible of the welcoming, it is the local Superior, or the Claretian assigned by the Major Superior, 353who has to accept the direct and personal responsibility of the candidates.

318.  These communities should look in a particular way after community prayer, family life environment and apostolic spirit. In addition to undertaking the responsibility for accompanying and discerning the vocation of candidates, they will give reports about them.

319.  Candidates join the community to share in the ordinary rhythm of its life and mission. The candidate will devote himself to the tasks, adequate to his situation, that will be assigned to him in the community, having the necessary time for his study and personal formation. With the help of the vocational companion assigned, he will prepare his own formation project within the framework of the welcoming community.

320.  This kind of welcoming is the most advisable for adult vocations that, by their age, may not easily integrate themselves in the minor seminary group. It is also advisable for the candidate who needs an experience of a real community life, outside of the formative atmosphere of the minor seminary.

321.  In special cases and according to the circumstances, the Houses of Formation may also be considered communities of this kind of welcome.354 To be with the formative community may be of great help to candidates in discernning their vocation. Young people in formation, personally and as a community, are transformed into apostles and witnesses of their call for other young people. They are the natural place of a clear calling proposal; the life-witness of their consecration is a proposal.

2ª. Residences of Welcoming vocations355

322.  These are residences to welcome young men with vocational leanings who, while they continue their studies or work in their academic centers, are accompanied by a Claretian, full or part time, in discerning their vocation.

323.  In these residences for students, organized by the Congregation, there is no Claretian community strictly speaking with a vocational thrust. However, they may be structures suitable for discernment provided there will be a Claretian responsible for the accompaniment. The presence of a seminarian or a young man with definitive vocation may be of great help. In some Organisms, the accompaniment of these candidates could be an adequate dedication for our students during the pastoral year.

324.  Objective. To facilitate candidates for some time (one or two years) an experience of community life by which they may better discern their Claretian vocation, without interrupting their academic or labour commitments. The candidates will usually live together, though some of them, for reasons of family, study or work, participate only partially if they can.

325.  Life in Common. They will lead a simple and family life style, everyone trying to share common tasks and activities, and be co-responsible for them.

326.  Activities. The following will be included in the programming:

–     Human and Christian formation (talks, themes, experiences, prayer).

–     Initiation in the knowledge of the Claretian life (Claret, Congregation, works, missions, activities).

–     Some apostolic work according to the candidate’s circumstances.

–     Experience of life in community (works, leisure, revision of life, sharing experiences, fraternal correction).

–     Accompaniment to discern one’s vocation (vocational catechesis, personal accompaniment).

3ª. Communities of Welcoming vocations356

327.  These are Claretian communities which are clearly and specifically oriented toward the vocational welcoming of candidates in a stable way. These communities accept candidates who are clearly vocation oriented and have matured their first desire to become missionaries. They prepare in them before their entry into postulancy and complete their human, Christian and professional or academic formation.

328.  Wherever, for various reasons, there will be no Minor Seminary, these communities can be the sign-place and reference point for the Major Organism to welcome and prepare candidates who wish to enter the Congregation. They are clearly oriented toward the missionary life and are animated by a Claretian who is working in contact with those in charge of vocations in the local Church and the Congregation.357 They will have a formation project containing the following elements:

–     Special attention to Christian formation completing the present deficiencies.

–     Strong life experience as a group.

–     Carrying out necessary or complementary           studies.

–     Sensitivity toward a conscious option of life.

–     Orientation toward human and Christian commitment.

–     Explicit opening to other vocations.

–     Initiation in the knowledge of Our Father Founder and the Congregation.

–     Atmosphere that will help clarifying the first signs of vocation and maturing a first desire-option.

5.2    Non-institutional forms of welcoming          vocations

1ª. Aspirants in their own homes358

329.  Aspirants in their own homes is a project of accompaniment and formation to help candidates who are in a stage of clarification and discernment of their own personal call and reside in their own homes. It is valid for candidates who are studying or working and cannot have access to a welcoming house. It is oriented to candidates of different ages who have shown inclination and interest in the Claretian vocation. Though they have passed the requisites prior to the entering into our seminary, it is advisable to delay their entrance into a formation house for personal, social, family, academic or vocational reasons.

330.  Candidates carry out a program of follow up and personalized vocational accompaniment with a Claretian companion. If there are several candidates and circumstances allow it, it is advisable that they may periodically meet under the direction of an animator or those in charge of vocations to share and develop their vocational experience.

331.  The formation aspects to bear in mind in the personalized program are the following:

1º. Human aspects: Knowledge of himself, qualities and shortcomings in view of finding a direction in life. They can be provided with: accompaniment, personality tests.

2º. Moral aspects: sexuality, affectivity and aggressiveness, use of money, sincerity, human relations.

3º. Spiritual aspects: Daily prayer, sacramental life, spiritual direction, spiritual reading. They should be provided with prayer books, readings, spiritual diary.

4º. Christian commitment aspects: to be a member of a parish, school or university group; to be a catechist, responsible of liturgy, commentator, to be involved in social action and others.

5º. Intellectual aspects, according to his personal level:

–     As a Christian: knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Church, the Mission.

–     As a future professional: his studies and, above all, those studies which may have greater relevance for his vocation. Great commitment for studies should be demanded.359

–     As members of a community: lectures, seminars, meetings with committed persons.

–     In some cases, they could be provided with formation material and even with scholarships, above all, for those who take up careers of special significance for our mission.

6º. Claretian aspects: clear and adequate knowledge of the Claretian charism and of the characteristics of our missionary service in the Church.

–     The fundamental data of the Father Founder and the Congregation.

–     The fundamental elements of the Claretian charism in the Church and of our spirituality.

–     The missionary options of the Congregation and of each Province and Independent Delegation.

–     The carrying out of missionary experiences above all during vacation time.

332.  Ways of accompaniment: all means possible should be used, like letters, telephone, e-mail, newspapers and in particular visits. They should be regularly visited by the vocational companion and, in his turn, they should visit the seminary or the nearest formation house. Along this stage, the aspirant in his own home must go to a formation community for a sufficient time, one or more weeks, to experience the life in community aspect of our vocation.

333.  Stages of the process. Apart from the age and the level of studies in which they are, aspirants in their own homes must go through the following stages, as specified in a plan of discernment and formation drafted with their own collaboration:

1ª. To know: to know himself and let him be known by those in charge of his following.

2ª. To discern: positive and negative signs of vocation, motivation and fitness.

3ª. To follow Christ in his prayer (to live with Him) and in his mission (to be sent and work with Him).

4ª. To examine other ecclesial vocations for his discernment and option: marriage, consecrated life, ordained ministries, Claretian life (priestly, diaconal or lay).

5ª. To decide: at the end of the project, each aspirant will make, in principle, a clearer and more definitive option.

334.  Duration: On the part of the aspirant, the stage of aspirancy in his own home may start or end at the moment it is thought convenient. Nevertheless, it should not be extended indefinitely.

2ª. Christian Youth Communities

335.  These are groups of young men and women who in an appropriate pastoral setting (parish, school, university) experience as intense as possible the life in community dimension of the Christian life. They often and systematically meet to live and share their faith and the Word of God, to deal with present-day themes affecting their life and plan activities that will animate their Christian life environment. Considering seriously the vocational dimension, these communities may be:

–     on the one hand, leaven and announcement of a life open to God and to others, in such a way that each young man and woman tries to adequately respond to the call of God.

–     And, on the other, a milieu of vocational discernment and clarification for those who feel themselves called to the Congregation.

336.  In these communities and, by means of a systematic and demanding process of growth and maturing of faith, the candidate to the Congregation keeps discerning his Claretian vocation in periodic contact with a Claretian in charge who accompanies him regularly. A youth community requires a minimal structure to be able to meet, program and develop activities.

3ª. Vocational Groups strictly speaking

337.  Vocational Groups are groups of adolescents and young men and women with restlessness and vocational signs at different levels who meet periodically to clarify their vocation under the direction of a Claretian in charge, who may be helped by other agents of vocation-ministry and even laymen. These groups explicitly deal with the theme of vocation and in particular they center on vocational catechesis, personal prayer and personalized accompaniment.

338.  The objectives of the group will be:

1º. To make an explicite proposal of the vocation.

2º. To give vocational catechesis in its different dimensions (biblical, hagiography, Claretian…).

3º. To initiate into prayer, apostolic commitment, life in group and personal accompaniment.

4º. To keep in contact with young people of a clearly defined Christian vocation.

339.  The means to attain the objectives are:

1º. Moments of prayer as a group with a clearly vocational thrust.

2º. Periodic meetings of reflection and deepening of vocational themes.

3º. Personal and group apostolic commitments.

4º. Actions of personal accompaniment on the part of the vocation-ministry agent who orients the group and helps each person in his vocational discernment by means of concrete actions and life attitudes.

340.  In order to guarantee the success of its vocational purpose, it is necessary:

1º. That this vocational nature be explicitely accepted and developed.

2º. A progressive discovery of prayer and life in community.

3º. Frequency and stable duration of the moments of encounter with possible long periods of living together during vacations.

4º. Active presence of the one in charge of vocations and good acceptance by the Claretian community, if there is one.

6.   Those in charge and collaborators of the              welcoming

341.  The admission of the candidates to the welcoming center belongs to the local Superior after hearing the opinion of the Animator and the provincial vocation-ministry Team, or to the person stipulated by the lawfully approved statutes. The dismissal belongs to the local Superior after hearing from those responsible or the prefects.360

6.1.   Those in charge

342.  The formator or companion in this stage performs a very important and delicate function. He is appointed by the Major Superior 361and should possess, in addition to sufficient pedagogical, apostolic and religious preparation, a certain charism 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.362

343.  The formation team, where there is one, should be a true identity model for the candidates by reason of their authenticity, joy, fraternity and the commitment with which they fulfill their formation function.363If the candidates are many, and it would be necessary to make several groups with one formator in each group, the formators should work as a team to discern in common the process of each candidate, leaving always the final decision to the person responsible, as the case may be.

344.  The candidate. In short, he is the necessary and irreplaceable primary agent in this stage of discernment and welcome as he will later be in the different stages of his formation.364 It is the Holy Spirit who operates his transforming action in the candidate’s heart. He should listen to and welcome the Word of God, who speaks and leads his life. The candidate, with openness and sincerity, generosity and freedom, will have to accept the blowing of the Spirit in the same way as the inspirations coming from the human mediations shown in the accompaniment and in the community that has welcomed him.

6.2.   Collaborators

345.  The Animator and the provincial vocation-ministry team. They have been present in the animation and first selection of the candidates. They have personally known the candidates by means of their accompaniment, interviews and other means. No one knows better their family and social environment than they. The candidate’s relatives have placed their trust in them and the candidate himself feels that their presence is an invitation for him to make a serious discernment.

346.  The vocation-ministry animator, as a person who knows the candidate and his social and family environment, has an important role to play in his acceptance, discernment and formation. Avoiding favouritism, he should be objective and impartial in his vocational discernment of the candidates he himself has presented to the welcoming community.

347.  The missionaries in formation. They can be of great help in the acceptance and support of candidates. At the same time that they help others to discern their vocation, they purify their own call and deepen it more and more. The young consecrated people, as persons and as a community, can be the first and immediate apostles and witnesses of their own vocation among their contemporaries. 365

348.  Lay men and women. It is advisable to involve lay men and women in the work of vocations, so that by their knowledge and experience they may contribute to the integral formation of the candidates.366 When it is a matter of non-institutional forms of welcoming, teachers, tutors, school councellors, responsible leaders of parishes or university centers, may efficaciously collaborate in all the stages of the vocation ministry. Their qualified presence in the accompaniment of the candidates is a clear manifestation that the whole Christian community is responsible for welcoming and supporting new vocations.367

349.  Collaborators of the Claretian Family. It would be advisable in this regard to highlight the important role that could be played by the Lay Claretians Movement, if there is, as well as by the Claretian Missionary Sisters, Cordimarian Filiation and other members of the Claretian Family.368