Receive a fraternal greeting and the best desires of Paschal blessing
The General Secretariat for Formation days before the Holy Week had a meeting and checked the activities that are carried out in the Redemptorist Conferences and Units as part of the celebration of the Year of the Redemptorist Missionary Vocation.
In occasion of the Easter we send the second article especially prepared by Fr. Ronald Mc Ainsh with the title The Theme of the General Chapter XXIV and the Formation. The article is inspiring for the individual lecture and for the work in group. At the end of the article you find some questions as points of reflection and these can be used in the form of "workshop".
At the same time we are grateful to Fr. Serafino Fiore for having accepted our request of writing the number of ONE BODY of May 2014 to the topic of the Good Shepherd. It has been published and you can find it in the web site of the Congregation.
We renew the greeting to the Formators and to their collaborators. And we pray for all your intentions with the desire of abundant fruits in this year. We beg the protection of new Saints the Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.
The Twenty-Fourth General Chapter of the Congregation took place against a new and rapidly developing global situation. The dramatic changes in the movement of persons, growing urbanization, wholesale emigration and immigration, consumerism, and falling family sizes are all issues which are changing the world in which Redemptorists minister.
It was within this context that the Instrumentum Laboris - the working document of the members of the Chapter - was discussed in every Province, Vice Province, Region and Mission of the Congregation in advance of the Chapter. This Instrumentum Laboris proposed
proposed a new way of restructuring the Congregation for mission. In other words, in fidelity to our Constitutions, (Cf. 3-5) the Congregation must always be finding new ways of being more effective in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the most abandoned and to the poor. The reality is that the Chapter members were faced with an enormous challenge - both from the Instrumentum Laboris and from the changing world in which we live.
After weeks of sound debate, it was decided to 'launch out into the deep' with a new configuration of the Congregation in order to improve communication, enable the confreres to work more closely together - and above all, to be more present to those we are called to serve. This decision was crystallized into the final message of the Chapter and its theme: "To preach the gospel ever anew (St. Clement): Renewed Hope, Renewed hearts, Renewed Structures for Mission".
What does this mean for Formation within the Congregation - and especially for initial Formation? Part of the answer to this can be found by reading the section of the Final Document entitled, "A Profile of the Redemptorist Confrere shaped by this new Vision". (6.12 - 6.17)
The lived history of international experience since our Foundation,
and especially after the Transalpine experience.
Let me begin this analysis by stating that 'international' formation is nothing new in our Congregation. After the confreres from Northern Europe (Thaddeus Hubl and Clement Hofbauer) received their own initial formation in Italy, the norm in the Transalpine branch of the Congregation was that formation was offered wherever possible, and not always locally. Clement and Thaddeus went back with a vision of the Congregation not being a group of men preaching only in Southern Italy, but with a dream that the Congregation would be established in Vienna and other parts of Europe, and also in the "New World" - the Americas.
By our modern standards, the formation our early confreres received in this re-structured Transalpine group was patchy. None of the insights of modern ecclesiology or psychology were present. However, what was present in abundance was real holiness among the formators and leaders, expressed as a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ which impressed itself on the hearts and souls of those seeking admission to the Congregation; and also a formidable 'zeal for souls', especially those abandoned or in difficulty.
Language barriers were real, but not insurmountable. And although visa problems did not exist in the way in which they do today, there was fierce nationalism in many of the countries of North Europe which meant expulsion for many of our early confreres and early communities. They were pilgrim, not simply in the Vatican II sense, but in a very real and physical sense, wandering from country to country.
In the nineteenth century, it was not unusual for confreres from various parts of Europe to spend several years of formation in some of the iconic Student Houses such as Wittem in Holland or Mautern in Austria. And what a collection of nationalities they were…..Russian and English, French and Germans, Polish and Irish, North American and even Brazilian. Isaac Hecker, the founder of the Paulists in USA, spent a part of his Redemptorist formation time in both Clapham (England) and Wittem (Holland).
So international formation is not a new arrival swept in by the last General Chapter. It was only when numbers increased so rapidly in the late 19th century, that local Houses of Formation were established; but even in the 20th century we have many examples of formation taking place in another language and another culture.
What does this mean for the formation of today's Redemptorists,
being prepared for mission and for community life in a new a global reality?
What are the implications of the Chapter's decisions in terms of:
It means that more than ever the candidates we receive should be men who are adaptable, open, flexible and able to have an inner freedom to adjust to different cultures, peoples, ecclesiologies and living conditions. This also requires a certain 'sense of self', since living outside one's own culture is one of the great hidden strains in the lives of people and often require special support in such situations.
In our work in formation we must not minimise the human difficulties of living in so called international communities. Nor should we romanticize them. They are very real. Indeed many sociologists state that after the loss of a spouse, the greatest loss one can experiences is the loss of one's country and one's culture. That is why many of the Fathers of the Church, referring to the early missionaries, compared their lives to martyrdom. The concept of 'blue martyrdom' or 'green martyrdom' became of way of expressing the total self- giving of an individual as he or she left their country of origin to preach the gospel to those most in need.
Cultures, ecclesiologies and languages in the light of the General Chapter.
The realisation of this is important in terms of support for those who are experiencing formation in another Unit in which the language or culture is vastly different. It is not enough to say "We are all Redemptorists, and Redemptorist formation should be the same throughout the world". This view held out in a pre Vatican II world with monolithic structures. It is not valid for today. Therefore, new structures for the human growth and development of our men in formation must evolve if they are to be formed in a healthy and wholesome manner. Otherwise the dangers of emotional compensation or other unhealthy and covert ways of coping with the inevitable loneliness which living in an international setting bring, are very real.
As we know, the XXIII General Chapter decided that there would be two official languages in the Congregation, English and Spanish. (Final Doc. 15). During the previous sexennium this was found not to be practical and so the mandate was put on hold until the last General Chapter. At that Chapter, Italian was added to the 'official' languages of the Congregation. (Final Doc. 16)
In reality, formation usually takes place in the official language of the area or Conference. So although there are a host of local languages all over Africa, Asia and South America, formation will take place in the official languages - which for South America will be Spanish and Portuguese, for Africa will be English and French and for Asia will be English. Here it is vital to realise the importance of having a real and good grasp of a language.
It is not sufficient to have an understanding of a language in order to receive quality formation. A huge part of the formation process involves the formandee sharing what is in his heart, talking about his fears and hopes, his sexuality, his relationships, and his prayer life. This cannot be achieved realistically in this age without a real facility in the language of the community and of the formator. Otherwise, immense problems may emerge at a later stage which should have been dealt with in earlier years - and often with painful and serious consequences. So in the light of the General Chapter, it is incumbent on Provinces to take this challenge for internationality and restructuring seriously, by offering good and in-depth language experiences to our younger confreres. This has to include periods of insertion into the culture of the language if a real facility is to be obtained. In addition, formators from the culture of the language of origin should be available (at least from time to time) in a setting of international formation.
What has been said in terms of human formation applies also to spiritual formation. That there is a Redemptorist spirituality is not in doubt. However, how this is lived out in a pluriformity of cultures and places is the genius of healthy and good formation. Labels such as 'conservative' and 'progressive' are of little help at this stage, and polarization should be avoided when there is either an excess of devotional life, or a lack of devotional life in an individual. Formation is a time for discovering the personal call of Jesus, and the expression of this, outwardly will vary greatly. At the same time, the formandee should not hide behind a culture and use this for excess of (on the one hand) or lack of (on the other) a form of piety which has an effect on the community, and subsequently on the people of God to whom we minster. So vigilance and a profound respect for others are the requirements of Formators in these stages of formation, above all in an inter-Unit or international setting.
Turning now to intellectual formation, it is vital that we prepare our future Redemptorists for a life of study. Intellectual formation is not merely about passing examinations in philosophy or theology - or for the Brothers, obtaining a degree in some other discipline or trade. It is about alerting them to the reality that during the time of studies, a large part of their lives are to be focused on the subjects they are studying, but also opening their minds to the wider implications of our world which involves our political realities, our social realities and our relational realities.
So studies should never be narrow and local - but global and catholic in the true sense of this word. If we merely confine our intellectual formation to the subjects necessary for seminary training, this will diminish our students who are challenged to have expansive minds and hearts. However, this is not be done to the detriment of a sound theological basis, with a special emphasis on moral theology. All of this, perhaps being achieved in an international setting, requires a fresh mindset and a focus which is perhaps new to our Formation Ratios, but which is essential if our Redemptorists of tomorrow are going to be the kind of men envisaged by the General Chapter as the Redemptorists of the new and restructured Congregation.
Formation within the Conferences.
This presents an enormous challenge in many areas. Huge and multi lingual Conferences such as the Conference of Europe, extending from Sicily to Siberia, or the Conference of Asia extending from the Middle East to New Zealand with a multiplicity of cultures and local languages, are struggling to find new ways of common formation. Mass migration across the continent, and the great movements of people within continents, also invites us to re-think our way of forming our men. The diminution of vocations in some Conferences, coupled with the lack of formators, also makes this a practical reality. Where there is only one candidate for a Province or an area and no available formator, how can the Conference assist the Units to nurture the development of the candidate's spiritual and human growth and his Redemptorist vocation? Doubtless this will require many new initiatives, some of which will prove unsuccessful, and some of which will be useful. We are in a new stage of development and growth in the Congregation; and the area of formation cannot be exempted from this. Conference Formation Secretariats and Ratios are an essential part of our restructuring.
Formation across the Conferences
With the advent of more accessible and cheaper travel, the ability of our Students to have a pastoral immersion in a completely different culture is more common than they were in previous years. These can range from a summer placement, to a whole year of insertion. For longer periods of insertion it is essential that the Unit receiving the student would be well furnished with details about his human, spiritual and intellectual abilities and reality. If the insertion is of a lengthy period, it would also be important that the formator from the home Unit visits the students during this period and dialogues with him and the local formators. Inter- Conference co-operation in Formation will undoubtedly become more common and it is important that Formation Commissions are aware of the blessings and the difficulties that arise when students move into another culture for any extended period.
The roles of the General Formation Secretariates and the Conference Formation Secretariates
The Final Document of the XXIV General Chapter highlighted the role of the Executive Secretary for Formation (N.11), and the role of the General Secretariat for Formation in terms of organising courses for Formators in a variety of languages. (N.12). These courses have been run for some years now in four languages with a fair degree of success. However the imperative to continually renewing these courses, as well as offering them on an ongoing basis (due to the turnover of formators) is significant. It is also the role of the General Formation Secretariat to animate the Secretariats in the various Conferences and to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of input or courses.
Forming formators with the mindset of the General Chapter
This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing the secretaries. Most Formators were not present at the General Chapter. Most will be aware of the contents of the Final Documents from the Chapter but may not have had the opportunity to study it n detail. In order to imbue those in formation with the spirit of restructuring, it would appear essential that the Formators are given the opportunity for frank and open discussion about the difficulties and the hopes they have about the various forms of cooperation within formation as a whole, and at each level as it applies to them. They are also invited to widen the mindset of these candidates joining us, by reminding them that they are not simply committing themselves to any particular Units, but are placing themselves at the service of the entire Congregation. (Final Document. 6.16)
We are now living in a new era in terms of formation both at the level of methodology and at the level of co-operation. We have moved from the control model of formation to the person orientated model. We have the advantages of the modern sciences, above all of psychology, to assist us. We are still confronted with the challenges of dealing with the complexities of human formation, and especially all the areas around human sexuality.
With restructuring, some of these areas will benefit from having a wider field of assistance and expertise. Others may be overlooked though the movement to and fro, and the encountering of different styles of formation and formators. Our most serious duty as Redemptorists is to create atmospheres in which the charism of the Congregation can be passed on in a wholesome and healthy way to those from our own culture and from different cultures. This is a task that no single formator or even Unit can achieve. We need one another. We need new structures that will support one another in the work of formation. And we need to believe that this is possible if we can pool our resources at the service of the Mission of the Most Holy Redeemer.
Ronald McAinsh, C.Ss.R
Province of London
Questions for discussion in Workshop or Debate
1 The Chapter General XXIV in the final message and in the Theme of the sexennat invites us "To preach the gospel ever anew (St. Clement): Renewed Hope, Renewed hearts, Renewed Structures for Mission". What does this mean for the formation of the Redemptorists today, in his preparation for the mission and for the life of community in a new global reality?
2 The formandi neither must hide behind a culture and nor must use the proper culture on one hand for an excess or for other one, for a lack of piety, characteristic of the missionary Redemptorist identity.How do we prepare our formandi to live through a piety necessary for the personal and community life and for the apostolic commitment?
3 The intellectual formation does not consist only on examinations of philosophy or theology - or for the Brothers, of obtaining a grade in any other discipline or training. Consist especially to create in them the conscience on the reality that during the time of studies, a big part of his lives will depend on the topics that they are studying. But also to open his mind for the widest implications of our world that influences our political, social realities and relate them.Comment about this according to the experience of formation in your Unit or Conference.
4 How do we prepare our candidates to promote and accompany the Ongoing Formation.Speak about this according to the experience or Formation in your Unit and/or Conference.