Dear Confrer,

Receive a warm greeting and the best wishes of  blessing when we celebrated  the Memory of Blessed Gaspar Stanggassinger, Patron of the Redemptorists Formators.

We're nearing the end of the Year of Promotion of Redemptorist Missionary Vocation and we express satisfaction for  the many activities planned and implemented during last months.

You get this time the article by P. Serafino Fiore, C.Ss.R. on  Restructuring and Formation. Both the author and his writing express current and important messages for the Redemptorist Congregation. Our thanks to Father Serafino Fiore for his article and now we'll do our best to assimilate the  content

On this occasion, we invite to special activities and celebrations for the Closing of the Year of Promotion of Redemptorist Missionary Vocation around next November 9th. We invite you to retake publications, videos, songs, interviews, photos, posters, etc., as well as other activities and events this year. Also we announce that soon, Father General shall inform the institution of the annual Congregation "the Day for Promotion of the Redemptorist Missionary Vocation" for the entire Congregation.

Another reason that motivates us is the next start of the Year of Consecrated Life, announced in the letter "Rejoice" from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, last February 2nd. They have followed many reflections of Pope Francis and will continue at many levels. Just now we, Redemptorists prepare ourselves to this great celebration.

Yours fraternaly,

General Secretariat for Redemptorist Formation


Rome, 26th September 2014 - SEGF 2014/228
In the Memory of Blessed Gaspar Stanggassinger

New Article for Initial and Ongoing Formation

Restructuring and Formation.

Serafino Fiore,  C.Ss.R.

On the contrary, they will diligently pioneer new ways of preaching the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15)": this ought to be a constant ordinary task.

3.     In reality, the opposite happens. We justify an apostolic activity so as not to start a discussion about our structures. We continue to stay in a place simply for reasons of attachment, historical links, or plain laziness, even if in that situation we are no longer missionaries as our Constitutions desire. Change comes with a price.  And paying the price is the effectiveness of our mission.
2.    "Adapting its own structures and institutions to its apostolic needs" (Constitution 96) ought to be for us Redemptorists a continual work in progress. "They cannot allow themselves to settle down in surroundings and structures in which their work would no longer be missionary.
1 In the presentation of this document is included the paragraph numeration in order to facilitate the quotation of the text and its use in workshops and seminars. Note of Edition.
4.      Before proceeding, it is worthwhile to explain what we mean by 'structures'. This is a word used many times in the Constitutions and Statutes (besides the already quoted Constitutions 15 and 96, confer also Constitution 92: the title of Section 1 of Chapter 5 of the Constitutions: General Statute 030 and also the title of Section 1 of Chapter 5 of the Statutes.)  In the light of these quotations we may hold that 'structure' refers to all that which sustains our mission, allowing it to subsist and be organized.  In practice, and more particularly, we mean our Units (Provinces, Vice Provinces, Regions and Missions): the way in which they relate with each other: the economic administration of the Units and of the General Government: the government of the apostolic community, etc.

5.     To review our mission under these two aspects, an important role has been given by the General Chapter to the Conferences: as intermediate structures between the General Government and the Units,
1.     Restructuring is a process through which the  Congregation reviews its mission  in today's world.  Recent General Chapters, beginning with that of 1979, raised this issue: that of 2009 took the most concrete decisions about it. [1] 

6.      In effect, restructuring has fundamentally two aspects:

7.     The first is concrete and visible, involving precise decisions.  One has to put to discussion our 'structures' and the way in which they function, for example: the existence of a house, the number of Units in the one country, the running of the economy at the local, (V) Provincial and general level etc. Above all, it is a question of how we think of and define ourselves:  are we a group of Units, more or less autonomous, or rather "one missionary body" (Constitution 2) capable of being efficacious "by coordinating the life of the members in communion with the other parts of the Institute" (Constitution 93)?  In the first case, it would be the principle of decentralization which would be affirmed, which till now has dominated in the life of the Congregation.  In the second case we would be of assistance to a movement of greater communion.

being "transformed  through the renewal of your mind" (Rom 12, 2). We are called to place ourselves in a healthy state of uneasiness.  New schemas, new habits, a new mentality is asked for.  Ongoing formation could do much in this respect. But the first formation remains the priority investment so that the new generations of Redemptorists secure "new wine in new wineskins"(Mk 2, 22) for the mission of the Congregation.

10.    As an immediate task, the XXIV General Chapter asked us to reexamine our pastoral priorities and then, in a further step, look concretely at the activities that we carry out as priorities: to draw out  our apostolic endeavors  closer to our priorities will involve ongoing discernment, decision and  evaluation (XXIV General Chapter CSsR Decisions concerning restructuring, 1.2).

11.    Restructuring is a process that is still ongoing, and according to our Constitutions and Statutes that is the way it should always be. So that it may have a true impact on our formation, it is good to know to what extent this is put under examination by restructuring.  It is good to have clearly before our eyes the objectives and motives for which we act. This means some concrete steps at different levels.

Why and how has restructuring an influence on formation
12.    Missionary conversion is a challenge to all Redemptorists, irrespective of age.  This challenge  should be explicit in the directories and in the practice of initial and continuing formation. (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Decisions 1.5).

13.    If "missionary conversion is a challenge for each Redemptorist, irrespective of age" it is no less so for a candidate in initial formation.  It ought to be translated into a fundamental stance with regard to life, which is expressed in the capacity to learn from lived experiences, in systematically comparing one's own criteria of judgment with those of the Gospel, in the absence of rigidity, in learning to place the other person before oneself, in appreciating life as a gift etc.

14.    If this is true for formation in general, a certain realism is required at the moment when this formation is placed in relation to the work of restructuring.  It is necessary, in the first place, to be aware of one fact: in terms of formation, the theme of 'restructuring' is relatively new for the Congregation.  The documents in use up to now - including the Ratio and the documents worked out for formators - do not give us much in this regard in terms of indications.  Even the 1982 Constitutions ad Statutes, though taking for granted the continual adaptation of new structures, do not draw out the consequences at the level of formation.  Though Chapter 4 of our Constitutions talks of formation in the perspective of the 'Congregation', in practice it is the principle of decentralization that is affirmed: every Unit with its own structures of formation,  thus: with its own criteria, its own programs, in the service of its own mission.  Thinking from a broader perspective is therefore a challenge, not only for the candidates, but for the formators themselves who don't have many indications in this respect.

15.    The above mentioned 'dynamic of personal and community transformation' puts the spotlight on initial formation: indeed especially on initial formation.

16.    A specific part of initial formation is, in fact, the dimension of having a 'dream', a vision. It is in the pre-novitiate, novitiate and studentate years that the passion for personal growth is transmitted in its various aspects: human, spiritual, community, cultural, pastoral. This growth is not, however, an end in itself: it is motivated by the objective that formation has in mind: if you wish to be a Redemptorist for your own Unit, or a Redemptorist for the world.  All the rest is conditioned by that.

17.    Thus, from this there is one important consequence.  Right from the beginning of Vocation Promotion, the possible candidate should know that the Redemptorist vocation requires willingness to be sent anywhere in each of the countries and continents in which the Congregation works.  At least this basic willingness should be required. 

18.    For the subsequent stages, it is essential to have clearly in mind a formation objective and adequate structures.

Formation objective
19.    A globalized world, and the mission which Redemptorists are called to fill in this world, demand new answers and especially new attitudes of life.

20.    These attitudes are rooted in an ecclesiology of communion such as has been given to us by the 2nd Vatican Council.  In this the principle of koinonia has taken the place of what was once assigned to a 'perfect society' Church, where the pre-eminence was given to functionality, exemplariness and efficiency, whereas in the principle of koinonia it is love and inter-relationship that are put in the first place.  Further, the principle of koinonia inspires the way in which the Church relates to the world.  It is not in competition with it, but at its service, in the common interest of every man and woman, especially the most defenseless.

21.    The Redemptorist has always been open to the world.  Witnesses to this are the many missionary departures which took place in the past, moving from the North towards the South of the world and from the West to the East.  Numerous courageous missionaries and saints are there to witness this: of particular note are Saint John Neumann, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Blessed Peter Donders etc.

22.    In respect to the past some parameters have changed:

23.    Up to the 2nd Vatican Council the prevailing preoccupation was 'the pagan to be evangelized" . Today what is becoming ever more central is encouraging the integral promotion of the person, beginning with the spiritual dimension but not limited by this.

24.    If in the past there was a strong desire to make new foundations for one's own religious family, today what has assumed a role of primary preoccupation is to "seek and accompany the most abandoned especially the poor" (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Principle 3) within a global vision of the world.

25.    If in the past missionary urgency was encountered in the poorer zones of the world, now it is apparent everywhere: from the secularized world where one witness 'faith becoming a desert land' to the continent of Africa which has been defined as a priority for the Congregation (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Decision 8).

26.    If, in the past, the Congregation was successful in guaranteeing a certain continuity in some central services of our religious family or at the service of the universal Church (Alphonsian Academy, Historical Institute, General Archives, Office for Communications, Centre of Spirituality etc.) now some new and urgent choices are needed to prepare specifically for work in these areas.

27.    Meanwhile, it should also be mentioned that the parameters of formation, outside and within the Congregation, have changed. If before, in the greater number of our studendates, the academic formation
formation also included themes and content proper to Redemptorist spirituality and history, today this happens only rarely.  If, in the past, it was the 'structure' that had precedence, today we are beginning to understand that the structure is at the service of the person.  If before, it was the 'observance' model that testified to the good or bad functioning of a group in formation, today we are discovering the attention given to a personal spiritual journey that is effective for the individual within the group. We could continue with examples, but it is better to return to our theme.

28.    In a future that is already with us, the Redemptorist candidate is called to have his feet firmly on the ground but with his eyes looking at the world. In other words: he ought to know and appreciate his own culture appreciating  that it is a precious gift for humanity.  But he ought to look sympathetically in favor of other cultures. He ought to know and let mature the essence of the Redemptorist charism, knowing that this has not yet been unfolded in all its potential, something that will happen properly in meeting diverse cultural contexts.

29.    This positive attitude is not without some reservations, however.  Appreciating and embracing other cultures requires at the same time the capacity of "recognizing cultural limitations and giving  countercultural witness, where appropriate" (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Decisions, 1.4). Beginning with initial formation, it is a duty to demand of each candidate, in proportion to the age and phase of formation which one is at, to have a critical sense, a capacity to think with one's own mind and not become accustomed to a passive or easy attitude of homogenization.  In this regard, great help can be had from the human and philosophic disciplines of the academic curriculum.  In particular, the rational formation of the person, which is facilitated by philosophy, is an important resource to learn how to be on guard against manipulation, and to become conscious of the ideas that condition the way of thinking of entire generations.

30.    Starting with initial formation, it ought also be normal to take note of how a candidate shows openness or mental blockage towards the other, whether he is capable of relating to the other seeing in the diversity a richness and not an obstacle, in view of a Church and a world that is always being called to 'communion', and to a Congregation that is asked to carry out its mission in terms of communion. Obviously, this could appear to be more easily verified if the group in formation were international or inter-provincial, or multi-cultural.  Where comparing and dialoguing with other cultures and religions (one can think particularly, but not exclusively, of Africa and Asia) is part of the daily habitat, this requires human qualities and sensibilities which the formators are to follow with particular attention, giving it that concreteness which can only be defined in loco.

Adequate structures
Adequate structures
31.    The restructuring of the Congregation in view of the mission 'speaks' also through the change of formation structures. It is a change that is not an end in itself, but at the service of the persons in formation and in view of the formation objective just described.

32.    In formation, for all the more reason, the principle sanctioned for other areas of our life is valid, that is to say: "no Unit should act in isolation" (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Decisions 1.12), "solidarity  in mission includes an ability to optimize resources" (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Principle 2), meaning by resources first of all the human ones (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Decisions 1.8). Consequently, the normal horizon of initial formation ought to be that of the Conference, and this is to be understood in terms of the Ratio as also of structures and practice.

33.    The first criterion, thus, is to have at heart the best possible quality in the area of formation. While avoiding any form of paternalism, it needs to be guaranteed that none of the fundamental aspects of formation be sacrificed: we are thinking of the competence and preparation of formators, a certain continuity of formators, conditions for discernment, spiritual direction, the integration in a Redemptorist mode of academic formation from outside, pastoral experiences etc.  In the same formative programs continuity ought to be guaranteed because they are to be sustained by the same logic and spirituality, and allowing for gradualness in the journey of the candidates.  Superficiality and rough approximation are to be absolutely avoided.  With this in mind, the structures ought to be adapted and those responsible should act in collaboration.

34.    Special attention is to be given to those Units that are experiencing a certain weakness with regard to human resources (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Decisions 1.11) on condition that they are co-involved in a formation program as co-responsible on a par with Units that are "stronger".  This is a criterion which ought to be valued for every inter-provincial or international program: there are not first-class Units (in general the 'hosts') and others who conform themselves to their programs. All are equally responsible and all are called to participate, each according to its possibilities.  Besides, the participation or presence (at least periodic) of those responsible in the other Units for the formation program in common, ought to be guaranteed.

35.     To the above mentioned criteria of quality, it is necessary to add one that merits special attention: that is to say, that there is a true formation community. In this, formation is not handed over uniquely to the responsible formators, but it is the fruit of team-work, where all collaborate - each with his own specific role - to offer to the young people in formation not only a true experience of community but also the bases for a less subjective discernment as would be the case with a single formator.  Here you see the role of the Superior, of the collaborator or Socius, of the spiritual director, of the confessor, of the prefect of studies, of the one who integrates in a Redemptorist mode academic study, pastoral accompaniment etc.

36.     For this scope, even while giving consideration to the various elements in play (economic, linguistic, geographical distance etc) everything possible is to be done to have international formation communities.  Where it is not possible to think of single structures at the Regional level, those at the level of sub Regions or neighboring Units are to be promoted.

37.     The link between formation and restructuring is expressed also in arranging common programs, in agreement between the formators and the Superiors of the different Units: sharing formation programs, or preparing together the time which precedes perpetual vows, or thinking of a course for confreres in a transition period (from the formation community to a 'pastoral' one) are among the possible solutions.

38.    Formation in the Congregation already has its points of reference in the Constitutions and Statutes, in the general and particular Ratio, as also in the first manual of Formators and in other resources. The process of restructuring, however, calls for particular attention, both at the level of concrete operative choices and of attitudes.

39.    A foundational consciousness ought to accompany every candidate: "above all, he will know  that he belongs to and willingly participates in the mission of a world-wide Congregation that takes  seriously the challenge of being alert to the signs of the times and making vital apostolic decisions  that  respond ever anew to our call to mission" (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Decisions 6.17).

40.    And also "he will need to have a  wider grasp of the changing circumstances, human realities  and apostolic priorities not only of his Unit but of the entire Congregation to which his Unit  belongs" (XXIV General Chapter, Decisions 6.16).

41.    Provincialism, understood in the literal sense of "thinking about one's own Province" but also with a mentality closed to every innovation or incapacity of looking beyond one's own boundaries, ought to be the object of particular discernment: a candidate who in this respect shows a definite rigidity or resistance to the path proposed, ought to be orientated towards another type of vocation within the Church.

42.    Besides, one ought to be vigilant that in the life of the candidate or the group every form of class or racism, implicit or explicit, be opposed from the moment they appear.

The attitudes
43.    The new mentality demanded by restructuring can rely on many formative solutions to be kept in mind through the various stages.  In particular it seems opportune to note:

44.    To know the history of one's own Unit and that of neighboring Units, at the level of the Conference, as well as that of the whole Congregation.  Such knowledge, if proposed with the right methodology, can bring out how continual renewal and restructuring have always accompanied our mission: indeed they have been a decisive factor for its vitality (XXIV General  Chapter CSsR, Decisions  6.15).

Concrete operative choices
45.    A similar knowledge would be framed by  the context of the wider history of the world, of the general lines that have marked it, and of the current situation.

46.    The phenomenon of migrants within the geographical region that corresponds to the Conference deserves particular attention. The same applies to  the ministry carried out in Redemptorist Shrines within the same Conference, and the related phenomenon of popular religiosity (XXIV General Chapter, Decisions 6.16).

47.    Programming the pastoral year (or stage) during the theology years, keeping in mind the possibilities offered by one's own Conference or by other Conferences.

48.    Foreseeing international or inter-Unit encounters to encourage the knowledge and sharing of experience of formation journeys etc.  Also, pastoral experiences - for example, participation in a popular mission - with the involvement of a number of Units could show itself to be an efficacious resource.

49.    Encouraging knowledge of the central institutions of the Congregation, academic and other (Alphonsian Academy, Historical Institute, General Archives, Office of Communications, Centre of Spirituality etc.) because candidates who could be eventually willing to work in these could prepare in time, benefitting also from precise specialization. To do this, one could make use of schedules opportunely prepared and asked for through the same Web sources or - when possible - of the presence of the General Council during a visit to the Units.

50.    Learning languages is a further and concrete sign of missionary availability in the perspective of restructuring.  Until there are new directives, those established by the Superior General in a letter to the Congregation of 10.09.2005 (Prot. N°0000 268/2005, in Analecta 2004-2005, Rome, 2006, p. 62) remain in force, that is:

  • that all the Units ought to provide a course of at least three years in English or Spanish to all the candidates.
  • that candidates whose mother tongue is English or Spanish learn the other language.
  • that English speaking candidates in Africa study French instead of Spanish.
  • as far as possible, learning Italian is encouraged.

51.    Other solutions could favor this openness to the world, for example sharing the news regarding  the Congregation that appear in Scala, the Communicanda or other documents that come from the General Government etc.

1.     How is your (V) Province experiencing restructuring: is the administrative preoccupation dominating? In what way is the 'missionary conversion' demanded by the General Chapter being maintained?  What resistance do you notice?

2.     What is your judgment about the collaboration between neighboring Units or with the (Sub) Conference in view of restructuring?

3.     What operational concrete choices are to be promoted for initial formation in view of restructuring?

4.     What concrete initiatives are to be promoted for specific objectives, such as: common preparation for perpetual vows, ongoing formation, accompanying confreres in the period of transition to a pastoral community etc.?

What means (newsletters, circulars, internet etc.) should be promoted within the Conference for formation in the light of restructuring?

8.     The second aspect is just as concrete but less visible. "We see  restructuring as a process, a dynamic  of  personal and community  transformation that  examines  the actual reality, evaluates the  structures we  have, and  is willing to change them if it is necessary  so  that we be  faithful to the charism, at the service of the  mission" (Communicanda 1 [2004], 31). At this point it  is not a question of deciding, but starting a journey to animate and accompany. Without that, 'visible' restructuring will come to nothing or will create more problems than it wished to resolve. It is fundamental that restructuring awakens "a new availability for   mission" (XXIV General Chapter CSsR, Decisions  concerning  restructuring, Principle n° 2).

9.      It is necessary to be clear on one point: it is easier to close a house, merge two Units in one, than to bring forward in a gradually constant way this "dynamic of  transformation".  It is a question of being
Units, they are an aid to help the Redemptorists of a particular continent to review its own apostolic action, and to continue in a process of interior renewal at a personal and community level.

51.    Other solutions could favor this openness to the world, for example sharing the news regarding  the Congregation that appear in Scala, the Communicanda or other documents that come from the General Government etc.