The ongoing formation remains rather neglected among the projects and practices of our Society despite the good intentions. This was noted in the Chapter (which did not use the two reports and surveys of the Reflection Group on Ongoing Formation) and in the minutes of the post-capitular assemblies or meetings of Provincials.
Yet, it is a priority in accompanying the ministry and the apostolate of the consecrated. In a world whose rapid changes do not spare our Church, there are more and more spiritual, apostolic, community and human challenges. There is a great risk that members of the clergy and consecrated persons will find it increasingly difficult to remain faithful to their lifetime commitment to the service of the Lord and his Church.
But before any offer of training sessions, there is the question posed by A. Goepfert who quotes A. Cencini:
It is not just about snacking some information on the net. It is especially important to: give yourself time to read; be curious and dig out points touching life; contact and exchange with resource persons; do personal research; take time to re-read the signs of the times; recharge oneself spiritually; etc.
“It is the true formation, one might say, in which Christ truly becomes the form, in the profound and complete sense of the term, of the personality of the one who forms himself, not only the norm of his action and the trace that his steps follow” (Cencini A “The ongoing formation… Do we really believe in it?”, Lessius, 2014, p.24)
- “Ongoing formation is accomplished in the ordinary places of life, where everyone lives his own existence.” (P.89)
- “Training begins to be ongoing, permanent, when the person learns to live any existential situation and any relationship as a place, an occasion of formation. ” (P.76)
So how can one help the confreres to “learn the life of life (docibilitas), which is expressed in a set of ordinary but also extraordinary activities, vigilance and discernment, asceticism and prayer, study and apostolate, personal and communal verification, which help to mature daily in the faithful identity and creative fidelity to its vocation, in the different circumstances and phases of life”(p.82)?
Proposals for formation by various congregations
The Congregations and Missionary Societies put a strong emphasis on lifelong formation. Indeed, in addition to all the risks of exhaustion and “bun-out” that are encountered among pastoral agents in general, among ad gentes missionaries, there are also specific difficulties such as:
- The human situation: the missionary is usually far from his country, his culture, his language, his family, his network of friends, his roots and what gave him support and security. In addition, he often has to change functions, activities, responsibilities, and sometimes even country and language, which is not always easy to assume morally and emotionally. In some cases, he lives in a hostile environment: conflict, war, terrorism, insecurity in the city, difficult movements (roads, insecure air networks, etc.).
- The situation of work: Apostolic and pastoral work is never finished, the demands follow one another, the expectations from people are very high (as men of God we must always be available, holy, without defect or limitation, etc…). If we wait until we have finished working to begin to rest, we will never succeed. It is also necessary to learn to say no and to make people understand that we have our limits and our needs. There is also a lack of balanced work organization, collaboration, ability to delegate certain tasks. The taste for power and being indispensable traps us… and we often think it is generosity! Moreover, our work exposes us to listening to a lot of suffering and misery and we are not always able to manage our emotions and to keep the appropriate distance for real compassion (see secondary trauma).
- Ecclesial and community support: there is sometimes little recognition on the part of the hierarchy (local Church and even superiors), little collaboration between us, little communication in depth, sometimes competition, conflicts, which we do not dare to question. There are cultural and generational differences that are poorly dealt with. And therefore the community is no longer a place to recharge oneself but it becomes an additional source of tension. Our sense of belonging to the community and to the Society becomes affected.
- Lack of self-knowledge: we all have our needs, our wounds, our weaknesses and temptations, our wealth and our limits (sometimes dependencies and addictions). How do we manage our emotions ? There is no superman among us. There are also many temptations from globalization (not to caricature). Hence the importance of making choices to lead a balanced life, which brings joy and fertility. How do I relax and resource myself? We often neglect the prayer life and the spiritual accompaniment, without which our spiritual life stretches and dies.
All these challenges make lifelong learning indispensable for all.
Some proposals for ongoing formation among the Missionaries of Africa.
Among the Missionaries of Africa, we are privileged because, besides specialized training organized at the level of the Society or the Provinces, there is a set of formation offerings that correspond to the major milestones and important turning points in life.
1. Formations offered by the General Council
- Session after a first term of mission (three years of apostolate or ministry), Responsible: Provincial Superior of the province.
- Session after a second term of mission (five to six years of apostolate or ministry), Responsible: P. Bernard Ugeux,
- “Resourcing for the Mission” (all generations), Responsible, P. Bernard Ugeux,
- Mid-life session: in Mbudi (Kinshasa) for three months (with the participation of B. Ugeux) and in Bagamoyo (Tanzania) with a variable length of study (participation of Yago Abeledo).
- Jerusalem Session “Spiritual Renewal Project” (35-50 years),
Responsible, P. Guy Theunis,
- Jerusalem session “Bethesda” (40-60 years), Responsible P. Guy Theunis,
- Rome Session “Transition to the Third Age” (+ 60-75 years),
Responsible, P. Bernard Ugeux,
- Rome Session “Seniors” (75 and more),
Responsible P. Bernard Ugeux.
These sessions aim at accompanying the confreres during the different stages of their lives. For each important step, a specific training is proposed.
2. Other formations (proposed at provincial level)
These formations are usually organized by the Provincials or the Sector Superiors for the confreres who are under their jurisdiction.
- They mainly concern the priority pastoral areas decided during the last chapters:
- Justice and Peace,
- Dialogue and encounter (Islam, Traditional African Religion, Inculturation, etc.).
- Integrity of Creation,
- Integrity of the ministry (proposed gradually by the delegates to the Protection of minors and vulnerable adults, who followed the two-week training session led by S. Joulain and a team (in connection with the Gregorian University Center for the Protection of Minors (Rome).
- Areas of pastoral and theological formation are also dealt with following the needs. These sessions can be organized in collaboration with dioceses and other congregations. Some short sessions (3-5 days) deal with topical subjects such as the “Transition (or Crisis) of the Living Environment”, “The Impact of Globalization on Consecrated Life”, “How to Live Cultural Differences in daily life in community “,” Challenges for the success of the Afro-Christian churches or sectarian movements for our pastoral care “, etc.
- Yago Abeledo proposes a set of training courses concerning the formation of the personality or community building.
- We are not talking here about the usual spiritual animation such as annual retreats, recollections, etc. which are organized by all Provinces and communities.
NB: This list is not exhaustive of any other formation proposals.
Bernard Ugeux, 17th April 2017