The joy of formation, the suffering of a formator (PE nr. 1087 – 2018/01)

It is now ten years that I am in formation: 6 years in Bukavu (DRC) and 4 years here in Jinja, Uganda.

When I look back on these 10 years, I realize that time is flying. Then I ask myself a question: as a Formator in these two formation houses, what has my experience been during these last 10 years? The answer is summed up by two words: joy and suffering. This is what I would like to share with you in this article.

In fact, different aspects of formation allow someone to experience some kind of happiness just by being there. I can compare myself to a pregnant woman who is at the beginning of her pregnancy. She is experiencing the joy of bearing a new being in her own body, looking forward to her due delivery day. Meanwhile, she will be experiencing some other discomforts such as nausea, tiredness, anxiety, and at times she will be asking herself whether she will deliver in the best conditions or not. She is aware that a miscarriage is possible. However, to give birth to a child is not enough; she would also like to make sure that the child is happy and successful in life. If her child is not successful in life, then that will cause her a lot of pain.

My joys

Though I am advancing in age, living with young people is very exciting to the point that, at times, I forget that I’m about to see Abraham… Our young people, full of life and creativity, help me feel that I am still young. With them, we share beautiful moments like some prayers and Eucharist celebrations with enjoyable songs, pleasant socio-cultural evenings, feasts and exchanging gifts at New Year, etc.

Whereas vocations are declining in the western world, it is a blessing to see the enthusiasm of the young people who join us. Who knows, maybe one day we will go through the same vocational crisis being experienced in the western world? Anyway, for the time being we are not yet there. Let us enjoy what the Lord is giving us.

At times, when I visit some of our communities in Europe, I hear and get the impression that we are a dying Society, which can be depressing. But when I look at our young candidates, I am filled with hope: as a Society, we have a future.

I might not be a good lecturer – nemo judex in re sua: nobody is judge in his own cause – only the students can say how I do in this area, but I have enjoyed teaching and all the courses I have taught so far since Bukavu such as Liturgy, Spirituality, Christian Doctrine, French, Philosophical Anthropology, General Ethics, Social Ethics and the Existentialism of Sartre. I have enjoyed my community life here in Jinja and God has blessed us with good confreres. If I were to mention all the joys I have and am still experiencing in formation, I could write many books. Therefore, I am limiting myself to those mentioned above.

My sufferings

Like a pregnant woman, it can happen that I suffer because of various reasons. Looking at our candidates, at times I ask myself: will all of them become priests/brothers? How I wish all of them could go up to the end of the process of initial formation! The reality is that some will leave in the course of the journey. It happens that Formators discontinue someone for genuine reasons, which they normally communicate to the candidate. It is painful to send someone away, but at times we have to, for the good of the candidate himself and the good of our Society.

Another suffering is to see some seminarians who come and live in fear of being sent home. That fear pains me because it is as though we Formators are here to send people home. We are not here to send them home, but to help each one of them become a better human being, a better person.

At times, as Formators, we can suffer when we are misunderstood by our students, especially when it happens that some misinterpret what we say…

We are living in a digital era. Listening to music, watching TV, using Facebook and Whatsapp, all have a serious impact on the life of others, and spiritual life can easily be neglected. It is a suffering to see that, for some, spiritual life is not so important.

It is a suffering when we realize that some seminarians are not open and do not show their true self.

These are some of the sufferings of being a Formator, and they go hand in hand with the joys of formation.

Am I my brothers’ guardian?

Whatever they will become in the future, I feel that I have a certain responsibility to prepare the students for the future. As a mother who would like to see her children succeed in life, my greatest joy will be to see that our candidates are successful, either as Missionaries of Africa or as citizens of the world. Some may not have success in life and become addicted to drink, drugs or immoral sexual behaviour and people will ask why was this not seen during initial formation? What did their Formators do? Why have they failed…?

Yes, I feel I am my brothers’ keeper and no matter what way we are training them, we are contributing to the way they will become in the future, though the student himself has the principal role to play here.

Let them become what they want, but I would like them to match their will to God’s so that what they want to become may be in accord with what God wants them to be. In this way, they will be happy priests, happy brothers, happy husbands, happy citizens… May God bless all of us.

Arsène Kapya, M.Afr.

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