Dos corazones que han seguido la misma conduct

TEMPIER: COMO LA PRIMERA VEZ…,
VEN AL LADO DE EUGENIO

EvodioRoberto2 (1)
Roberto Carrasco OMI

Esta Pascua tiene un tinte muy especial en mi vida oblata. Los oblatos que formamos la comunidad de Padres Estudiantes en Roma nos decidimos vivir juntos una experiencia nueva en nuestras vidas. Visitar Aix-en-Provenza en Francia. Esto significaba estar en la Casa Fundacional Oblata. El mismo lugar donde empezó la vida oblata, el carisma oblato, la vida comunitaria oblata como un don para la Iglesia.

IMG_3994En este contexto del Bicentenario de la Congregación de los Misioneros Oblatos de María Inmaculada, el poder hacer un peregrinaje a este lugar santo, me ha permitido empezar a reflexionar más sobre los inicios de esta experiencia que empezaron juntos cinco jóvenes sacerdotes en una pequeña casa, fundando una nueva familia. Una nueva Sociedad que ha empezado a soñar con llevar la Palabra de Dios a los más pobres. Una familia religiosa que asume el valor de la caridad como eje fundamental de la vida común. Como escribía P. Tempier unos meses atrás: “la caridad es el perno sobre la cual rota toda nuestra existencia”.

Realmente estar en estas pequeñas habitaciones donde, para los oblatos, todo empezó era como experimentar esta mística que permanece y se siente en las paredes de este lugar. En mi mente daban muchas vueltas dos preguntas claves: ¿Cómo lo hicieron, si eran muy jóvenes los sacerdotes que empezaron toda esta locura de dejarlo todo y vivir juntos? Y la otra pregunta se la quería hacer – con un cierto atrevimiento – en plena tumba donde reposa a nuestro Fundador: ¿Y qué hace en Paris tu gran amigo Henri Tempier, no debería estar junto a ti?

 Son muchos los escritos que hablan de San Eugenio de Mazenod. Sus cartas e incluso los contenidos de sus escritos espirituales son muy profundos. Cuando leo sus cartas, sobre todo aquellas dirigidas a su “muy querido amigo y buen hermano” Henri Tempier, comienzo a reflexionar cuanto bien ha significado para la vida de este santo, la vida de otro santo. Me atrevo a afirmar esto porque pienso que solamente dos hombres: uno apasionado por la misión y el otro apasionado por la vida comunitaria ha podido juntos unir estas pasiones para dirigirlas a Cristo en la búsqueda de la perfección consagrándose a Dios para el servicio de los pobres.

Para poder entender como el Espíritu había llenado de ardor, desde el primer momento, los corazones de San Eugenio de Mazenod y Henri Tempier, quiero empezar a releer los primeros escritos espirituales de San Eugenio de Mazenod. Era mayo de 1818, Eugenio sentía la necesidad de un retiro en medio de tantas y excesivas ocupaciones que tenía. En este tiempo este joven sacerdote tenía 36 años y su amigo tenía 30, osea eran completamente jóvenes cuando empezaron a vivir en medio de las responsabilidades la aventura de sacar adelante una Sociedad que nacía para evangelizar a los pobres. En este escrito se ve claramente cómo era el carácter fuerte que tenía Eugenio, y seguro me permite pensar este escrito, que el carácter de Tempier era perfecto sobre todo para saber cómo soportar este fuego que ardía en el corazón del Fundador. Un fuego que muchas veces quemaba y quien lo conocía bien tendría que saber cómo recoger este calor que es fuerte cada vez.

En este retiro de fines de abril e inicios de mayo de 1818 Eugenio escribía:

“Ya era tiempo de que pensara en librarme de este cúmulo innumerable de ocupaciones de todas clases que me abruman espiritual y corporalmente para venir al retiro a ocuparme seriamente del asunto de mi salvación repasando exactamente todas mis acciones para juzgarlas severamente […] La necesidad era urgente pues mi espíritu es tan limitado y mi corazón está tan vacío de Dios que los cuidados externos de mi ministerio, que me lanzan a una continua dependencia de los otros, me preocupan tanto que he llegado  al punto de no tener nada de aquel espíritu interior que antes constituía mi consuelo y mi dicha, aunque nunca lo he poseído más que imperfectamente a causa de mis infidelidades y de mi constante imperfección. Ya no actúo más que como una máquina en todo lo que me atañe personalmente. Parece que ya no soy capaz de pensar en cuanto tengo que ocuparme de mi mismo. Si es así ¿qué bien puedo hacer a los otros? De este modo se mezclan mis imperfecciones en mis relaciones habituales con el prójimo que tal vez me hacen perder todo el mérito de una vida que está del todo consagrada a su servicio […]

Hoy, con la ayuda de Dios, voy a trabajar con empeño en poner tal orden en mis acciones que cada cosa vuelva a ocupar su sitio a fin de que la caridad con el prójimo no me haga fallar a la que me debo a mí mismo, con mayor razón cuando el mejor medio para ser de veras útil al prójimo será sin duda trabajar mucho sobre mí mismo.

Mi estado me causa horror. Parece que no amo a Dios más que por capricho. Por lo demás, rezo mal, medito mal, me preparo mal para la misa, la digo mal y hago mal la acción de gracias; siento en todo una especie de repugnancia para recogerme por más que haya hecho la experiencia de que, tras haber superado esa primera dificultad, disfruto de la presencia de Dios. Todos estos desórdenes provienen, según pienso, de que estoy demasiado entregado a las obras exteriores y también de que no pongo bastante cuidado en hacerlas con gran pureza de corazón […]

Los asuntos y los estorbos, lejos de disminuir no han hecho más que aumentar desde entonces y, por no haber releído los buenos propósitos que la gracia me ha inspirado, no los he puesto en práctica. Por eso echo de menos en mí esa dulce seguridad que está bien expresada en aquellas reflexiones que he releído dos veces con verdadero placer.

El estado en que he caído es extraordinario y exige un remedio rápido. Es una apatía absoluta para todo lo que me concierne directamente; parece que cuando tengo que pasar del servicio al prójimo a la consideración de mí mismo, parece, digo, que ya no tengo fuerzas, que estoy completamente agotado, seco, incapaz hasta de pensar.

Me arrepiento de esta fatal disposición aun en este momento, nunca he sentido tantas dificultades ni se me ha hecho tan costoso recogerme, entrar en mí mismo, pensar en las verdades eternas, etc. […] Por eso es preciso regular de modo definitivo, firme y eficaz las acciones principales de las que nunca más debo dispensarme bajo ningún pretexto”.

Realmente, este pequeño ejemplo me motiva a reflexionar mucho sobre la vida de un sacerdote. Una vida que necesita de la comunidad, del hermano, del compañero para que sea llevadera. Realmente es una locura seguir al Señor Jesús cuando el corazón está lleno de tantas cosas que se enfrentan entre sí. Solo una vida profunda, una vida convencida de la misericordia de Dios es capaz de reconocer la necesidad de hacer un alto y de reflexionar, meditar y poner en orden las cosas.

La Sociedad que había nacido necesitaba de hombres coraje, de hombres simples o de simplemente hombres que ardan en deseos de perfección. Ambos habían empezado juntos un programa de vida. El maestro espiritual y el discípulo compartían el mismo espíritu: el amor a Dios, el bien de la Iglesia y la necesidad de instruir a la gente y de conducirla a la conversión, así como la importancia de tener sacerdotes santos. Por un lado, un Eugenio que ardía como una llama de fuego, y por el otro, un paciente Henri que empezó a aprender a “soportar” los fuertes movimientos que porta el Espíritu en el corazón de quien desea que ese fuego nunca se extinga, sino más bien siga ardiendo.

Por esto quiero detenerme aquí, porque así como he aprendido a conocer a San Eugenio de Mazenod quiero aprender y profundizar más la vida de “Nuestro Segundo Padre” en la congregación. Es lo justo. Es lo mínimo que puedo empezar a reflexionar, porque así como la vida de Eugenio apasiona cuando se piensa en la misión, la vida de Tempier apasiona cuando se piensa en la vida comunitaria oblata. Un oblato siempre necesita de otro oblato en la vida concreta de un consagrado, más aún en la misión.

Henri Tempier es un ejemplo y seguirá siendo un ejemplo para nosotros los oblatos. Supo de primera mano conocer de cerca al fundador, supo aguantarlo. Un carácter intenso no es fácil de sobrellevar en la vida comunitaria. Las afirmaciones fuertes de San Eugenio de Mazenod necesitaban un primer receptor que sepa muy bien que decir, que aconsejar, que palabras usar. Hoy se llama a todo esto: ser asertivo. Recuerdo cuando Eugenio le escribió a Tempier esa carta del 12 de agosto de 1817 que decía con voz fuerte: “Los sacerdotes viciosos o malos son la plaga de la Iglesia”, en alusión a la formación que necesitaban los primeros novicios de la congregación, que por cierto es una de tantas cartas que expresan muy bien ese corazón que caracterizaba a Eugenio.

Hoy es 09 de abril, y quiero recordar por medio de este escrito, a nuestro querido padre Henri de Paula Tempier, OMI. Un día como hoy murió el año 1870. Un profundo agradecimiento a Dios por el testimonio de este oblato. Como decía el P. José Fabre, OMI, en una Nota Necrológica hablando del P. Tempier. “Sólo Dios conoce lo que el P. Tempier ha realizado […] No cabía equívoco sobre la sinceridad y la pureza de sus intenciones. Inflexible en cuanto al deber, era siempre conciliador en cuanto a las circunstancias. Y cuando se veía obligado a actuar con rigor, se reconocía, por encima de su autoridad, la autoridad  de  la  conciencia  a la que obedecía … Nuestro Fundador  y  el  P. Tempier  han  seguido  la  misma conducta…, siempre el P. Tempier ha conservado la calma del hombre perfecto, la intrepidez de la conciencia cristiana y la abnegación heroica que el sacerdote según el corazón de Dios saca de las luces de la fe y de las inspiraciones de la piedad. No temió exponerse a las injusticias de la opinión ni desafiar las pasiones populares”.

Otro testimonio que podemos recordar está escrito en el año 1892 por el Obispo Payan d’ Augery, biógrafo de la fundadora de las religiosas Víctimas del Sagrado Corazón. Cuando escribía refiriéndose a él:

 “Pequeño de talla, mirada viva, palabra algo entrecortada, el P. Tempier unía a las virtudes del religioso… la experiencia y la  prudencia de un administrador consumado… Hombre prudente y verdaderamente sobrenatural, había conquistado una legítima influencia sobre el corazón y sobre el espíritu de su tan perfecto obispo; su temperamento más tranquilo mitigaba felizmente, si osamos decirlo, los arrebatos y los prontos de Mons. de Mazenod, en quien la santidad había dejado sobrevivir el carácter provenzal… Era sobre todo un hombre interior, y por ende más capacitado que muchos otros para comprender la belleza de la vida religiosa, suavizar sus pequeñas aristas para las mujeres, y por su conocimiento de personas y cosas, darles los consejos más prudentes. Muchas comunidades se sintieron felices de su dirección”.

En estos 200 años de la Congregación nos queda no solo agradecer a Dios por la vida de estos dos hombres que marcaron un estilo propio de vivir la comunidad, de ser misioneros, de trabajar juntos, de compartir y dar amor, sino también de retomar estos ejemplos que nos pueden ayudar a seguir creciendo, primero como personas, como oblatos en comunidad y en la misión. Que vivir en comunidad, siendo completamente diferentes, es una riqueza que matiza la vida religiosa.

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Letter of Fr. General to Prenovitiate Directors 2014

Dear Brother Oblates gathered for the Prenovitiate Formators Workshop,

Blessings to all of you and thank you for coming to this important Congregational event which is part of our Oblate Triennium. I would like to thank Father Cornelius, Father Clement, Father Joe Labelle and the members of the Aix Community for their leadership in organizing and executing this significant encounter for our Congregation. I am grateful to Father Morrissey for bringing his expertise to this workshop and to Father Emmanuel and Father Hippólito for their invaluable assistance in translating services.

The prenovitiate is a crucial period of formation. The young men are no longer young juniors, but at this stage are more decided and mature. They need very good accompaniment, both in terms of psycho-sexual formation and in terms of faith formation. In a sense, the prenovitiate is the “gate” to the rest of formation. You are standing at the beginning and laying foundations. It is so important that the human “raw material” be healthy and the spiritual formation be solid. Grace builds on nature, and we would like to see young men who are healthy and capable of human maturity and who are in love with Jesus Christ and who are deepening a living relationship to him.

In some places I haves noticed a very great distance between formators and prenovices as though the relationship is that of master and servant or employer and employee. You must be an older brother to them. You must know each of them and love them. Please do not be distant from them or simply rely on a cold and formal relationship or entrust them to school work and manual labor. Please spend time getting to know them and accompanying them at least once a month or even better every two or three weeks. Speak with them, not simply to correct them, but to help them grow and to encourage and support them.

I am sorry that I am not with you for a couple of days to share this important moment with all of you. I am on vacation with family in the United States and I join you in prayer and in love. May this encounter be a strong experience of formation for all of you and assist you in your ministry to our young men. I pray for you and I am very grateful for your ministry to these young men who come to us as Jesus said, “to come and see.” God bless you!

With my love and prayer, your brother Oblate in Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate,
Father Louis Lougen, OMI
July 14, 2014

CONGRESO INTERNACIONAL PARA FORMADORES DE LA VIDA CONSAGRADA

Rubino GiuseppeGiuseppe Rubino, OMI
Roma, Italia

En el contexto del Año de la Vida Consagrada, del 7 al 11 de abril de 2015 se celebró en Roma un Congreso internacional para formadores de la Vida Consagrada bajo el título: “Vivir en Cristo según la forma de vida del Evangelio; formados para la vida consagrada en el corazón de la Iglesia y del mundo”. Organizado por la Congregación para los Institutos de Vida Consagrada y Sociedades de vida apostólica (CIVCSVA), ha sido el segundo encuentro internacional romano de 2015, tras otras muchas iniciativas recogidas en el programa que la CIVCSVA, respondiendo a las indicaciones y deseos expresados por el Papa Francisco, ha propuesto a los consagrados de todo el mundo. El primero de estos tres encuentros se celebró del 22 al 25 de enero de 2015, siendo un encuentro ecuménico de consagrados pertenecientes a distintas Iglesias cristianas. El tercero tendrá como destinatarios los jóvenes consagrados, convocados en Roma para un Taller internacional que tendrá lugar del 16 al 18 de septiembre.

Hecho público el programa del Año de la Vida Consagrada, el Congreso se mostraba, ciertamente, como una ocasión efectiva para la formación permanente de los formadores, que no dejaron de aprovechar. Y, en efecto, este evento eclesial ha sido realmente una ocasión fructífera de formación, de intercambio y de fraternidad para los oblatos participantes. A los Misioneros Oblatos de María Inmaculada se les dieron 11 puestos entre 1300 participantes. Por motivos logísticos, dado el alto número de solicitudes recibidas, la CIVCSVA, se reservó, en realidad, la decisión de establecer el número de formadores que podrían participar por parte de cada congregación religiosa, siguiendo criterios de origen y número de miembros de cada Instituto. Finalmente, pues, sólo los primeros oblatos en inscribirse pudieron tomar parte, mientras que los demás hubieron de renunciar. Además de los tres formadores del Escolasticado Internacional Romano, PP. Mario Brandi, Joaquín Martínez y Jude Saparamadu, estuvieron presentes: p. Ron Laframboise (Estados Unidos), p. Joseph Phiri (Sudáfrica), p. Gaby Kinze (Congo), p. André Ndene (Senegal), p. Wojciech Popielewski (Polonia), p. Norbert Wilczek (Alemania), p. Giuseppe Rubino (Italia) y p. Józef Wcisło (Polonia).

Desde el principio, y apesar del alto número de participantes, se experimentó un profundo ambiente de fraternidad y alegría, que acompañaron la experiencia del Congreso. Las cifras pueden dar una idea del significado eclesial del evento:  1.300 formadores procedentes de 108 países distintos y a 450 carismas diferentes. Los participantes se dividieron en “mesas” o comunidades mixtas (entre 8 y 10 personas) que tomaron parte en la tarea del Congreso, sentados en torno a una mesa, lugar para el compartir y la mistad. A sostener la fraternidad ayudó mucho la sencillez con que el Cardenal Prefecto de la CIVCSVA, João Braz de Aviza, y el Secretario, Monseñor José Rodríguez Carballo, se relacionaron con los participantes, “perdiendo” el tiempo para escuchar e interesarse en lo que surgía durante la jornada. Además de otras interesantes ponencias encomendadas a expertos provenientes de distintos continentes, el Congreso incluyó el tomar parte en alguno de los muchos talleres sobre temas de actualidad muy interesantes, como “el papel de la comunidad/fraternidad en la formación”, “acompañamiento y discernimiento en las etapas iniciales de la formación”, “la formación en la afectividad en los tiempos de escándalos sexuales”, “la formación en la comunicación en la era diginal”, “los pobres: agentes de la formación”, “el desafío de los consejos evangélicos en el contexto de la antropología moderna”, “la formación para una misión compartida”, etc.

Algunos de los temas que se reptieron, casi al modo de ideas conductoras de todo el Congreso, fueron:

  • La formación permanente como “idea-matriz” o presupuesto pedagógico de toda la formación inicial. “La formación es una acción del Padre con vistas a formar en nosotros los sentimientos y la sensibilidad del Hijo. Una formación que tenga este objetivo sólo puede durar toda la vida: la noción de formación continua. Formación continua, pero no como algo que venga “después”, es decir, tras la formación considerada institucional o inicial, como si el camino formativo a lo largo de la vida fuera algo menos real y eficaz. Al contrario, la formación continua es lo que viene primero, es decir, la premisa y el fundamente de todo el itinerario de formación y del proyecto pedagógico de toda etapa de la formación El objetivo de la formación inicial es, por tanto, formar la disponibilidad de dejarse formar en la vida (“docibilitas”), es decir, “aprender a aprender”, a dejarse entrar en crisis durante toda la vida, en todas las etapas. Tenemos que estar preparados para ello, recordaba el P. Cencini y luego también Mons. Carballo, ayudando a reconocer y a trabajar sobre todo temor, rigidez, sospecha, resistencia, con los que solemos defendernos de la realidad, de los otros, sólo para no percibir la realidad misma de la mediación en la acción formativa del Padre”.
  • La importancia y la necesidad de la formación continua de los formadores.
  • La importancia de la formación humana de acompañamiento, sin temor, en los caminos espirituales, teológicos y carismáticos y de buscar la integración psico-espiritual, empezando por las etapas iniciales.
  • La delicadeza y la importancia del ministerio de la formación que exige, hoy más que nunca, un “empeño a tiempo completo”.
  • Educar en una espiritualidad de comunión para construir sobre la base sólida de la Iglesia del mañana.

La audiencia con el Papa Francisco fue un momento culminante de la experiencia de gozo vivida en esos días. He aquí un extracto de su discurso, que tocó puntos muy queridos para la espiritualidad oblata: “Es hermosa la vida consagrada; es uno de los tesoros más preciosos de la Iglesia, enraizado en la vocación bautismal. Por consiguiente, es hermoso ser sus formadores, porque constituye un privilegio participar en la obra del Padre  que forma el corazón del Hijo en aquellos a los que el Espíritu ha llamado. A veces se puede percibir este servicio como una carga, como si nos apartara de algo más importante. Pero eso es un engaño, es una tentación. Importa la misión, pero es igualmente importante formar para la misión, formar para la pasión del anuncio, formar para la pasión de ir por doquier, a toda periferia, para decir a todos el amor de Jesucristo, particularmente a los alejados; para contarlo a los pequeños y a los pobres, y para dejarse también evangelizar por ellos. Todo ello requiere bases sólidas, una estructura cristiana de la personalidad que hoy las mismas familias raramente saben dar. Y ello aumenta vuestra responsabilidad” Y si a veces podréis tener la sensación de que vuestra labor no sea lo suficientemente apreciada, sabed que Jesús os sigue con amor, y que toda la Iglesia os está agradecida”

El Congreso ha sido, sin duda, una experiencia significativa que, esperamos, ayudará a los consagrados comprometidos con el ministerio de la formación a “vivir el presente con pasión y a abrazar el futuro con esperanza”, sobre todo tras las palabras de consuelo con que el Prefecto y el Secretario de la CIVCSVA despidieron a los participantes: “Queridos formadores: la Iglesia les ama, les aprecia y reza por ustedes. Sin su servicio, la Vida consagrada no puede existir, o tendría un futuro incierto. Sin su paciencia y discernimiento, el Pueblo de Dios se arriesgaría a no poder ver esa luz refulgente capaz de hacer brillar, en un mundo que pasa, el mundo definitivo transfigurado por las Bienaventuranzas”. 

 

CONGRÈS INTERNATIONAL POUR FORMATEURS ET FORMATRICES À LA VIE CONSACRÉE

Rubino GiuseppeGiuseppe Rubino, OMI
Roma, Italia

Dans le contexte de l’Année de la Vie Consacrée, du 7 au 11 avril 2015, s’est tenu à Rome, le Congrès International pour formateurs et formatrices à la Vie Consacrée ; le titre en était : « Vivre en Christ selon la forme de vie de l’Evangile ; formés à la vie consacrée, au cœur de l’Eglise et du monde. » Il était organisé par la Congrégation pour les Instituts de vie consacrée et les Sociétés de vie apostolique (CIVCSVA). C’était la deuxième rencontre internationale romaine de 2015 qui fait partie des nombreuses initiatives prévues au programme, proposé par la CIVCSVA aux consacrés du monde entier, suivant les indications et les désirs du Pape François.  La première de ces trois rencontres a eu lieu du 22 au 25 janvier 2015 et a été une rencontre œcuménique entre consacrés de diverses Eglises chrétiennes. La troisième sera destinée aux jeunes consacré(e)s, convoqué(e)s à Rome, pour un Atelier international, qui se tiendra du 16 au 18 septembre 2015.

Depuis la publication du programme de l’Année de la Vie consacrée, le Congrès se présentait comme une occasion favorable de formation permanente pour les formateurs qui voudraient bien en profiter. Et, de fait, cet événement ecclésial a été réellement une occasion féconde de formation, d’échange et de fraternité pour les Oblats qui y ont participé. Les Missionnaires Oblats de Marie Immaculée disposaient de 11 places sur les 1300 prévues. Pour des raisons d’organisation et vu le nombre élevé d’inscriptions, la CIVCSVA s’est réservée de fait, la décision de déterminer le nombre des participants pour chaque Congrégation religieuse, en tenant compte des critères de provenance et du nombre des membres de l’Institut. En plus des trois formateurs du Scolasticat international de Rome – PP. Mario Brandi, Joaquin Martinez et Jude Saparamadu – il y avait le P. Ron Laframboise (Etats Unis), P. Joseph Phiri (Afrique du Sud), P. Gaby Kinze (Congo), P. André Ndene ( Sénégal), P. Wojciech Popielewski (Pologne), P. Norbert Wilczek (Allemagne), p. Giuseppe Rubino (Italie) et le P. Jozef Wcislo (Pologne).

Dès les premiers instants, malgré le nombre élevé des participants, on a pu ressentir un intense climat de fraternité et de joie qui s’est maintenu tout au long du Congrès. Les chiffres permettent de se rendre compte de la valeur ecclésiale de cet événement : 1300 formateurs, venant de 108 pays, appartenant à 450 charismes divers. Les participants ont été répartis par « tables », disons en communautés mixtes (8-10 personnes) qui ont pris part aux travaux du Congrès, en restant autour d’une table, lieu de partage et d’amitié. Tant le Cardinal Préfet de la CIVCSVA, João Braz de Aviz  que le Secrétaire Mgr. José Rodriguez Carballo, se sont retrouvés en toute simplicité avec les participants, sachant ‘perdre’ du temps pour écouter et échanger avec les participants ; cela a grandement contribué à renforcer ce climat de fraternité. En plus des exposés très intéressants confiés à des experts, venant de Continents divers, le Congrès prévoyait aussi la participation à l’un des multiples ateliers sur des thèmes d’actualités, tels que ‘le rôle de la communauté /fraternité dans la formation’, ‘l’accompagnement et le discernement dans les étapes initiales de formation’, ‘la formation à l’affectivité au temps des scandales sexuels’, ‘la formation à la communication à l’ère digitale’, ‘les pauvres, agents de formation’, ‘le défi des conseils évangéliques dans le contexte de l’anthropologie moderne’, ‘formation à la mission partagée’, etc.

Certains thèmes sont revenus souvent dans le Congrès, comme des sortes d’idées-guide:

  • La formation permanente comme “idée-mère”, ou présupposé pédagogique de toute la formation initiale. « La formation est action du Père qui vise à former en nous les sentiments et la sensibilité du Fils. Une formation qui a cet objectif ne peut que durer toute la vie : c’est l’idée de la formation continue. La formation continue n’est pas quelque chose qui vient après, c’est-à-dire après la formation dite institutionnelle ou initiale, comme si le chemin de formation tout au long de la vie était quelque chose de moins vrai, de moins efficace. Au contraire, la formation continue est ce qui vient avant, c’est-à-dire qu’elle est le fondement de tout l’itinéraire de formation et du projet pédagogique de chaque étape de la formation initiale. Le but de la formation initiale est ainsi de former à la disponibilité à se laisser façonner par la vie (docibilitas), la disponibilité à « apprendre à apprendre », à se laisser mettre en crise par la vie elle-même, en toutes ses étapes. Il faut préparer à cela, rappelaient le P. Cencini, ainsi que Mgr. Carballo, aidant à reconnaître et à travailler sur toutes ces peurs, rigidités, soupçons, résistances qui nous servent habituellement à nous défendre de la réalité et des autres, et nous empêchent pour finir, de reconnaître dans la réalité elle-même, la médiation de l’action formatrice du Père. »
  • La relation éducative comme ‘instrument’ fondamental de la formation, faisant attention à former le cœur et non seulement les attitudes;
  • L’importance et la nécessité de la formation continue des formateurs;
  • L’Importance de la formation humaine qui doit accompagner, sans crainte, la formation spirituelle, théologique et charismatique et l’intégration psycho-spirituelle, à commencer dès les étapes initiales ;
  • Délicatesse et importance du ministère de la formation qui demande, aujourd’hui surtout, un ‘engagement à plein temps ”;
  • Eduquer à une spiritualité de communion pour construire sur des bases solides l’Eglise de demain.

L’audience avec le Pape François a été le sommet de l’expérience de joie, vécue en ces jours. Voici un extrait de son discours qui a touché des points très chers à la spiritualité oblate : « La vie consacrée est belle ; c’est l’un des trésors les plus précieux de l’Eglise, enraciné dans la vocation baptismale. C’est donc une belle chose que d’être formateurs, parce que c’est un privilège de participer à l’œuvre du Père, qui est de former le cœur des Fils en ceux que l’Esprit appelle. Parfois on peut ressentir ce service comme un poids, comme s’il nous enlevait à quelque chose de plus important. Mais ceci est un piège, une tentation. La mission est certainement importante, mais tout aussi important c’est de former pour la mission, former à la passion d’annoncer, former à la passion d’aller partout, en toute périphérie, pour annoncer à tous l’amour de Jésus Christ, en particulier à ceux qui sont loin ; pour le raconter aux petits et aux pauvres et se laisser évangéliser par eux. Tout cela exige des bases solides, une structure chrétienne de la personnalité que la famille ne peut que rarement donner de nos jours. Et cela augmente votre responsabilité. » « Sachez que si quelques fois vous pouvez avoir l’impression que votre travail n’est pas assez apprécié, sachez que Jésus vous suit avec amour et que toute l’Eglise vous en est reconnaissante!»

Le Congrès a été, sans aucun doute, une expérience significative qui aidera, nous le souhaitons, les consacrés, engagés dans le ministère de la formation à “vivre le présent avec passion et à embrasser l’avenir avec espérance», surtout après les paroles consolantes par lesquelles le Préfet et le Secrétaire de la CIVCSVA ont pris congé des participants :

“Chers formateurs et formatrices, l’Eglise vous aime, vous apprécie et prie pour vous. Sans votre service, la vie consacrée ne pourrait exister, ou n’aurait qu’un avenir incertain. Sans votre patience et votre discernement, le peuple de Dieu risquerait de ne plus voir ce sentier lumineux, capable de faire briller, dans un monde qui passe, le monde définitif, transfiguré par les Béatitudes. »

 

 

THE INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS FOR FORMATORS AND FORMING THE CONSECRATED LIFE

Rubino GiuseppeGiuseppe Rubino, OMI
Rome Italy

In the context of the Year of the Consecrated Life, an International Congress for formators of Consecrated Life entitled “Living in Christ according to the way of life of the Gospel; Formed to the consecrated life in the heart of the Church and the world “, was held in Rome from 7 to 11 April 2015.

Organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CIVCSVA), it was the second international meeting of 2015 to be held in Rome among the many initiatives under the program that CIVCSVA, accepting the directions and wishes expressed by Pope Francis. The first of these was held 22 to 25 January 2015, and was an ecumenical meeting between consecrated men and women belonging to different Christian churches. The third will have the young consecrated as target, summoned to Rome for an international workshop to be held September 16 to 18, 2015.

Ever since the publication of the program of the Year of Consecrated Life, in fact, Congress was presented as a good opportunity for continuing training for trainers who wish to take advantage. And, indeed, this ecclesial event was truly a fruitful training opportunities, exchange and fellowship for participants Oblates. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were granted 11 seats in 1300 participants. For logistical reasons, given the high number of acceptances received, the CIVCSVA has, in fact, reserved the decision to determine how many trainers for each religious congregation could participate, according to criteria of origin and number of members of each Institute. so in the end only the Oblates who had made the first such recognition could participate, while others have had to give it up. Besides the three trainers of the International Roman Scholasticate – p. Mario Brandi, p. Joaquin Martinez p. Jude Saparamadu – were present p. Ron Laframboise (United States), p. Joseph Phiri (South Africa), p. Gaby Kinze (Congo), p. André Ndéné (Senegal), p. Wojciech Popielewski (Poland), p. Nobert Wilczek (Germany), p. Giuseppe Rubino (Italy) and p. Józef Wcisło (Poland).

From the first hours, despite the high number of participants, it has experienced an intense atmosphere of brotherhood and joy that accompanied all the experience of the Congress. The numbers can make sense of the ecclesial value of this event: 1300 trainers, coming from 108 different countries, belonging to 450 different charisms. The participants were divided into “tables”, or in mixed communities (8-10 people) who took part in the work of Congress while sitting around a table, place of sharing and friendship. To support the fraternity has greatly helped the simplicity with which both the Cardinal Prefect of the CIVCSVA, João Braz de Aviz, the Secretary, Monsignor José Rodríguez Carballo, they related with the participants, “losing” time in listening and nell’intrattenersi with those encountered during the day. In addition to the interesting papers entrusted to experts from different continents, the Congress also included the participation in one of the many workshops on interesting current topics, such as “the role of the community / fraternity in training”, “accompaniment and discernment in the initial stages of education “,” training affectivity in time of sex scandals “,” training in communications in the digital age “,” the poor, training agents “,” the challenge of the evangelical counsels in the context of modern anthropology ” “formation in the shared mission” and so on.

Some recurring themes, almost guiding ideas of the whole Congress, were:

– Ongoing formation as “idea-mother”, or teaching precondition of all initial training. “Education is the action of the Father who seeks to form in us the feelings and sensitivities of the Son. A formation that has this goal can only last a lifetime: it is the idea of continuing education. But the training is not something that comes after, that is, after the formation of so-called institutional or initial, as if the formation journey through life was something less real and effective. On the contrary, continuing education is what comes first, that is the premise and foundation of the entire educational and pedagogical project route of each stage of initial formation. Purpose of the initial training is, therefore, form the willingness to let oneself be molded by life (docibilitas), that is, the availability of “learning to learn”, to let themselves undermine by life itself, in all its seasons. Must be prepared to this -ribadivano P. Cencini and later Mons. Carballo – helping to recognize and work on all those fears, stiffness, suspicion, resistance with which we usually defend ourselves from reality, from the other, only to no longer hear the reality itself the mediation training action of the Father “;
– The educational relationship as “fundamental” instrument of education, paying attention to form the heart and not just the attitudes;
– The importance and necessity of continuous training of trainers;
– The importance of human formation as support, without fear, to the spiritual, theological and charismatic and psycho-spiritual integration processes, starting from the initial stages;
– Delicacy and importance of the educational ministry requires, now more than ever, a “full-time commitment”;
– Educate to a spirituality of communion to build on a solid foundation the Church of tomorrow.

The audience with Pope Francis has been a highlight of the experience moment of joy lived in those days. Here is an excerpt of his speech that touched points are very dear to the spirituality of the Oblate: “Consecrated life is beautiful; It is one of the most precious treasures of the Church, rooted in the baptismal vocation. And ‘therefore a nice thing to be trainers, because it is a privilege to participate in the work of the Father, which is to form the heart of the Son in the Spirit who calls. Sometimes you may feel that this service as a burden, as if to take us away from something more important. But this is a deception, is a temptation. The mission is certainly important, but it is equally important to train for the mission, forming the passion for the proclamation, forming the passion to go anywhere, in any suburb, to announce to all the love of Jesus Christ, especially to those who they are far away, to tell about the young and the poor, and let also evangelized by them. This requires a solid foundation, a Christian personality structure that the family rarely can give in these our days. And this increases your responsibilities. ” “Know that if at any time you feel that your work is not sufficiently appreciated, know that Jesus is following you with love and the entire Church is grateful to you!”

The Congress was undoubtedly a significant experience that we hope will help the men and women pledging consecrated in the ministry of education to “live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope”, especially after the consoling words of the Prefect and Secretary of CIVCSVA have dismissed the participants:

“Dear Formators, the Church loves you, appreciates you and pray for you. Without your service consecrated life could not exist, or would have an uncertain future. Without your patience and your discernment of God’s people would risk not to see that street light that can shine in a world that passes, the final world transfigured by the Beatitudes. “

Witnesses in the world: Oblate Martyrs of Spain

Rev. Fr. Louis Lougen OMI, the Superior General
August 13th, 2011 – Malaga (Oblate Youth Encounter)

The example of the 22 Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who were martyred in Spain is a strong and brilliant witness to confession of faith in Jesus Christ. For the sole reason that these men were believers in Jesus Christ and had consecrated their lives to him, they were despised and brutally executed. They were young men, conscious and aware that a violent death awaited them because of their faith. They were made to suffer ruthlessly so that they would abandon their faith to save their lives. Heroically, they were faithful to Jesus and to the Catholic faith right up to their brutal deaths.

Spanish martyrs 2

What do we learn from these witnesses? I would propose four qualities:

1 – The Spirit’s gift of Courage and Strength
2 – Love for Jesus and for the Catholic Church
3 – The spiritual power of Love, Forgiveness, Prayer and Joy
4 – Gift of self: Oblation

The first thing we learn from the martyrs: The Spirit’s gift of Courage and Strength to be faithful:

These young men knew what was happening in Spain at the time. They were threatened publicly with people shouting at them, “Kill those Brothers!” In the streets, people made gestures with knives cutting throats to indicate what should be done to religious men. From their residence, the Oblates could see the smoke of burning churches and convents destroyed by those who hated the Church. Among themselves, the Oblates talked about how they would escape from their residence if it were set on fire. Even in this climate of hostility, they went on faithfully with their prayers, studies and work right up to the time of imprisonment.

In the jail, they were treated mercilessly with scant food, humiliations, physical beatings, bitter cold, poor hygienic conditions for toilet needs and lice. Crowded conditions and the bitter cold forced them to sleep standing up at times.

The response of these men was unfailing courage and strength. They endured the conditions in the jail with a spirit of prayer. They remained closely united, caring for each other and encouraging one another and they maintained spirits of serenity and even joy, trusting in God.

The exact words of Clemente Rodriguez Tejerina, 18 years old, were recounted by his sister: “We are in danger and we fear that we will be separated; we encourage each other. But even if we have to die, I am ready, and I am sure that God will give us the strength that we need to be faithful.” (p. 58)

The young Oblate martyrs of Spain teach us that God always gives us the Spirit of Courage and Strength to be faithful in the face of tremendous suffering.

The second thing we learn from the martyrs: Love for Jesus and for the Catholic Church:

These men were made to suffer and were killed because they were Catholic priests and Brothers. To save themselves they only had to renounce their faith and deny their beliefs. What would it matter? Who would care? Why suffer so much? Why cause pain for their families?

In the suffering that led up to their execution before the death squads, they professed their faith in Jesus Christ, their love for the Catholic Church and for their missionary vocation. One of the martyrs, Publio Rodriguez Moslares, 24 years old, had given his mother a small crucifix and told her: “Kiss it frequently, and whatever happens, remember that everything we suffer for Christ, no matter how great it seems, would be small compared to how much Christ loves us and suffered for us.” (p. 36). As they were executed they cried out their profession of faith: “Long live Christ the King!”

Gregorio Escobar Garcia, executed at 24 years of age wrote: “I have always been profoundly moved by the stories of the martyrs. Whenever I have read about them, I have been taken by a secret desire to have the same fate. This would be the greatest priesthood to which a Christian could aspire: to offer to God one’s own body and blood in sacrifice for the faith. What a blessing it would be to die as a martyr.” (p. 24)

Today we are rarely threatened with death for believing in Jesus and being Catholic, although it still does happen in some parts of the world. We can express our love for Jesus and the Church by faithfully living the Gospel with integrity. Following Jesus is not easy when I am truly committed to make the faith a living relationship with God that shapes everything else I do, how I relate to others and what I believe is right and wrong.

The young Oblate martyrs of Spain teach us that our faith in Jesus Christ lived in the Catholic Church is the most precious possession we have and that it should be our faith that most influences and shapes our lives.

The third thing we learn from the martyrs: The spiritual power of Love, Forgiveness, Prayer and Joy:

Father Francisco Esteban Lacal, the Provincial, executed at 48 years of age, received a coat from his family to keep himself warm in the cold prison. Not thinking of his own needs or comfort, he promptly gave it to another companion in prison who was suffering much from the bitter cold. (p.11)

Father Francisco was heard to have said to the guards: “We know that you are killing us because we are Catholics and religious; we are that. I and my companions forgive you from our hearts.” (p.8)

One Oblate that survived this tragic period said: “In our inner self, the thing that most stood out was the spirit of forgiveness time and time again… (p.55)

Relatives of those in prison heard that the Oblates tried secretly to pray the Rosary together when they walked in the patio and even in their cells. (p. 11).

Publio Rodriguez Moslares (24 years old), with one of the priests, entertained the seminarians in the jail with comedies in verse. A witness wrote about Publio: “He was able to endure the jails in Madrid with integrity and joy and when they gave him provisional liberty it was especially he who kept his companions who were suffering this Calvary connected to one another and to their Superiors, going from one place to another.”(p. 36).

Although they were aware of impending death, these Oblates chose to live the Gospel mandate to love their enemies, forgive and pray for those who persecuted them and to rejoice for being made to suffer for the name of Jesus. In society today, pleasure, ease and comfort are the ultimate goals of life. We see a challenging and prophetic message in the lives of these Oblates. They question the way we live and call us to be authentic witnesses of our Christian faith.

The young Oblate martyrs of Spain teach us that even in the face of torture, suffering and death, we are called as Jesus taught us, to forgive, to love our enemies, to pray for them and to rejoice that we are persecuted for the Name of Jesus.

The fourth thing we learn from the martyrs: The Gift of Self – Oblation

These men were Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The word “Oblate” means an oblation, an offering. Through our way of life we Oblates strive to offer our lives to God through Mary, the Mother of Jesus. We make a gift of ourselves to serve God’s people, especially the poor. The passion and death of these 22 Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was the total gift of their lives for Jesus Christ, their Lord; it was the gift of their lives for the good of the people of Spain; it was the gift of their lives for the good of the mission of the Church and of the Oblates all over the world. Many of them were filled with Oblate zeal preparing to head to the missions that the Province of Spain had in Argentina and Uruguay. They did not reach their missionary destinations, but their violent execution was the complete oblation, the total gift of self offered to God for the good of Christ’s mission.

One of the Oblates who was not executed gave this testimony: “What also stood out was the desire to offer our lives for the Church, for the peace of Spain and for those whom we thought were going to execute us. The only motive that guided us was supernatural since humanly speaking we had lost everything. (p.55). This is a perfect expression of oblation, offering oneself for others.

Another Oblate witness stated, “Their reaction in the face of martyrdom was that of great serenity, self-control and prayer to the Lord. They wanted to fulfill the desire to complete their oblation.” (p. 63).

Each one of us is invited to offer our lives to God for the service of the Gospel, to live out our faith and to be witnesses. Because of our Baptism and Confirmation we are sent as followers of Jesus to be the light of God’s love in the world. We are all called to make a gift of our lives, to be “oblates” within our families, at school, where we work, when playing sports and in all our relationships. Jesus showed us this so strongly when he washed his disciples’ feet as a gesture of service and humility. That is the sense of being an “oblate.”

The young Oblate martyrs of Spain teach us that our life has its deepest and most beautiful meaning when we live for others and make our life a gift, an offering, an oblation.

As we experience the communion of the saints in this land washed with the blood of these 22 young Spanish Oblates, may the Holy Spirit strengthen our hearts so that we, as young Catholics, also witness to our faith in Jesus Christ with a spirit of prayer, love, forgiveness and joy, making our lives an oblation to God.

God bless you all. Thank you.

……………………………………………….

The page numbers are taken from the work: “MÁRTIRES OBLATOS” by Joaquin Martinez Vega, O.M.I., Postulator General, Roma

 

THE TRIENNIUM BEGINS: INVITING NEW MEMBERS TO JOIN US

Lougen (2)

 Letter from the Superior General, Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI,
on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2013
 

Blessings to all my brother Oblates and Associates on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary! We begin our Oblate Triennium with this wonderful feast, and enter into a time of expectancy and preparation as we look toward the year 2016 and the bicentennial of Saint Eugene’s decision to bring together a group of missionaries to preach the Gospel to the most abandoned people in Provence.

A vital ministry
As we open the Oblate Triennium, I would like to draw attention to the vital ministry of inviting new members to join our Congregation as priests and Brothers. I do this because, aside from the importance and urgency of continually drawing new life into our Congregation, I have been frequently and insistently asked to speak to the Congregation on this matter, especially by young Oblates from different parts of the Congregation during my visits. Also, the two International Oblate Youth Encounters in which I participated (Malaga, Spain 2011 and Aparecida, Brazil 2013) brought this request to me, as did a letter from the young Oblates of the Conference of the Region of Latin America (CIAL) in February, 2013.

An important charism
It is with real joy that I respond to these requests and affirm the need for this ministry in every Unit of the Congregation. I promise my full support and that of the Central Government and the General Administration to everyone engaged in inviting young people to become Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Brothers and priests. I do this not just because I am concerned about declining numbers in the Congregation, but especially because I have seen who we are in the Church and how vital our presence is for the poor. We are fired by a charism that is unique and special in the Church, one that makes us very close to the poor, the rejected, the forgotten, the people that society ignores, and the people who don’t feel accepted in church. We show a very human face of Jesus to the world, one full of compassion and solidarity. I would go so far as to say that our charism lies at the heart of the Church and indeed at the heart of the Gospel itself. We would be remiss if we did not enthusiastically and boldly continue to invite young people to live as consecrated religious missionaries, priests and Brothers, within our charism. Hasn’t Pope Francis captivated the world by doing what Oblates have done for 197 years?

It does not diminish the importance of other vocations
There are, of course, concerns I sometimes hear from Oblates. First, some feel that by highlighting the uniqueness of a vocation to religious life we are somehow denigrating the vocation of the laity. However I do not see that danger in our situation. As Oblates we have always worked for vocations in the widest sense. We have a long and proud history of working with laity and helping them discover and have access to their rightful ministry in the Church and society. We have worked with couples, single people, lay missionaries, and Oblate Associates. I do not believe it is a question of one vocation somehow opposing the other, religious life versus laity. I invite us to think and to act as “both/and.” Oblates have always been dedicated to both, the formation and participation of lay people in the Church and to our Congregation’s ministry and future by specifically inviting new members. These are complementary vocations; they are not competing with each other. Our ministry includes both helping lay people discern their specific vocation and also working to invite young people to become missionaries in the charism of St. Eugene as priests and Brothers.

Some Oblate vocation promoters have emphasized that their ministry is to help everyone find his or her vocation, but so far no one has chosen to become an Oblate! It would be a great omission on our part to reduce vocation ministry only to helping young people prepare for marriage, single and/or professional life without actively encouraging them to consider the option of priesthood or brotherhood as Oblates. We owe it to the young people we work with to help them to see clearly how their baptism ordains them to minister in Jesus’ name, even outside the canonical structures of priesthood and religious life; but we also only serve them truly and fully if we invite them to consider whether perhaps they are called to a vocation inside religious life or priesthood. Religious life and priesthood are a call, an invitation. That has been true from the time of Jesus to this very day. We must invite, freely and graciously, but we must invite. An invitation is not coercion; it is a gift for which one is grateful.

It is not to the detriment of the mission with the poorest of the poor
A second concern some Oblates give voice to is the danger that in putting energy and personnel into seeking vocations, we are forgetting the mission and the needs of the poor, and turning unhealthily inward. While it is understandable that any energy turned in upon ourselves can seem self-serving, reality demands that we take a longer-range view: Without new members we will not survive for long and the poor will no longer be served by our charism. Also, to work specifically to invite new members to our religious family is to believe in our future and the importance of our work and ministry. It is when a family no longer believes that it has a worthwhile future that it stops welcoming new life into itself. We believe we have a family worth welcoming people into. We believe that we are worthwhile. And we believe that we have a future. We need to welcome in new life – with joy and confidence. This is another instance of both/and: We need to spend ourselves for the mission to the most abandoned, even as we dedicate some energy and some personnel to seek young men to continue this mission which is so needed in the Church.

Do we still have faith?
There is an axiom that says: Every congregation gets the future it deserves! I believe we have a future as a Congregation and that our death is not something ordained by God or by circumstance. We will die to the extent that we no longer believe that God’s Spirit is able to move the hearts of young people and to the extent that we no longer believe that our charism has relevance to the poor, the Church and to the world. We will die to the extent that we no longer believe in the generosity of young people and their desire to serve, to give of themselves, and to be willing to sacrifice. We will die when we stop believing – in the power of the Gospel, in the generosity of young people, in the value of our own charism, and in ourselves. I believe it is a sign that we have become overly-secularized and lost faith when we say young people are unable to be attracted by the power of the Word and by Jesus’ life.

I believe we are weak in faith when we too glibly cite “demographics” and “secularization” as the causes for so few young people responding to the call to be missionary priests and brothers. Do we no longer believe in the power of the Spirit to raise up new members? Do we believe that the Gospel no longer works? When we cease to invite young people to join our family because of demographics and secularization, we unwittingly help fulfill our own prophecy that there are no longer any youth interested in our way of life. Then we will get the future we deserve. But, our faith calls us to see more deeply, to act differently, and to choose to be prophetic rather than despairing. We, each and every Oblate, are called to challenge the dogmas of demographics and secularization and step out in faith to invite young people to an alternative and radical way of life. Let us meditate on the words of Constitution # 52: “Jesus never ceases to call people to follow him and to proclaim his Kingdom.”

Even in the Units where vocations are numerous
I write to you, not only concerned about the Units in which vocations are very sparse or non-existent. Where vocations to the Congregation are abundant in certain places of the world, we cannot take this gift for granted. We must also have a solidly organized vocation ministry which is proactive, inviting and helping young people discern their vocation and be formed in their faith. At times I worry that we are too passive and content in simply admitting those who come to us without an organized pastoral ministry of vocations which actively seeks out, invites and then accompanies these men in their discernment to become missionaries. The Units blessed in attracting new members could become complacent and even be forgetful about prayer for vocations. These Units also must be strong in prayer, expressing their gratitude to God for the new members who come to them and asking the Lord for vocations in solidarity with the Units who are facing serious challenges.

“And what did our Lord Jesus Christ do?”
What do we learn from Jesus? Jesus’ life incarnated a full integrity: His life witnessed to the Good News that he preached. Jesus was a prayerful man: living out of a deep communion with his Abba, impelled by the Spirit, he prayed before choosing his disciples and told us to pray for laborers. Jesus called others by name to be with him, to follow him, and he formed them. Might that not be a template for our own ministry of Oblate vocations? Our lives must witness to the Good News we preach as we were so powerfully called by the 2010 Chapter on “Conversion.” We must be men of prayer, contemplatives in loving communion with the Father, the Son and the Spirit. We must pray for vocations. (Recently Pope Francis said that vocation ministry is a ministry of the knees, of prayer, rather than programmatic strategy.) We must invite young men by name to follow Jesus as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The way is not easy and there are no fast solutions. We need a great deal of patience, faith, prayer and Oblate perseverance. Units need to develop a permanent community outreach to young people that is respectful and careful of the whole person, courageous in inviting and proposing our way of life, and the common commitment of the all the Oblates in the Unit. We need to invite young people into our communities for experiences of life and mission. We need to invite them to pray and share faith together with us. Whether we are in an environment in which there are few young people choosing a religious vocation or in one that is favorable and conducive to vocations, it is necessary to dedicate full-timepersonnel and financial resources to a serious, intentional and organized vocation ministry.

The reality of young people who are different from us
Sometimes the present reality of young people is very different from what it was for us who are older. For instance, they might arrive asking about our particular religious clothing, the habit. They might ask about saying the Rosary or having Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. They have their own unique way of uniting concerns for the poor, for justice, and for the environment with devotions and more traditional signs of Catholicism. This can make some of us feel uncomfortable with these young people. But our personal comfort is not of paramount importance here: we need to rise above our own preferred ecclesiologies and welcome these young people, listen to them, learn from them, and humbly help them journey in the spirit of the Church today. We cannot demand of them our spirituality, especially right from the beginning. It is crucial to welcome and walk with them, beginning with where they are, looking at them with love as Jesus did.

Mission with youth and the vocation apostolate
When we speak of our responsibility to invite young men to consider our Oblate life, we must also remember the crucial connection between our ministry with youth and our ministry with the laity. Both of these instances are natural places where we find active Catholic young men to whom we may propose the option of our missionary religious way of life. We do not “use” these ministries simply to find vocations, but these are the logical places to encounter young men who participate in the sacraments, actively live their faith and seek to grow it. Oblates who are involved in education and formation ministries with youth and laity should always be interested and happy to extend an invitation to a Catholic young man to spend some time in community with us, to make a vocational retreat or to invite them on mission with us, etc. Like Jesus, we must be proactive and call others to follow the Lord as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Our need to convert, to pray and to hope
As we begin the Oblate Triennium, I ask you to contemplate and follow Jesus’ vocational ministry. We need, all of us, to work on conversion in the five areas of our religious missionary life (see the 2010 Chapter document, “Conversion”) so that we live with more faithful integrity the following of Jesus. Hence, we need to give substantial effort to prayer in our local communities and in our Units, asking God to send us men whom we might receive and welcome as new members. I invite you to discuss the vocational reality of your own Unit. Please do this not as victims of statistics, demographics and secularization, but as men of faith. Hope, as you know, does not look at demographics and then form a judgment. Hope rather looks at the Gospel and waits for the demographics to change!

For an organized approach to this ministry
I invite each Unit to organize a pastoral ministry of outreach for new members, insisting that every Oblate has responsibility for vocations and designating an Oblate priest or Brother as full time coordinator. The General Norms for Oblate Formation is a helpful instrument to begin to organize a vocation ministry and discernment process for welcoming new members into our midst: “There is an urgent need for a well-planned vocation apostolate in every Unit of the Congregation. It consists of two ministries: 1) that of making known the Oblate charism, and 2) that of accompanying a prospective candidate until he enters a pre-novitiate program. While each of these two ministries has its specialists, every Oblate is called to perform the first and any Oblate may find himself called upon to exercise the second (cf.R.53a).” (GNOF, p. 19 # 79)This is a very concrete appeal to conversion in the spirit of the Chapter of 2010.

Mary Immaculate is the model and guardian of our consecrated life (C#13). We entrust our renewed efforts toward inviting new members to join us through a prayerful ministry of vocations to her intercession and tender care for us.

Formation after the novitiate: internalizing Oblate values and the spirit of oblation

Last July, I took part in the Congress on the Charism in Context as both a celebration of the heritage of our Oblate family and as a commitment to renew ourselves as a Congregation in the dynamics of the Oblate charism, such as the Spirit is inviting us to do today. The essential role of first and ongoing formation within this dynamic of renewal was strongly emphasized throughout the Congress.

Constitution 46 rightly reminds us the “goal of the formation process is that each of us become an apostolic man, capable of living the Oblate charism.” Therefore, formation promotes the growth of these Oblate values which those in charge of formation have discovered in the candidate through accompaniment and discernment in prayer. The first stages of the formation journey allow for the discovery of and the first steps in nourishing and watching over the growth of the Oblate missionary spirituality of the candidate.

Obviously, formation after the novitiate, the longest stage of initial formation in most cases, and that which accompanies the preparation for perpetual oblation, have a fundamental role in this process of growth and assimilation of Oblate values. During this stage, the life choice that the young man has made and deepened during his vocational journey, the pre-novitiate and novitiate, is strengthened, becomes more stable and more in tune with the charism of the Congregation today. The sense of belonging as a member of the Institute is reinforced. It is a period that prepares the young Oblate to say a definitive yes to God’s call to become an apostolic man, animated by the Oblate charism. To become an Oblate, to become an apostolic man, animated by the Oblate spirit, is a process that is gradual and continues throughout life. This is why formation after the novitiate, lived in a formation community, remains a required course for each Oblate, whether a candidate for priesthood or the vocation of a Brother.

Constitution 46 describes this apostolic man as a person who “inspired by the example of Mary”, lives “in creative and ongoing fidelity our personal commitment to Jesus Christ, while serving the Church and God’s Kingdom.” This definition of the apostolic man animated by the Oblate charism constitutes an essential pillar of the formation program after the novitiate. It is a period during which the formandi will “live out their consecration in such a way that it permeates all aspects and activities of their daily life.” (C 65)

The Marian dimension Oblate formation is expressed through the invitation to follow the example of Mary in one’s oblation, one’s faith response and willingness to consecrate oneself to the work of Christ. Mary is the model of our oblation and formandi learn to look to her, to pray to her and to imitate her.

The commitment to follow Jesus Christ means putting him at the center of our lives and living a truly personal encounter with him. This is realized in a life of prayer and devotion to Christ. “This ever creative fidelity is fidelity that is renewed every morning and which finds, in everyone and everywhere, new ways to get in touch with Christ and give him to others.” (Fernand JETTÉ, OMI The Apostolic Man, Commentary on the Oblate Constitutions and Rules 1982, p. 265).

In general, our Congregation can be proud of good formation after the novitiate, which is lived in community, around the person of Christ, with teams of formators who are dedicated and well committed to their mission. In addition to the five Oblate institutes of higher learning that offer good philosophical, theological and other formation, most of our formandi study at universities, theological institutes and major seminaries where they receive a solid intellectual and doctrinal formation. But because of an academic program that is often very busy, it is tempting to leave to these institutes all responsibility for forming our candidates after the novitiate. But the deepening of the Oblate charism and our missionary spirituality must continue during formation after the novitiate. Oblate formation must always consider the spiritual, human, intellectual and missionary dimensions of the apostolic man. The development of a strong formation program in each house of formation after the novitiate helps to maintain this harmony. And to do that, the formators themselves must constantly renew themselves.

Putting oneself totally at the service of the Church and the Kingdom is the result of a generous and joyful response to God’s call. It is the orientation of a life seized by Christ who gives himself totally to the poor. Formation after the novitiate allows young Oblates to grow in a total and free oblation of their being for the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples, especially the poorest. This proclamation is made as Church, as community and through community. In an ever creative fidelity. 

Cornelius Ngoka, OMI, Assistant General
(OMI Information No. 559,  October 2015)

A journey of initiation into religious life

Ngoka Cornelius-03

Fr. Cornelius Ngoka, OMI, Assistant General

The novitiate is a time of initiation into religious life during which the Oblate novice, guided by the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the master of novices, grows in friendship with Christ. During this time, the novice experiences the Oblate charism, deepened and lived in community and, in prayer, he develops his conscious and joyful response to God’s call to become an Oblate, through the experience of the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and perseverance.

We often find for ourselves some opportunities to renew ourselves in our oblation, to awaken in ourselves the joyful enthusiasm of the beginning and to remember or tell about the experience of the novitiate: it is when we participate in a first vows ceremony, when we are preparing for final vows or when we celebrate the anniversary of our own first vows. For many Oblates, the experience of novitiate remains a unique time in their journey towards Oblate religious life.

I would like to quote an Oblate who just celebrated 50 years of religious, as well as some novice masters and former novice masters to tell about what the experience of the novitiate means for them, and how it contributes to the formation of an Oblate to a solid religious identity.

Fr. Gilberto Piñón, who just celebrated 50 years of oblation, shares this with us: “The Oblate novitiate experience was a special moment in my life, a time of serious discernment of my own vocation. The decision to become an Oblate had been made before, but the novitiate was the living experience of the Oblate vocation. This was the moment when I could examine my life to see if it really was God calling me; when I could evaluate my own ability to live the Oblate ideal; when I could see if I was really happy and at peace in this Oblate religious lifestyle. I remember that the novice master offered us a lot of questions to help us reflect and pray. The novitiate community also helped me a lot. Sharing my daily life with others helped me in my discernment. And sharing my interior life with the novice master and my spiritual director, I learned to know myself better and know what God expected of me. It was a difficult but very rewarding experience whose fruit is still with me today.”

The testimonies of novice masters agree with the experience of Gilberto and in which many Oblates, I am certain, can recognize themselves. They underline the fundamental elements of this experience of the novitiate which it is worthwhile to recall.

The experience must “begin by encountering the cross. This experience is central to formation in the novitiate. The novices, guided by the Holy Spirit, begin to discern their deepest motivation … If we accept entering into the experience of the cross, we open the door to what is the heart of the conversion process. And its fruit is the offering — the gift of self. The novice begins to understand that the adventure of life is to be lived in faith, and in this adventure, formation and conversion are one and the same. In the same context of the encounter with the cross is the connection of the novice with the demands of asceticism in his life, to put the prayer life in first place and to give the Spirit of Christ the opportunity to form his heart. Finally, contact with the poor — even if it is limited during the time of novitiate — gives the opportunity to live as missionaries: to serve others and never wish to be served.”

Another element of the novitiate mentioned by a former novice master is silence. “Religious life began in the desert; thus, the desire for solitude and silence. Even though we are not monks or hermits, we need to know and to love the silence, and this is even more important in our noisy ‘entertaining’ civilization! Being able to leave aside, during the time of retreat, the laptop, the computer; having mastery over these modern means of communication.”

During the novitiate, he must also know how to give value to things. “The value and the joy of prayer, the value and the joy of community life, the value and the joy of going to the poorest, the value and the joy of sharing. Hence the importance of personal accompaniment, which must also b e valued. This requires openness and confidence in self and in the formators.”

Since it is an introduction to Oblate missionary and religious life, the last element of formation in the novitiate I want to emphasize here is the deepening of knowledge of the Founder and the Oblate charism, which the time of novitiate must provide. “The novices are introduced to the lifestyle of the Oblates not only through the teachings they receive, but also thanks to the experience of the Oblate charism within the novitiate community, the living testimony of the master of novices and his collaborators, and through contact, though limited, with Oblate communities and missions. This is why it is appropriate to appoint the right people at the novitiate.”

The congress on the charism in context can be an opportunity to fan the flame of the Oblate charism, which was lit in us during the novitiate experience — a flame which must continue to burn during every season of our Oblate religious life.

(OMI Information No. 557, July 2015)

Human Growth and formation in the prenovitiate

The novena of prayer for vocations to Oblate religious life which we have just experienced has allowed us both to renew ourselves in our own vocation and to understand that in addition to vocation ministry, each activity and missionary presence should be an opportunity to pray for vocations to Oblate missionary life and promote them. The support of and familiarity with the candidates, beginners at this stage, will continue and intensify during the later stages, starting with the prenovitiate.

I would like to emphasize the important role of the prenovitiate in the Oblate formation journey today and the need to better attend to the formation process during this stage.

Of all the stages of Oblate formation, the prenovitiate, in its current forms, is certainly the newest and most diverse stage. In recent years, the need for better accompaniment of young men before the novitiate experience has become obvious. As Fr. Jetté noted in his report to the General Chapter of 1980: “Young people who wish to enter religious life today are often unprepared to begin a novitiate. Their previous religious formation is weak; their decision needs to be clarified, purified, matured … Just about everywhere, the prenovitiate is considered necessary.” (OMI Documentation, 29 November 1980). As a Congregation we have gradually realized the importance and benefit of this stage of formation, thanks to experience and in the face of the different challenges that first and continuing formation pose for us today. The prenovitiate has become the first phase of first formation (GNOF, 156), mainly centered on human growth and Christian formation.

In the preface to the Constitutions and Rules of 1825, Eugene de Mazenod defines what might be called the missionary pedagogy of the Oblates: to help people become sensible (human), then Christians, and finally help them to become saints. The attention on the human person characterizes the Oblate way of living and doing mission. To remain faithful to the charism, Oblate formation must take into account the human dimension in the accompaniment of each Oblate. As Christian life is realized and develops in a concrete human context, we cannot ignore it in proclaiming the Gospel and in discernment and the formation journey.

Constitution 54 clearly states one of the goals of this experience: to help candidates “to achieve the personal and Christian maturity necessary for a fruitful novitiate and to assess their suitability for our way of life.” While the purpose and importance of the prenovitiate are no longer in any doubt in the Congregation, its program and its duration are not the same everywhere. Where the program lasts between six months and two years, the formation process tries to address mainly the human and Christian accompaniment of pre-novices. In this case, it is necessary to program this time so that the young men can make of it an experience of discovery and growth in their human, Christian and spiritual lives.

Where the prenovitiate program also includes the study of philosophy, the duration is usually between three and four years. In this case, if the prenovitiate program is not well defined, one often runs the risk of building everything around the study of philosophy and neglecting other dimensions of formation, especially human accompaniment, Christian and spiritual formation. Whatever the duration or the system followed, the question is to ascertain whether the current prenovitiate programs help to accompany the candidates and prepare them for the crucial stage of the novitiate. We are often tempted to forget or even ignore the main objectives of this formation stage in the development of its program.

In July 2014, while meeting in Aix-en-Provence for a formation session, prenovitiate formators had the opportunity to share and listen to their experiences about the objectives and the current prenovitiate programs. At the end of the session, and despite the diversity of experiences, the formators, among other things, became deeply aware that the prenovitiate is a time of preparation for the novitiate which consists in getting to know the candidates better and accompanying them so that they can better understand and better respond to God’s call. Human growth and Christian formation are two areas to which the prenovitiate stage must pay particular attention, in the context of community life. We must take time to accompany each pre-novice; this implies full-time formators, well-prepared and supported by a stable team. The lack of a clear formation plan can easily lead to improvisation of this formation phase. In many cases, one is often tempted to fill in the gaps with a variety of activities that do not really help young people deepen their vocation and know themselves better so as to grow.

In his message to prenovitiate formators, Father Louis Lougen recalled that the prenovitiate is the “door” to all Oblate formation and, consequently, formators should ensure the good health of this human “raw material” and the solidness of their spiritual formation.

It is indisputable that the accompaniment of young men at this stage of formation must consider the socio-cultural and ecclesial contexts where they come from and the concrete situations of their respective Units. However, to live Oblate formation as an experience of growth, freedom and internal coherence, a good human and Christian accompaniment that begins already at the prenovitiate seems essential. It is also necessary that our formators be ready and well-prepared for the challenge.

Fr. Cornelius Ngoka, OMI, Assistant General
(OMI Information No. 556, June 2015)