The first international congress for men and women providing formation for consecrated life, organised by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life during the year that Pope Francis is dedicating to religious, which was celebrated on 7-11 April 2015, witnessed the participation of about 1,300 men and women providing formation who represented 418 religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life of pontifical right. They came from 106 countries in the world. Seven people responsible for providing information belonging to our Order took part, from India, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Italy, Austria and Argentina, and they were coordinated by Father Laurent Zoungrana, the Vicar General and the Consultor for Formation.
This congress, which had the title ‘Living in Christ According to the Form of Life of the Gospel’ (cf. the decree of the Second Vatican Council on the renewal of religious life, Perfectae caritatis, n. 2), had as its objective the involvement of men and women who provide formation in order to achieve a more serene understanding of their mission at the side of those who receive formation from them, and together with them to find new methodological pathways of discernment which are more suited to the reality of the spirituality and the pedagogy of today’s religious world.
Various speakers who animated the daily Lectio divina, papers on various subjects that were held to be important, and the chairing of deliberations in the laboratories followed one another. They highlighted to the participants that their first mission is to be at the side of those receiving formation and to help them, through their own witness as consecrated men and women, on a journey, forming themselves and basing themselves on the feelings of Christ.
Those who receive formation are not the property of those providing formation but, rather, freedoms entrusted to their care in their personal answers to the call of Christ. Men and women who provide formation live at the side of those who receive formation from them in order to mediate the process involving the maturation of their response to this call and in a team they assess whether the requirements exist for a final consecration.
In the context of today’s world men and women who provide formation encounter very many difficulties in carrying out their strategic mission for the future of our religious institutes and so the challenges are many in number.
The most urgent of these challenges are the following: the quality of formation linked to the scarcity of vocations; cultivating a solid spirituality; educating people in a healthy affective life that is able to live the requirements of the vow of chastity; implementing a vision for a true Christian anthropology; managing intergenerational conflict and intercultural conflict; learning the new technologies of communication; and persevering in the ongoing formation of the men and women who provide formation.
In order to achieve integral formation in the contemporary context, due consideration should be given to: life at a practical level; the accompanying of a person receiving formation (the person providing formation is not asked to be perfect but, rather, authentic and sincere); a passion for the beauty of the life of Christ to be infused in the person receiving formation; a passion for study; pastoral mission without falling into pastoralism; fraternity in formation; the holy liturgy; a great love for the people who are entrusted to us in discernment; and full harmony with the Magisterium of the Church.
From all of this one evinces the capillary importance of the formation of the men and women who provide formation in the various disciplines with a view to achieving the integral formation of those receiving formation.
Fr. Armand Assavedo