I am reminding you to fan into flame the gift of God
that you possess through the laying on of my hands.
(2 Tim. 1:6)
A) Starting point
51. The 1997 Chapter stressed the importance of attention to the person and the value of OGF, presenting it as a requirement that cannot be ignored and a priority par excellence (CA ’97, Nos. 119ff). In fact, a new style of mission demanded a formation more centred on values and a strong Comboni identity.
In line with the document Vita Consecrata (VC 65, 69), the Chapter suggested an about-turn in the understanding of OGF, placing at the centre of a growth and renewal process to be carried out in community and for the whole of one's life.
Not everything that was proposed has been put into effect; nor has it always been as effective as was hoped in carrying through the renewal of persons and of our way of carrying out mission.
52. The ‘today’ of our Institute throws us some challenges:
52.1 to set out again from the Gospel of Christ and from the RL as sources of inspiration of our options, giving greater emphasis to being missionaries than to doing mission;
52.2 to develop a sense of belonging to the Institute, freeing us from individualism in our way of living and practising mission;
52.3 to grow in passion and mystical love for the mission, to overcome feelings of unease, discouragement and delusion;
52.4 to cultivate mutual esteem and friendship in our relationships;
52.5 to mature in the ability to live cross-culturalism as a gift;
52.6 to make the best use of the human, spiritual and missionary wealth of our elderly and sick confreres.
B) Basic foundations and attitudes
53. Our Comboni identity consists, right from the beginning, in taking up God’s initiative as Comboni did; in letting ourselves be consecrated by the Father with the gift of the Spirit and in awareness of being sent by Him for the service of the Gospel. We find in the pierced Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd the model, the source and the power to give our lives to the poorest of the poor.
54. It calls on us to:
54.1 make holiness the foundation of the life and mission of each one of us and of the whole Institute;
54.2 recognise missionary consecration as a gift God has planted in us, and cultivate it in every moment and action of our life, living it in the ordinary events of life, where reconciliation and growth take place;
54.3 constantly take up a process of conversion that is translated into openness to plurality and to new lifestyles, in an option for austerity and in solidarity; in a new way of living community life and of missionary methodology;
54.4 know how to be with and for the poor, making common cause with them and learning to read the Word and everyday reality together.
55. At the same time it is seen:
55.1 in the community as the place where experience of God and encounter with others take place;
55.2 in an attitude of contemplation capable of discovering the love of Christ even in the most disturbing events; this requires the practice of the disciplines of spiritual life: listening to the Word, reflection, spiritual and apostolic discernment, and an intense sacramental life;
55.3 embodying ourselves in events around us, walking alongside others as sisters and brothers.
C) Programming elements in the formation process
56. OGF and the first stages of formation fuse together, creating in an individual the readiness to let himself be formed every day of his life. Each stage calls for specific care to guarantee the subject perseverance in his fidelity and the ability to respond creatively to the new demands of consecrated life and of the mission (cfr. VC 69).
I) On-going Formation
57. In the next six years we want to make OGF the priority that will help us to live mission together, in our ordinary, everyday lives.
58. At a personal level
58.1 The individual has the first responsibility for his own OGF.
58.2 With his life project, the missionary undertakes personalised application of the community and provincial project of evangelisation and of OGF.
58.3 Each one should be faithful to spiritual direction.
59. At community level
59.1 The community is still the most important place for OGF
(cfr. CA ’97, No. 124).
59.2 Each community should be helped to draw up its own Community Charter, in which there is the programme of community meetings, life of prayer, reflection on the RL, planning and review of pastoral activities and moments of relaxation and brotherhood.
59.3 Confreres must be encouraged to be faithful to their personal life projects.
59.4 The ministry of the superior as the one responsible for OGF in the community must be given due importance.
60. At province level
60.1 The Commissions of OGF must draw up their project with the continental project in mind.
60.2 Courses of introduction for new arrivals must continue to be organised, giving them the necessary time to learn the local language and get to know the geography, the history and culture, the history of evangelisation and of the Comboni presence. The confrere appointed to this task is to follow up such preparation.
60.3 Communities and individuals must be chosen to accompany confreres during their first missionary experience.
60.4 Group meetings according to age and responsibility (superiors and bursars) must continue, and regular meetings of young confreres fostered.
60.5 Meetings should be arranged to help confreres who return to their home province to fit back in.
60.6 The GA must support the provincial superior in his service of OGF of the whole province.
61. At continental level
61.1 A team must be established to draw up a project of OGF to present to the different provinces.
61.2 There must also be formed a group to reflect on mission, evangelisation, the charism and its inculturation. The fruits of this reflection shall be included in the continental project of OGF.
61.3 The OGF project must be supervised by the provincial appointed to do so, and by those responsible for this sector.
62. At the level of Institute
62.1 On-going formation of formators and vocation promoters: the GC must proceed to nominate a group of confreres that will co-ordinate the OGF of formators and vocation promoters. This group will be made up of the secretary general of BF, the central coordinator of OGF, formators nominated by the GC and will include a member of the CYOF team.
62.2 CYOF: The Comboni Year of OGF is an integral part of the formation journey of each Comboni Missionary. Everyone – individuals, PCs and the GC – must make it possible for candidates to participate. It is important that confreres who participate be motivated and willing.
The new structure of the CYOF is approved (six months of a common course, plus two more personalised to the needs of the individual), maintaining the possibility of undertaking the course in either English and Spanish.
The GC must evaluate the possibility/suitability of keeping the present two venues, while preserving the principle of offering the course in the aforesaid two languages. The proposal of the London province to use Elstree for the purpose must be considered.
62.3 Renewal Courses: besides the Renewal Course in Rome, the GA will study the possibility of offering confreres in age groups not contemplated for the CYOF other ways and suitable venues for their OGF.
62.4 Confreres in difficulty: particular attention must be given to confreres who are living periods of difficulty. The community must ensure that the person is made to feel at home, to facilitate a process of renewal.
Besides the provincial, there should be a person qualified to follow these cases. If necessary, they should be encouraged to accept the help of professional persons and/or therapeutic communities.
While making use of already-existing institutions, the GC must study the possibility of collaboration with other Church bodies (Religious Institutes, local Churches) to build up support structures for confreres in difficulty.
62.5 Specialisations: at the start of the six-year term the GA, in dialogue with the PCs, must programme the necessary specialisations for the life of the whole Institute and of the single provinces, according to the needs of the mission.
For Brothers, the following areas should be given prominence: JPIC and social development, mass media and finances.
II) Basic Formation
63. BF is intrinsically linked to OGF and to the life of the Institute. Therefore we all feel responsible for the formation of our candidates, especially through the witness of our personal and community life.
64. To promote continuity between the different formation phases and mission, we propose that:
64.1 vocation promoters and formators come together to compare what this Chapter has said about mission with the process of the different stages of formation;
64.2 concrete experiences of missionary life among the poor must be programmed right from the start of formation;
64.3 new experiences and alternative forms of formation must be put forward. They must be much closer to real missionary life, especially for the scholasticates and the IBC;
64.4 reflection on the role of the integral formator must continue.
Preparation of vocation promoters and of formators for postulancies
65. Seeing the problem of choosing and training formators at the level of postulancy, a more effective central coordination is called for from the general secretariat of formation in the preparation of formators for postulancies and of vocation promoters.
65.1 The training of the formators should take place, if possible, in the context in which they will carry out their activity.
65.2 The formators must be chosen from among those who have had a valid missionary experience in the province or in the areas where they will carry out their service.
65.3 There must be wider dialogue and discernment in the choice of formators, involving the individual confrere, his community and the province in which he is working.
65.4 As regards vocation promoters, a preparation must be ensured that will help them to discern the suitability of candidates and the validity of their motivations. In the vocation team there should be a Brother, as far as possible.
Professional Formation of Brothers
66. Professional formation is an integral part of the formation process of a Brother, and makes his sense of identity more robust. A candidate who has not yet acquired a profession will normally do so in the postulancy. In the choice of studies, the directives of the final document of the Review of Formation must be kept in mind, as well as sectors such as JPIC, human promotion, mass media and finance.
66.1 To guarantee better professional training of postulants and to have Brothers in the formation teams, the GC must study, together with the provinces, the possibility of establishing inter-provincial postulancies for Brothers.
66.2 The IBC is confirmed as the formation stage most in line with the ministerial preparation that is specific to the apostolate of Brothers.
Preparing Brothers for perpetual vows
67. The GA must organise a period of preparation for perpetual vows for the Brother candidates who are approaching them.
68. The GA must study the possibility of opening a scholasticate in Asia/the Philippines, in a small community and in an environment of insertion.
It should also study the possibility of opening a scholasticate in an Arab context.