(to provincial and delegate superiors and formators)
1. After the continental meetings of the General Council (GC) with the provincial and delegate superiors (January and February 2007) and the Consulta of March 2007, we wish to take up again with you the guidelines of the Letter of the GC after the Intercapitular Assembly 2006 (n. 28, 29, 20) for the purpose of sharing what we intend to implement in Basic Formation in the Institute.
Ad hoc committee
2. In collaboration with the provinces and delegations and, in particular, with the secretaries for Vocation Promotion (VP) and Basic Formation (BF), and in preparation for the 2009 ordinary special General Chapter, the committee will carry on its work of reviewing our formation system. After the courses for vocation promoters and formators during the next months, the GC will review the membership of the committee, which by then will be under the responsibility of the new secretary general for VP and BF.
Scholasticates at continental level
3. Since provincials and delegates are in total agreement about this, the GC has decided to begin a gradual shift so that we may have the international formative journey done at continental level. The purpose of the plan is to promote a stable and gradual journey towards maturity throughout the various formation stages. As it is a choice that it unquestionably guarantees the dimension of internationality and continentality as an important and integrating value of the formative journey, but also a choice to the detriment of some positive aspects of the intercontinental experience, during the next few years the GC will closely monitor and evaluate the situation.
In the spirit of the above decision, we have started to implement this course of action, as much as possible, when deciding for the assignment of this year’s newly professed confreres.
Locations of scholasticates
4. After discussing the proposal with the provincials and delegates, the GC has come to the decision:
– to gradually close two scholasticates in the North: Chicago first, Innsbruck later;
– to keep only one scholasticate in Europe;
– to endeavour to open an additional scholasticate in Africa with a limited number of scholastics (on the pattern of that of Pietermaritzburg);
– to foresee the closure of one of the two scholasticates in Latin America, if in the next years the number of local candidates will not be sufficient to justify the continuation of both;
– to begin the formation of small groups of scholastics inserted in Comboni pastoral communities;
Community of insertion
5. In the continental meetings of the GC with the provincials and delegates, the decision of starting small groups of scholastics inserted into a pastoral and missionary context was approved. This type of experience, namely to offer the candidates the possibility of preparing themselves to the missionary life (theological studies, pastoral service, personal follow up...) while inserted into a Comboni community, is intended to be an “alternative” to the present formative system.
6. We were hoping to begin the experience this year, but, in order to better guarantee and clarify some important requirements, we shall begin in 2008, as also suggested by the interested provincials and delegates. Congo, Malawi/Zambia, Egypt, Asia, Brazil South and Brazil North East, Colombia, NAP and the DSP are willing to begin to study the feasibility of starting such experience.
Comboni Brothers Centre (CBC)
7. As the number of the Brothers candidates is steadily decreasing, the GC has welcomed the suggestion, made during the meetings with the provincials and delegates, to retain as far as possible two formation centres for the Brothers who have finished their novitiate: one in America and one in Africa.
8. The missionary service at the end of the studies will become an integral part of the formation journey. It will offer the candidates the possibility of practising and assimilating the proposed values, as they match them up with everyday life, as well as the opportunity of resuming contacts with their own province or delegation of origin, as they take part in its life and activities. It also offers to the provincial and delegation superiors and respective councils the possibility of a better discernment when presenting the candidates for perpetual vows. This orientation will not apply to the scholastics who are in small groups of insertion, as they already do the missionary service during their study time.
9. The GC has accepted the proposal of the majority of provincials and delegates and has decided that, starting from 1st January 2008, all the scholastics who have completed their theological studies and have been recommended by the formators for perpetual vows, will have at least one year of pastoral experience in their own province of origin. Taking into consideration that in Europe there are no meaningful experiences at pastoral level, the European scholastics will have the possibility of doing the missionary service in other continents.
10. The European provincial superiors have made the proposal of moving the venue of the novitiate from Venegono (Italy) to Santarém (Portugal). The GC, having discussed the proposal, deems necessary to further study the problem with the general secretary of VP-BF and the European provinces before making the decision.
Preparation of vocation promoters and formators
11. The GC appreciates and encourages the effort being made in the provinces and delegations in the selection and qualified preparation of vocation promoters and formators. In dialogue with the general secretary of VP-BF we must offer to the interested confreres all the opportunities for a suitable introduction to their service and times of ongoing formation, like those that at the moment are being offered in the Institute at continental level.
12. The Letter of the GC after the Intercapitular Assembly 2006 concludes by reminding us that: “Now it’s the time to dare, to risk, to believe (...); let us take up with faith in the Lord the challenge that He gives us: to believe in Him and to look at the future with hope.”
13. Encouraged, therefore, by such hope, let us take up together the new proposals and guidelines in the knowledge that we are implementing a renewal process in our present formation system. We feel important to remind us that all efforts undertaken in this sector would be empty and fruitless, unless our passion for Christ and the Comboni mission are not placed at the centre of the formation journey.
14. We thank the Lord for the gift of vocations in the Institute and for the confreres committed to vocation promotion and formation. In our candidates’ preparation to the missionary life, the aim is to enable them to respond to the challenges of mission today. All this requires commitment and sacrifice, through the generous response of our fidelity and life witness.
Let us entrust the formation journey in the Institute to the intercession of St. Daniel Comboni.
Rome, 8 April 2007
Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General
Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan, vicar general
Fr. Odelir José Magri, assistant general
Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel, assistant general
Br. Umberto Martinuzzo, assistant general