I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full   (Jn 10:10)

A. Introduction

1.  We are grateful to the Lord for the precious gift of the vocations that allow us to look to the future with faith and optimism. In the light of the journey travelled in the Institute and taking into account the analysis of the reality of the world of the youth of today, we seek to understand the young men who are called to the missionary life, to accompany them, and to discern together with them the will of God.

2.  Aware of the fact that formation and mission are dynamically linked (the missionary is formed for the mission and the mission forms the missionary), we pro­pose an experiential and initiatory style of formation, through an educative method that is respectful of the individual and according to the Comboni charism. All of this will be made clear in specific objectives and in a plan of action in order to improve the quality of our basic formation.

B. Analysis of the situation

The world of the youth today

3.  The youth are children of their time and are comfortable in the world of technology and immediate communication. They are sensitive, supportive and aware of the themes of freedom, justice, peace and the environment. Without abandoning totally the traditions with which they identify, they are open to new languages and able to adapt themselves to new and intercultural situations. They look for attractive ideals in all spheres, including the religious, and welcome values witnessed to with generosity. They are prepared to make sacrifices if motivated and justified by visible and reachable short term results. In ge­neral they are sincere in their search for the truth and both in­quisitive and critical. They ask to be heard and involved usually in decisions that touch them.

4.  Today’ sociological and cultural changes have a strong influence on the mind and sensibility of the youth, thus presenting new challenges to formation. The youth also carry the limits of the contemporary word inside them. They are very exposed and vulnerable to the risks of se­cularism, relativism, consumerism, hedonism and various insecu­rities. Many young people avoid complex situations, difficult and demanding relationships, long term commitments and responsibilities. In a certain sense they are victims of the counter values of the society in which they live.

Formation as lived in the Institute

5.  The Lord continues to call the youth of today with their gifts and limits and many of them respond generously. We are convinced that the Comboni missionary vocation is a gift of faith that is born above all in the context of a journey of Christian life made in a family, in the parish, in a community or in vocation groups.

6.  We observe that a commitment to vocation promotion and formation at its various stages is a particularly well  recognised priority in the Circumscriptions. A more decisive commitment is needed in the choice and specific preparation of promoters and formators.

7.  We are concerned about those who leave, about those in particular situations, and about the medio­crity and fragility of motivations, inconsistency, the imbalance between the ideal and real life, that reveal how our educative system has not yet found the incisiveness that the formative process intended to inspire and guide. We also note a split between the formative proposal and the reality of everyday Comboni life, where certain of our limitations (activism and apostolic indivi­dualism, weakness in the spiritual life, the comfortable style of life ...etc) are a counter-witness that seriously compromises formation work.

C. Working Premises

8.  The Comboni missionary ideal that we wish to embody and propose is a person open and available to a journey of integral human and spiritual growth. A missionary with a strong passion for Christ and for the mission, like Comboni, content and well identi­fied with his vocation, who shares with the confreres in commu­nity, in this way contributing to the building of the “cenacle of apostles” dreamt of by the Founder. The Comboni missionary loves the local people and the local culture and knows how to live serenely and colla­borate with others in a pluralistic and multicultural context. He is faithful in everyday things and maintains a simple life-style. He reads reality critically and evangelically, and is de­dicated to the missionary service of the poorest, making common cause with them (cfr. RL 5).

The assimilation of values

9.  Formation is to experience the evangelical values in order to achieve continuous human and spiritual growth involving the whole person (cf. RF 208). The assimilation of values, in fact, is one of the formative aspects that we must insist upon more.

10.  The priorities proposed by the Assembly of Pesaro in 1999 lay claim once again and with clarity to the values involved in following the Lord Jesus, made one’s own in the Comboni charismatic experience, and indicate areas of commitment, so that every stage, from the first vocational approach to final con­secration, might become a moment of grace that makes the candidate grow: a strong experience of God, moderation as a necessity in being mis­sionaries, forming persons for communities, the inculturation of formation and interculturality, the personal assimilation of values.

11.  In particular we hold that the cultural and Christian dynamic of initiation may be an indispensable tool for the transmission and assimilation of values: this happens through a variety of moments, rhythms, initiatives that help the candidate to perceive and interiorize, taste and test, live and assess what has been proposed (cf. AF 29). This dynamic finds its fullest and most effective expression in the integral educative model of formation.

12.  In the past few years our awareness of the close link between formation and the true life of the Institute has grown. In ­fact “we notice that what the candidates observe in the life of our co­mmunities in good part shapes and conditions their formative journey and their calm insertion into the Institute and missionary service” (Pesaro 1999, 11).

13.  The gradual assimilation of values brings the person of the missionary, in initial and on-going formation,  to be a di­sciple and witness of Christ though the Comboni charism, and to become through his evangelical choices leaven for humanity and a proposal of life alternative to that of the pseudo-values of today’s society.

The integral educative model

14.  The choice of the integral educative model, confir­med by the documents of the last ten years (RL, RF, Pesaro 1999, AF), the journey of the Church and by the positive acceptance of the candidates in formation, seems to be the qualified reply to the challenges of for­mation. It fosters the assimilation of values, the inter­culturality of the Institute, the contextualization and transmission of the charism, the formulation of a common educative project, and the putting into practice of the guiding principles.

15.  The educative model of integration is a process that leads to the building of one’s own life around a vital and significant centre that for us is Jesus Christ in his paschal mystery, in whom we rediscover our identity and truth, and the possibility of giving meaning to our history and to the growth of our person. Integration is a process of  learning through which the candidate gathers up his whole history in order to see the action of God, sometimes visible, at other times hidden, but in any case present in every event and entrusted to the freedom of responsibility of the person.

16.  The objective of the integral educative model is to form for mission, initiating the candi­date into Comboni iden­tity and spirituality.

16.1  Identity: through personalized accompaniment, the candidate is offered the possibility of questioning himself and clarifying to himself, through self-knowledge and God’s plan for him, his true vocation built on the uniqueness of his identity that allows him to identify himself with the Lord Jesus and with the missionary vocation.

16.2  Spirituality: the candidate, confronting himself with the evangelical values, frees himself from his own plans, from the need for self-realization and self-affirmation, in order to reach that inner freedom that helps him become able to fulfil the will of God. Spirituality purifies the person from those structures that block him and gives energy to the journey of growth.

16.3  Mission: the candidate inserts himself into the concrete reality of where the Comboni Missionary is called to live and work. The real mission, so different from our hopes for security, success, and personal affirmation, stimulates growth at both the human and spiritual level.

17.  We are aware that the integral educative model needs careful contextuali­zation within the reality of every continent.

18.  This educative model predisposes the individual to OGF understood as a process of the integral growth of the perso­n, in everyday life, discerning the presence and voice of God. This means putting the person, right from basic formation, into the dynamism of a constant process of learning, transformation, conversion and growth that lasts a life-time, through the working out of a personal project of life, personalized spiri­tual accompaniment, and formative dialogue.

Vocation Discernment

19.  “Formation can be understood as a process of discernment that is characterized as attention to the movements of the Spirit within the person, in the community and in peoples in order to identify the processes that oppose the Spirit and the signs that show him to be present, to take decisions, and assume the corresponding attitudes” (RF 227).

20.  The first person responsible for the journey of discernment is the individual candidate himself who, in response to the call of the Lord, seeks in his daily docibilitas to assume and express the values proposed by the Gospel and the Comboni charism. In this journey he is helped by vocation promoters and formators to evaluate, purify, encourage and extend the motivations for the gift of himself (RL 80, 81, 88).

21.  Vocation discernment, apart from the normal involvement of the candidate and his formators, requires Circumscription superiors with their Councils to guarantee that the passage from one stage of formation to the next should happen in fidelity to the criteria of the RF and with particular attention given to the evaluations of the promoters and formators and of the Comboni and Christian communities in which the candidate has been able to live his own pastoral experiences.

22.  Comboni documents offer sufficient criteria for the service of accompaniment and discernment as a qualified term of reference at the various stages of formation and for a holistic evaluation.

22.1  In particular, adequate human and spiritual accompani­ment during vocation promotion and pre-postulancy is necessary in order to ensure as far as possible the necessary availability to begin the formative journey in the postulancy.

22.2  There should be a psychological evaluation of candidates to help reach an over-view of their personalities that would identify the strong and weak points of their characters in view of their journey to human and spiritual maturity.

22.3  Situations of doubt and uncertainty should not be left unresolved or postponed for long without good reason: the candidate must be helped to make an informed and responsible decision in the time available.

22.4  The passage from one stage of formation to the next, notably from the postulancy to the novitiate, must be evaluated clearly by the formators and PCs for the good of the person and the mission.

23.  Such a delicate service should not be casually undertaken. The courses for promot­ers and formators proposed for the next few years must give time and space for adequate preparation to be extended formally even to those who serve in authority.

24.  The journey of discernment lived during the period of basic formation will strengthen the sense of belonging to the In­stitute and the mission thus guaranteeing faithfulness.

D. Planning Guidelines

25.  To form missionaries with a deep experience of Jesus Christ in the context of spirituality, identity and the Comboni missio­n, with a sober style of life in order to live and evangelise as a com­munity (cf. RL 90.2) requires: putting the Word of God at the centre of missionary life, discovering the presence of God in the life of the people, opening oneself to sharing, to solidarity, to transparency, and co-responsibility in brotherly life in the community.

26.  To form missionaries able to keep themselves in a process of OGF means:

a. favouring the OGF of formators, promotors and the superiors of the Circumscriptions;

b. forming by using the integral educative model in the mis­sion and for the mission;

c. planning for the personnel and specializations needed for formation;

d. promoting human, cultural and intellectual formation.

27.  To form persons able to live and do mission in international commu­nities, open to dialogue, interculturality and dispo­sed to be a gift for the poorest and most abandoned requires: formation to community discern­ment and putting into practice the decisions of the GC regarding the con­tinentality of the scholasticates, missionary service and communities of insertion.

E. Action Plan

28.  In order to reach the objectives proposed in all the phases of basic formation, formation is to be provided on:

28.1  the lectio divina: offering, in all the stages of formation, tools for knowing the Word of God and praying it as part of the life, reality and history of the people;

28.2  the apostolate and insertion: making the houses of formation more austere, open to the people, choosing pastoral contexts of poverty and situations of first evangelisation;

28.3  the TCF: offering tools for the communitarian administration of material goods, the responsible use of money and transparency in financial reporting to foster a more evangelical style of life.

At Institute level

29.  The integral educative model should be further applied with competence in the formative journey of the candidates and the OGF of all the confreres, in order to grow in Comboni identity, spirituality and missionary spirit.

29.1  The GC with the GSF and CCOF should study appropriate ways to familiarise confreres with the integral educative model of formation and how to apply it in their personal journey of human and spiritual growth at the service of the mission.

29.2  In meetings between the GC and PSs study days on the educative model should be organised with par­ticular at­tention on vocation discer­nment.

30.  The OGF of the formators foresees the application of the integral educative model to the formator himself and to the candidates. In the next three years (2010/12):

30.1  A four-month course on the formative model and the Comboni charism should be organised for promotors and formators beginning their service.

30.2  It should be ensured that formators of the postulants be prepared especially in the fields of human development and personality; that novice masters have a good command of Comboni spirituality; that formators in the scholasticate be able to know how to eva­luate the pastoral experience of the candidates.

30.3  An up-dating course on youth culture is to be offered every two years to vocation promoters at continental level.

31.  The Chapter upholds the decisions of the GC in regard to the continentality of the scholasticates, the period of missionary service, and small communities of scholastics inserted into pastoral realties and Comboni missions (cf. Let­ter, 8 April, 2007).

Evaluation at the Intercapitular co-ordinated by the GSBF.

31.1  In assessments, the availability of confreres to work in difficult situations and inserted into areas of great poverty are to be taken into account. Missionary service should normally be done in a context of direct pastoral work and first evan­gelization.

31.2  To attend to the dialogue between PSs and formators.

32.  The GC, with the GSBF and the PSs, should prepare a six-year plan that foresees the formators needed for novitiates and scholasticates/IBC and their preparation and eventual specialization.

33.  The GC, with the GSBF, should reinvest in the fruit of the work done before the Chapter by the thematic commission on formation, in order to arrive at a renewed Ratio Fundamentalis that would take into account the changes and updates suggested by new ecclesial and Comboni documents and the road travelled by the Institute.

34.  The PS who receives a scholasti­c or a Brother in temporary vows for missionary service should, in dialogue with the GC, ensure their proper accompaniment. Furthermore, he should personally follow newly ordained confreres and Brothers in the first years of perpetual profession (cf. RF 523; RFIS 100-101).

At continental level

35.  The OGF of promoters and formators

35.1  One-month courses for vocation promoters and formators at continental level, as run over the last three years, should conti­nue and be organised, every two years, by the Circumscriptions of the continent, the GSBF and the CCOF.

35.2  The OGF of promoters and formators will favour knowledge of the integral educative model, offering the possibility of having personal experience, acquiring the appropriate tools and the means to apply them during the various stages of formation.

36.  The educative charters of scholasticates, IBCs and novitiates

36.1  In the first three years after the Chapter all educative charters are to be revised in the light of recent Chapter decisions, focusing more keenly on inculturation and the con­textualization of our educative action.

36.2  The educative charters of the scholasticates and IBCs should be pre­sented to the GC, through the GSBF, for final approval.

36.3  The educative charters of inter-provincial novitiates should be the fruit of a common reflection involving also the PSs and the formators of the postulancies of the continent.

37.  Postulancies

37.1  Considering the reflection on Comboni presences in the different continents, collaboration at inter-provincial level to ensure and prepare formators for the postulancy is needed.

37.2  In postulancies, in as far as is possible, the number of candidates should be large enough to allow the application of the required group dynamics to the integral educative model.

37.3  Accompaniment in the family should be done in the light of the contents of the integral educative model.

38.  Novitiates in English/French-speaking Africa should consider adopting the al­ternation of courses in the style already initiated (cf. Lusaka and Namu­gongo) to ensure that accompaniment is more focused.

39.  The contextualizat­ion of the formative journey should happen in each continent according to the formative guidelines of the Institute for each phase.

At Circumscription level

40.  In the first three years after the Chapter, the Educative Charters of Vocation Promotion are to be reviewed in the light of recent Chapter directives, focusing more on the inculturation and contextualization of the educative action.

41.  In the plan of the Circumscriptions the service of VP and BF should be considered, proposed and lived through the creation of vocational and formative communities. This favours a “vocational culture” where every commu­nity and every single confrere may feel responsible for the Comboni vocation through personal and community witness, prayer and collaboration. We recall four possible modalities:

41.1  Formative vocational communities made up of promoters, formators, other confreres and candidates all involved in Comboni vocation promotion and with a well-defined project.

41.2  Small groups of scholastics inserted in pastoral realties within Comboni missions.

41.3  CWHP as a testimony to the specific vocation of Brothers.

41.4  The communities that welcome candidates for missionary experiences during the postulancy, novitiate, scholasticate/IBC and for missionary service at the end of the scholasticate.

42.  Vocation promotion for Brothers should be proposed and made better known, studying forms and means to meet with courage and faith the value of ministeriality in the life of the Institute.

42.1  To involve Brothers in the vocation promotion team, especially in Circumscriptions where there are greater possibilities for vocations.

42.2  A Brother whose name appears in our Comboni magazines and web pages should be the point of reference for Brother candidates.

43.  The PC, with the Secretariat of Formation, should prepare a six-year plan that looks for confreres as vocation promoters and formators needed for VP, the pre-postulancy and postulancy, their preparation and eventual specialization. It would be as well that their service be prolonged in order to guarantee continuity in the educative process.