CALL TO BECOME A RENEWED PERSON: Third Edition of the UISG Programme for Formators
Can you believe that in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Formation Course 2021 has been in the plan of the UISG office? Well, that’s amazing true. The actual programme began in March and will end by the end of July.
There are 37 participants from 22 countries and 23 Congregations attending it, who are blessed enough to enjoy this opportunity. Isn’t that amazing? I think so! What is more amazing is that the whole program is online and Zoom is part of the vocabulary now for Formation Course 2021.
Sr. M. Cynthia Reyes, SRA, Coordinator UISG Formators Programme, says: “The participants are maximizing their learnings through various presentations that invite them to integrate these learnings in their personal life through personal reflection, journaling, group work and interaction and mentoring.”
The programme is receiving a very good response from its participants, with the topics such as Religious Life in Today’s Context, Group Dynamism, Human Development and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Its Application in Religious Life. A drawing presented by the St. Joseph Group illustrates how much the participates are being helped by the various topics dealt till now. They have summed up all that they have heard and learnt in the drawing that contained a dancing woman, six small flowers, trees, mountains, rain, sun, a colorful flower and stardust. “The drawing is combined by the images of nature represented the interconnectedness within ourselves, with others and the whole creation. As we have experienced and gone through the process of growth, we are called to lift up others, support and help others to be the same, to grow into a mature adult religious, to reach their highest potentials, to be a joyful and contemplative presence so that they too can dance with life and in life.”
Religious Vocation as a way of life is a response to the call of God and the needs of the world by numerous great souls who have founded the various orders and congregations all with one aim to Glorify God and to serve the man kind each in their own way and according to the context and the circumstances of the times. These persons had a SELF -SACRIFICING SPIRIT and a GENUINE DESIRE TO SERVE THE PEOPLE. The unique and Spirit-lead stories of the founders and founding charism of different religious congregations and orders affirms the infinite mercy of God to all of us. By providential circumstances He sent people to alleviate the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of His people across continents within a specific historical context. Although beset with oppositions, personal issues and physical fatigue they have relentlessly sought to do God’s will. As the immediate beneficiaries of such passion and faithfulness the young members need to continue imitating their zeal and love for God and His church as they respond to today’s needs. As the Church affirms that the proper renewal of religious institutes depends chiefly on the formation of their members.
Religious life brings together disciples of Christ who should be assisted in accepting “this gift of God which the Church has received from her Lord and which by his grace she always safeguards.” This is why the best forms of adaptation will bear fruit only if they are animated by a profound spiritual renewal. The formation of candidates, which has as its immediate end that of introducing them to religious life and making them aware of its specific character within the Church, will primarily aim at assisting men and women religious realize their unity of life in Christ through the Spirit, by means of the harmonious fusion of its spiritual, apostolic, doctrinal, and practical elements. (Directives on formation in Religious Institutes). This necessitates a “call for a genuine training of the persons responsible of the young members of the congregation, who are capable of adapting ways of guidance, accompaniment and instruction suitable to every person’s need, especially to understand the youth of today with new perspective
A formator play a vital role in the future of the Congregation because yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit (Mt 7:20), a family or a Congregation is identified by its members. Therefore forming these members of creating the future identification of one’s own family or Congregation is a crucial and delicate mission of the formators. “Being a formator is a privilege, taking part in the work of the Father who forms the heart of the Son in those whom the Spirit has called. At times one may feel this service to be a burden, as if it detracted something more important from us. But this is a mistake, it is a temptation. The mission is important, but it is equally important to educate for the mission, to educate in the enthusiasm for proclaiming, to educate in that passion of going to whatever place, to every periphery, to tell everyone of the love of Jesus Christ, especially to those who are distant, to communicate it to the little ones and to the poor, and to let oneself also be evangelized by them. All of this requires a firm foundation, a strong Christian framework and character which today even families are rarely able to provide. This increases your responsibility” says Pope Francis in his address to the meeting for formators.
The formator is not just who points out where one should arrive, but one who walks along with the young members on the journey. One of the qualities of a formator is that of having a great heart for young people, to form in them great hearts capable of welcoming everyone, hearts rich in mercy, full of tenderness. The formators are mothers who can generate life, to give birth to a religious life. No wonder why the Holy Church had all admiration for the formators as accentuated in the Beatitudes of the formators at the International congress of the Year of Consecrated life in 2015 “Dear formators, the Church loves you, appreciates you and prays for you. Without your service, consecrated life could not exist, or would have an uncertain future. Without your patience and your discernment, the people of God would risk not seeing ever again that luminous way of life that makes that definitive world transfigured by the beatitudes shine in a world that passes”
In response to the need to prepare members responsible for formation ministry, the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) offers this programme in English for sisters taking up the responsibility of accompanying those in the initial stages of formation to religious life. This programme is offered in the context of the religious congregations of the participants and the needs of the church and the challenging times of our world today.
“I call it amazing week because, the different experiences I made through various sessions attended during this first week of our program have put me in the mood of great admiration. I felt lost through God’s wonders. If we dare to commit ourselves courageously it’s because we’ve understood the importance of the formation ministry in the Church and also in our religious families. To achieve this ministry, we need to widen the tents of our hearts and give room to everyone” admits Sr. Yuovnne LUKUSA SCJM, one of the participants of the programme.
Sharing about their experience at the programme Sr. Hepsi SJL says “I am filled with great joy, and wonder of God’s gracious plan, stretch new opportunities to grow as an integrated person. I experienced the change of heart within me to attend the program moved from unwillingness to willingness. I was disturbed. I was touched by these words ‘You are the carrier of your congregation charism, history, traditions’. I am invited to take risk, to step out, and venture into unknown territory to encounter with the people of today and to their needs.”
One can list multitude of characteristics, morals and values the formator should possess. Sharing the complexity of the present world, that is entangled in various crisis, logically speaking expecting a formator with all those best and ennobled personalities is almost not possible but not impossible. They are “teachers”; above all witnesses of the sequela of Christ in their own charism. Thus, a formator can be a wonderful teacher if every day one joyfully rediscovers being a disciple of Jesus. This doesn’t give any discount of the challenges and responsibilities says Sr. Thanuja HFB as she points out at the inputs given by Sr Patricia Murray, executive secretary of UISG,
- Being a formator, one plays a very big role in the life my congregation.
- Needs to walk and get closer to the people.
- Have to embrace her vulnerability in order to embrace the others.
- Have to enlarge my tent at global level.
- Being is very essential than doing.
- Love is the meaning of my life.
- More and more to celebrate the luxurious cultural diversity.
It now remains to ask for these formators, as mentioned in the grace of fidelity to their vocation, following the example, and under the protection, of the Virgin Mary. Mary is present at the birth and at the formation of a religious vocation. She is intimately involved in its whole process of growth in the Holy Spirit. The mission which she fulfilled in the service of Jesus, she fulfils for the benefit of his Body, which is the Church, and in every Christian, especially those who strive to follow Jesus Christ “more closely” (Lumen Gentium, 42) This is why a Marian orientation, sustained by a sound theology, will give the formation of religious the authenticity, the solidity, and the joy without which their mission in the world cannot be fully accomplished.
Sr. Fathima Shirisha SDS
UISG Communications Office