Our Best Practices in Formation
Remember one of our expectations on the seminar? We wanted to learn from each other’s experiences. And, straight away, on the first working day, this expectation was put into the focus of our gathering. What are our “best practices”? And why are they effective? With these questions, we were sent into eight continental groups with five to seven members each. During the whole morning session we were given time to share in these groups about what works well in our provinces/regions in the following levels of formation: vocation animation, aspirancy, pre-novitiate, novitiate, juniorate, tertiate, ongoing formation, and care for formator. The last level, “care for formator”, made us smile. Yet, Sr. Rosario made it clear with a metaphor: When oxygen in the airplane is missing, we are asked to put on the oxygen mask for ourselves first, before helping others. In the same way, we have to care for ourselves in our ministry, in order to care for the formandee.
In the afternoon every continental group shared a summary of their discussion with the plenum. Even though formation takes place in a variety of settings – in terms of culture as well as number of formandee – there were a few practices, that seemed to be working well all across the globe: such as “come and see”-days, common formative workshops with other congregations, cooperation with the SVD, exposure to missionary realities that call for our response. On the other hand, there were also practices particular to a concrete province or country. In India, for example, sisters from the four provinces have developed their own formation manual besides the congregational manual, in order to further adapt the guidelines to their specific background. The sisters from PANAM, to give another example, shared with us about vocational meetings in their own institutions, during which they teach the young people about the different calls, such as marriage or religious life. After each presentation there was time to ask further questions.
To conclude the day we still met in another group setting, this time according to age, for the so called “shepherd’s hour”. We are going to have these groups of three from now on every afternoon, as a time of sharing insights, learnings, lost thoughts or questions from the process of the day.
We then finally met with The Shepherd for our daily Eucharist, this time held in Spanish language, and presided by one of our SVD confreres. He also brought along another SVD priest, who played for us the “sasando”, a traditional, stringed musical instrument. It sounds beautifully and calming, especially after a long day of sharing and listening about issues that are important to us.
So, today we focused on learning from practices that we are already doing. Tomorrow we will take a further step and think of new ways and issues that we would like to discuss more deeply.
Sr. Michaela Leifgen, SSpS