Formation for the Future in the London Province Today
Formation is an essential element to everyone’s life journey, whether that be initial formation or continuous life long on going formation. When someone has discerned his vocation is as a Redemptorist, a formal process of ‘initial formation’ begins.
For me, fidelity to the Redemptorist charism implies direct movement toward people who in each period of history find themselves abandoned or alienated by or within the Church.
Larry Kaufmann C.Ss.R
During this time, the Redemptorists commit to the candidate by providing them with experienced guides who will accompany him through the years. These years of accompaniment will allow the person to deepen his understanding of the Redemptorists and help him grow into his new found identity as a Redemptorist. This time of initial formation is an important and graced time to listen attentively to the voice and call of God.
"Vocation touches the very roots of the human soul."
Pope John Paul II - Cuena, January 1985.
To be a minister of the Gospel and specifically a Redemptorist proclaiming ‘plentiful redemption’ in a modern world demands the best training possible. Our formation programme aims to give this training. Being a Redemptorist means that one will be at the service of God’s Holy People for the rest of one’s life. Initial formation tries to provide a solid grounding for a life of service.
Whoever opens his heart to Christ will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace.
Pope John Paul II Vocation Message April 17 2005
The stages of Initial Formation are:
The first point of contact is the Redemptorist Vocations Director. In conversation with him, a person can speak freely about their hopes and fears. Along with him the person discerns if God is really calling him to the Redemptorist way of life.
“It should be an experience of community that helps the candidate to know himself better and to be known by others in order to discern his vocation prior to entering the noviciate."
A postulant is someone who knocks at the door. This time of Postulancy, living in one of our communities, is a time for the candidate to get to know the community and for the community to get to know the candidate. This period normally lasts one academic year, although can be shortened to six months.
“The purpose of the Noviciate, by which life in the institute begins, is to give the novices a greater understanding of their divine vocation. During the noviciate the novices are to experience the manner of life of the institute and form their minds and hearts in its spirit. At the same time their resolution and suitability is to be tested.”
The noviciate is a privileged time when the novice is encouraged to deepen and develop his own spirituality and unite that spirituality more with the Redemptorist way of spirituality. The noviciate lasts for one year, at the end of which a novice applies to be admitted to simple vows.
Philosophical & Theological Studies:
“During this time, formation should provide personalised accompaniment such as will help the candidate to integrate his systematic studies into his life, his apostolic experiences into the life of the religious community, and integrate all of this in a consecration of himself to Christ the Redeemer.”
Every Redemptorist is expected to study, whether he be, a priest or a brother. However formal study for the priesthood is normally about six years. While that appears to be a very long time, this time of study aims at preparing us for all eventualities in ministry! During these years there will be many various opportunities to experience ministry first hand, both here at home and abroad.
" You are at the great crossroads of your lives, and you must decide."
Pope John Paul II - Edinburgh, 1982.
Preparation for Final Vows:
“Moved and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the members spare no effort to arrive at a total gift of themselves. They aim to become, through Christ, a response to the Lord ‘who first loved them.’”
When a candidate, in conjunction with those responsible for his formation, has discerned that God is calling for a life long commitment to be made, the candidate applies to be admitted to Final Vows. This is a life defining moment in the life of all Redemptorists. Three months are dedicated to preparing for this wonderful step of total commitment to Jesus the Redeemer.
Following final vows, and only then, can a candidate for the priesthood be ordained to the Diaconate and then the Priesthood.
Transition into Ministry:
“This is the point at which a confrere leaves the community of initial formation and enters into full participation in the life and apostolate of the Province – passing from a schedule marked by an intense rhythm of studies and common activities to one of personal responsibility in pastoral work.”
Tu Scendi Dalle Stelli - You came down from the stars, Oh King of Heaven, You came into a cave, to the cold and to the ice. Oh my Divine Child, I see that you are trembling. Oh blessed God, how much it cost You to love me.
St. Alphonsus de Ligouri - composer of the most famous Christmas Carol in Italy. (said Verdi)
While Initial Formation may now have finished, the journey only really begins. It is important that someone embarking on a life of ministry knows where he can expect support and encouragement. Each confrere is given a mentor with whom he can share the triumphs and struggles of being a minister of plentiful redemption. He will also be encouraged to join in regular meetings with other younger confreres of his own province and those of neighbouring provinces.