Stigmatines holds Formation Symposium at Notwane, Botswana to address challenges affecting initial and ongoing formation
The Most Holy Redeemer Stigmantine Province’s formators; formation promoters, former formators and the Provincial Council, in the meeting convened by provincial at Notwane in Botswana, deliberated on the challenges facing Stigmatine formation programs. The Symposium was held on the 19– 23 August, 2019.
13 Stigmatines, representing different parts of Africa where the congregation is present, were part of the meeting. Fr Anthony Mashaka CSS, the present Stigmatine Provincial in the Holy Redeemer Province, Fr Benedict Leseteli CSS and Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS, both former Provincials of the province, also attended the meeting.
Demographic dynamics, both in the society and the
church, especially ever changing laws of migration in the different countries
where Stigmatines are working, the economic challenges facing the Stigmatines
due to distance between communities and countries connected to the province, became
heart of discussions during the symposium. The meeting aimed at finding best solutions
to the challenges.
Some of the identified challenges facing the admission stage of Stigmatine aspirants include entry qualifications requirements and the quality of aspiring candidates. The qualifications requirements differ from one country to another. This problem has caused a lot of instability in determining the permanent formation place for aspirant candidates. According to Fr Patrick Rakeketsi the problem is not only facing the Stigmatines but all religious institutions who recruit candidates from different countries.
During discussions the symposium acknowledged that the problems associated with the recruitment of foreign candidates into religious institutions has become a big challenge, especially on the issue of qualifications and migration issues for those who have to study in foreign institutions with different scaling of results. Many congregations have lost vocations as a result.
The symposium concluded that the efficient structures and proper processes of recruitment will easy reigning challenges. They proposed for the establishment of effective formation team, composed of mature vocation promotion coordinator, working together with vocation contact persons in different counties, to carry fully the mandate of recruitment. The team should also work on the mudus operanti to promote effective vocation promotion. Fr Benedict Leseteli, the former Stigmatine Provincial added that there is a need for a strong involvement of Stigmatine communities in the promotion and nurturing of vocations.
The forum again acknowledged and highlighted that Africa is very broad in terms of recruiting the candidates from all African countries. They proposed that the traditional places where Stigmatines in Africa are already working should be of a main focus during recruitment. The focus will help the province to avoid more economic and demographic challenges regarding formation. They added that Vocation promotion should be consolidated in traditional places, while the congregation awaits more possibilities of expanding into other regions of Africa.The symposium furthermore put forward different proposals as a way forward towards achieving effective vocation promotion, recruitment and journeying with the candidates during the process of their formation.
The symposium discusses the problem of nepotism. They said it is one of the serious challenges facing many congregations and in the same way it is affecting the process of recruitment, initial and ongoing formation in the Holy Redeemer Province; therefore poses a great concern to the future of the congregation in Africa. They agreed that this monster should be immediately addressed and uprooted among Stigmatines.
Coming to initial formation stage the forum acknowledged that due to ever changing immigration and education laws in different countries where Stigmatines have formation houses it has become more complicated for their candidates from different countries to attain migration documents and access institutions of higher learning. The forum proposed that the congregation should explore possible and stable places in the region where candidates can pursue their studies without experiencing the same challenges. They also pointed out that it has become very expensive to educate their candidates in some countries, such as South Africa; therefore proposed that more possibilities should be pursued, especially in those countries where Stigmatines already have existing community structures, such as Lesotho and Malawi. Regarding this the provincial and his council were mandated to pursue a feasibility study of finding the possibility of establishing formation houses at the proposed areas.
As part of an emphasis of promoting quality formation the symposium urged that the communities where the candidates are undergoing formation should be well-balanced and formative. In these communities the candidates should be able to acquire formative experiences of who the Stigmatines are; the experiences which can remain forever in their life and be able to model their Stigmatine life accordingly. According to Fr Benedict Leseteli it is very important that formation candidates should be placed in the healthy communities where community members are the real agents of full Stigmatine life.
There was also a discussion about the requirements for accepting the candidate into the process of formation. The forum came to agreement that a healthy person should be one of the minimum requirements; therefore a candidate is required in person to undergo fully health checkup, and out of his own freewill decides to surrender the status of his health checkup to the responsible formation authority.
The symposium also recommended that there is a need of balance in providing spiritual directors to the candidates. Women figures in spiritual direction should be always provided to bring balance to the orientation of the candidates, as they prepare themselves to serve the people of God without any gender segregation.
On the stage of postulancy the confreres emphasized that this important period before one becomes the member of the congregation should be particular and be separated from formal studies environment; therefore cannot take place while the candidates are still engaging fully in their studies. In the same way those who are in postulancy should be placed in the communities where they can obtain formative experience. They need to have a feel of the stage of postulancy and fulfill the stated requirements according to the dictates of Stigmatine Ratio Formationis.
The formators for different designated stages of formation should make sure that they follow all outlined requirements to be realized before the candidate can be recommended to continue to other stages of formation. People who are given responsibility should be also empowered by proper preparation and material to undertake formation effectively.
It was raised in the forum that it has become a trend that the formators are given responsibility without preparing them and empowering them with proper tools for their work; therefore fail to follow outlined procedures for proper formation.
The symposium reiterated that lack of preparation and training for formators has caused a congregation a lot. Since Most Holy Redeemer Province is multi-cultural, Inter-cultural preparations should be promoted among formators and candidates too should be deeply formed in this. It should be introduced as part of a study during formation years.
importance of involvement in community manual work, sports and recreation
should be promoted among candidates, especially during this time when social
and media have captured and dominated life of people, especially young people.
Addiction to social media has perpetuated individualism and it has destroyed a
sense of community life, promoting weak and fake communities. Proper orientation
on the use of social and mass media should be a priority.
Coming to the formation stage of novitiate, with referral to Ratio Formationis, the symposium highlighted that the period of novitiate is time of testing, love of life and prayer, acquiring more time of spiritual life, sharing and practice of community life, knowing the spirituality and charism of the congregation, harmonious integration for personal growth, dialogue and team work. The stage should be treasured by novitiate candidates and use it properly for their personal growth and to cultivate true religious life principles and identity.
Concerning the use of cellphone the symposium forum also discussed the best modality of using the tool during this most important period of formation. They agreed that personal use of cellphone and other means of communication, should be limited. The candidates should be provided with the same tools on the communal setting, instead of individually.
Time of temporary vows also is the time of maturing the decision for Christ, living his consecration in the context of community life. The candidates during this time should concentrate on their ability to realise the gifts God has given them, reach personal maturity and pave a way for solidarity with the poor whom they are going to serve for the rest of their life.
This stage should provide liberty to live life of consecration with love and value. Therefore they need to devote themselves totally to their prayer life, studies and deepen the life of consecration and freedom from consumerism.
During this period the candidates should witness Christ by supporting one another and deepen the life of prayer as a way of synthesizing every experience towards a better spiritual growth.
forum also said there is a need for candidates to abandon themselves to
Stigmatine devotions as a journey towards integral growth and embracing life of
the congregation and Christ. It is the time of preparing themselves thoroughly
for the broader life of the church and their congregation.
TEMPORARY PROFESSED STAGE
The temporarily professed candidates should be exposed to the pastoral activities in order to gain more experience in pastoral work before they can ascend to other stages of formation. The symposium also emphasized the importance of pastoral experience of the candidates before they can become full members of the institute, and before they can be accepted to clerical stages.
In addition to Symposium deliberations, Fr Patrick Rakeketsi encouraged the members of the symposium to promote the spirit of oneness and brotherhood they have shown during the symposium sessions. He said, “If we could have adopted the kind of spirit during the previous provincial chapters’ sittings we would be far by now as the province and we could have avoided many challenges we have been experiencing since we became a province. He ended his talk by giving an overview developments regarding sexual abuses scandals in the church and the importance of adhering to the protocols by all Stigmatines. He highlighted some of the steps the church has taken in addressing the problems of abuse of the minors and vulnerable adults in the church.
During his final address to the symposium, the provincial, Fr Anthony Mashaka, said there is a need to live a healthy and holy life as Stigmatines. “We need to cultivate the sense of belonging to the family of the Stigmatines, instead of treasuring our immediate families and putting them ahead of everything”, he said. He also said there is lack of commitment to community life. Communities have become mere structures where there is no life, instead confreres find solace outside of the communities. He urged all present to recommit themselves to the love of each other and love of Stigmatine family.
The Stigmatine Holy Redeemer Province is inclusive of South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Tanzania. It also represents African multicultural nature, as the members come from different countries of Africa, such as: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi etc. In Africa the Stigmatines are working in five countries: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania and Ivory Coast.
By Fr Paul Tatu CSS (+27 78 753 6264), (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For more information kindly contact: Fr Benedict Leseteli CSS – +267 75 905 563, Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS – +27 73 380 5629