From 14 July until 2 August 2014, 23 formators met in Aix en Provence, for a formation session, especially for the prenovitiate phase. The first week focused on sharing prenovitiate experiences and programs in the different Units of the Congregation. Participants were able to listen to and discuss the good news and the challenges related to this phase of formation in our Units and regions.
During the second week, Father Michael MORRISSEY helped us to better understand the importance and merits of human formation at the prenovitiate level and how best to support the prenovices, taking into account their human growth and helping them to know themselves better.
The third and final week was dedicated to the place of the Oblate charism in the prenovitiate formation program. With the help of Father Joe LABELLE, we understood better how to integrate elements of the Oblate charism and the life of the Founder into the formation and preparation of the prenovices. A retreat day hosted by the superior of the Aix community, Father Krzysztof ZIELENDA, allowed us to enjoy a moment of silence, to assimilate all that we had lived and received throughout the session.
The session was primarily a fraternal experience which gave the formators physical contact with the places of our foundation in the first year of the Oblate Triennium. The various activities fostered living together, sharing and mutual understanding, visiting the St. Eugene de Mazenod sites and making us more responsive to the importance of this phase of formation.
The various exchanges and sessions created among the formators a greater awareness of the importance of this first step of Oblate formation and their responsibility as formators. It is a time of preparation for the novitiate that consists in getting to know the candidates better and accompanying them, so they can know themselves more deeply so as to better respond to God’s call. Human growth and Christian education are two areas to which the prenovitiate phase must pay special attention. It is necessary to take the time to accompany these young people; this implies full-time formators who are well prepared and supported by a stable team.
In his fraternal message to the participants, Father General reminded us that the prenovitiate is the “door” to all Oblate formation and, therefore, formators must ensure the good health of this human “raw material” and the strength of their spiritual formation.
To achieve this, it is essential to develop a good formation program for the prenovitiate, in light of the General Norms of Oblate formation, preferably in consultation with the Units of the same region. Coordinating the prenovitiate program with the other phases of formation can ensure continuity between one phase and the other and a better monitoring of the progress of each young person. The prenovitiate must have the place it deserves in the formational progress of the candidates. We must therefore avoid improvisation or the tendency to regard university studies, especially of philosophy, as the primary focus of a prenovitiate formation.
The formators came away more aware of their responsibility, and they rely on the fraternal support of their major superiors in the ministry of presence that the Congregation has given them. They are aware that, as formators, they are called to be both witnesses and guardians of the Oblate charism and must regularly form and convert themselves. Indeed, formation is a process that lasts a lifetime. (Cornelius NGOKA)