Report prepared by Fr. Johnny Finney OMI and Rupak Dominic Rozario OMI
“Formation is entrusted to you as your Primary and most important Ministry, to which you dedicate most of your time and energy. You are helping to fashion the present and the future of the Congregation.”
Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate wrote these words in a letter addressed to the Asia-Oceania Oblate Formators. Indeed, the Oblate formators are entrusted with a vital ministry of accompanying the young men, so that they grow in humanity, identify themselves with Christ, and finally strive to become saints. To strengthen this primary and the most important responsibility of the Oblate Formators, the Asia-Oceania Formation Conference (AOFC) organized a virtual meeting from 22 to 25 February 2021 with 46 participants from 14 Oblate units of Asia-Oceania Region.
This virtual meeting was convened by Fr. Subash GOMES and was hosted by the Oblate Delegation of Bangladesh. Fr. Cornelius NGOKA, Assistant General for Formation, Fr. Chinnappan SANDHAPPAN, Chairman of the AORC, Fr. Ajit COSTA, Delegation Superior of Bangladesh, other Major Superiors and Formators of the region participated in the meeting.
The meeting was held for two hours each day, which contained presentations from two resource persons, Fr. Mariathas SELVARATNAM, from Jaffna Province and Fr. Joyti F. Costa from the Archdiocese of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Fr. Selvaratnam spoke on the themes “Integral Formation: Affective, Spiritual, Human, Intellectual and Pastoral,” “Religious Life in the Future,” and “Discernment Process in Formation”. Fr. Jyoti F. Costa spoke on the “Interculturality and Religious Formation”.
In his presentations Fr. Selvaratnam said that the integral and holistic development include spiritual, human, intellectual, emotional and physical aspects of life. Integration in all these aspects of life helps us discover the harmony in life and mature affectively. Furthermore, he mentioned that religious life being a conscious ongoing commitment to seek God in life must revolve around prayer, mediation and contemplation. The religious life and mission in the future would be a “Contemplative Prophetic Evangelizer,” i.e., it will flow from the contemplative spiritual experience of the person. It will encourage a conversion from “Believer to Seeker.” Also, this conversion takes place through ‘discernment’ which presupposes the change of mindset and attitudes and an openness to the divine.
Fr. Jyoti F. Costa highlighted Interculturality as a significant element in religious formation in the global multicultural society. He said that Interculturality is a reality in the world today. We are immersed in a change of epoch. In the face of globalization, religious formation widely encounters the phenomenon of multiculturality. It creates anthropological and ethical difficulties. Therefore, in the midst of cultural differences, one needs to be aware of his/her own culture and learn, respect and appreciate other cultures and avoid rigid mentality, racism and class-system. In order to overcome these challenges, religious formation should be based on “gospel culture” which presupposes universal love, Jesus’ all-encompassing salvific love.
Later, different groups shared their thoughts and reflections in the light of the presentations of the resource persons. In addition to that, Units also presented their reports on formation program. Finally, the participants came up with five action plans: Training of Formators, Training of Spiritual Directors, Training of Intercultural Facilitator, introducing a Director of on-going formation and a preparation program for the Final Vows Candidates in common.
The AOFC meeting helped all know each other and identify some common challenges. The participants expressed their strong desire and conviction that they could continue their collaboration in formation with each other as a team and walk with the oblate formandi in the spirit of our Founder St. Eugene de Mazenod.