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India: Formators pledge to nurture vocations in the early stages of formation

Training participants for the formators in the juniorate religious, second batch, at Shanti Sadan, Goa, Western India. (Photo supplied)

From May 6 to 11, 2024, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) Commission for Vocations Seminaries, Clergy, and Religious (VSCR) organized one week of training for the formators of the juniorate religious of the second batch at Shanti Sadan, Benaulim, Goa, western India.

Its goal was to support and nurture vocations in candidates’ early stages of formation.

A total of 28 junior religious formators from 16 congregations attended the program.

Fr. Eugene D. Silva, CSsR, Rector of Redemptorist Major Seminary, Varca, celebrated the inaugural holy mass. 

He emphasized that vocation comes from God and highlighted the role of the Holy Spirit as the primary formator in the journey toward priesthood and religious life.

Fr. Aleixo Menezes, former Rector of Patriarchal Seminary, Rachol, and the parish priest of St. John the Baptist Church, Benaulim, delivered the keynote address and inaugurated the one-week training program. 

The participants reflected on today's challenges in religious life, emphasizing the essential qualities of religious individuals and the changing formation landscape. They also discussed emotions, including their various levels, and offered strategies for dealing with negative emotions.

They also emphasized the importance of self-awareness for mental well-being and explored real-life scenarios to illustrate its application.

Additionally, participants addressed leadership skills like interpersonal relationships, effective communication, discernment in decision-making, and conflict management.

The program delved into the reasoning behind early formation, the methods for comprehending the candidates' personal development and assisting them in identifying the Holy Spirit, strategies for promoting careers, engaging in community life and spiritual guidance, and the roles of formators.

They disused minors’ rights and 'The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill (POCSO) Act 2011 and its implications in early formation stages; challenges of social media and digital awareness programs; identifying challenges in human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral orientation and various coping mechanisms practiced; and sharing of best practices in the early formation houses. 

Frs. Aleixo Menezes, Joye James SJ, George Jackson, and Charles Leon facilitated the sessions and workshops.

Through spiritual conversation, the formators expressed their desire to bring about major shifts in their role: from religiosity to spirituality, from rigidity to flexibility, from activity-oriented to goal-oriented, from head to heart, from self-centered to God-centered, from hearing to listening, from criticism to creating trust and openness, from digital illiteracy to digital awareness and responsibility, and from supervision to accompaniment.

They also revisited their role as formators and identified themselves as mentors and motivators. 

They were known for their companionship and self-discipline; their compassion and kindness; their confidentiality; their emotional connections; their acceptance and treasure of multiculturalism; their availability as a mother, sister, or brother; and their unconditional care and love.

The participants had a pilgrimage to Old Goa and other centers of devotion. Fr. Duming Gonsalves, administrator of Shanti Sadan, coordinated the program. 


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