Structures of animation and governance
Ivo Coelho, SDB
Batulao, World Formation Consultation, 19 February 2019
The chief concern in this small paper is the animation and governance of our interprovincial houses of initial formation. The stress will be on governance. The reason is that the structures of governance enshrined in our Constitutions and Regulations are made for the world, the provincial and the local levels, but reality marches ahead, and so over the years several “interprovincial” or “supra-provincial” structures of animation and governance have, in fact, evolved. We must admit that part of this evolution has already been registered and addressed in our Ratio. However, there is still need of greater attention, and this is what I will try to focus on in this paper, with the aim of stimulating discussion and searching for suitable ways to go ahead.
Let us begin with a look at the formation section of the six-year plan of the Rector Major and his council and its implementation. The plan has been, for us in the formation department, a very important tool of animation and governance. Of course it is the plan of the Rector Major and his council, but given its nature, it filters – or should filter down – to animation and governance at regional, provincial and eventually local level.
One of the objectives of our Consultation is to evaluate the implementation of the formation section of the plan, so as to be able to offer a contribution to the report of the Rector Major to the General Chapter. We remember that GC27 94 says that the plan is drawn up in dialogue with the regions and with the world consultative bodies of the specific sectors. We could expect, therefore, that our work of these days will have an impact on the next six-year plan, through our contribution to the report of the Rector Major
My suggestion is that we evaluate also the percolation of the plan to regional and provincial levels. We probably need to take better care of the six year planning at these levels, so as to ensure implementation of the General Chapter.
(Projection of an evaluation of the formation section of the six-year plan of the Rector Major and his council:
As I have said already, our Constitutions are made for governance of the Congregation at three levels: world, provincial and local. (Fr Vecchi used to say that in the Congregation there are only three kinds of superior: the Rector Major, the provincial, and the Rector. General councillors, for example, are not superiors in this sense.) But many of our formation houses are now interprovincial. So the question arises about their governance.
The chief problem concerns personnel. When it comes to finding personnel, very often the burden falls on the host province, and all too often there is little advance planning and preparation
The solution offered by the Ratio is the Curatorium:
FSDB 173: “When the study centre is interprovincial, the Provinces concerned shall give their responsible collaboration to enable it to achieve its aim.” [R 84]
Interprovincial collaboration for a studentate or study centre implies the creation and proper functioning of an entity holding shared responsibility (for example, a “curatorium”). Such an entity is made up of the Provincials directly concerned, the president, the Rector of the formation community/communities, the administrator and other members as envisaged in the statutes. It has the following tasks:
FSDB 224: The obligation to ensure a proper formative setting, not only in terms of the number of the members but also in terms of the quality of the formation team, suggests and in some cases requires that some provinces join forces to establish interprovincial communities
In communities that depend on more than one province, the sharing of responsibility for formation on a durable basis requires the establishment of a “curatorium” or other mechanisms, and the presence of formation guides from the different provinces. Care must also be taken to foster a sense of belonging to one’s own Province; helpful for this are frequent visits by the Provincial or other confreres, the exchange of news and every other means of communication, and other possible ways of keeping in touch.
FSDB 300: In more than one situation the conditions for ensuring the consistency of formation centres in terms of quality and numbers are such that it is not easy for a single Province all by itself to meet them. In such cases, it is desirable that a few Provinces, especially if they belong to the same cultural context, pool their resources to set up interprovincial formation structures.
Interprovincial collaboration must be translated into a real sharing of responsibility and be expressed also through the implementation and functioning of intermediate structures (such as the “curatorium”, commissions, etc.) which make it possible for the Provinces to take an effective part in determining the direction of formation (the formation plan), ensuring the conditions and means for realizing it (personnel, structures, finances, etc.) and carrying out the proper assessments. [cfr. GC21 277, 250b.]
We may note that article 84 of the Regulations mentioned in the text above speaks only about interprovincial study centres, and does not mention the curatorium. It is therefore the Ratio that has proposed “intermediate structures” to ensure “real sharing of responsibility” – one of them being the Curatorium
Presumably since the promulgation of the Ratio, curatoriums have been set up in various interprovincial formation communities. We must note that the implementation is not uniform: in certain regions, the curatoriums meet regularly and function well; in others, they have yet to become established
In the last couple of years, we have begun the process of strengthening the curatoriums in order to make them more effective, especially in terms of preparation and commitment of formators and teachers. This was a way of implementing the concern of the Rector Major, Fr Angel Fernandez Artime, to ensure formation teams that are consistent in quality and quantity
In the interprovincial (and inter-regional) formation houses in Italy the Rector Major, in dialogue with the provincials, asked the Regional of the Mediterranean region to preside at the curatorium meetings, with the Regional of Central & Northern Europe present. These curatoriums have established a way of finding Rectors and key formation personnel: the presiding regional sends out a letter in advance, asking provincials to come prepared with one name from their own province and one from outside. The matter is discussed in the curatorium, and three names (terna) are proposed to the Rector Major, to whom belongs the nomination. This procedure has worked reasonably well. It would work better if all participating provincials were to be personally present. Their participation would probably improve if both regional councillors were to be present, as also the General Councillor for Formation
Another process was begun in the Africa – Madagascar region: modification of the statutes of the curatorium. A draft of such modifications was framed through a consultative process, and then approved by the Conference of provincials and superiors of the region (CIVAM) (see appendix 1 below). (1) Each province must now go through the process of “defining” its choice of formation houses, even if it retains the freedom to send confreres to other houses. Such definition involves membership in the Curatorium, with corresponding obligations. (Provincials may participate in curatoriums of other – “non defined” – formation houses, but they are not obliged to participate, and are not obliged, e.g., to contribute personnel.) (2) The curatorium of each house must then go through the process of modification of its statutes, making use of the suggestions approved by the CIVAM. (See letter of the Councillor for Formation, 19/0025, dt 15.01.2019)
Another key point is to define who presides at the Curatorium. Up to now, it has fallen to the host provincial (the province in which the formation house is situated, and to which it juridically belongs) to be the president. It is far more effective, however, if the Regional councillor is the president. It is true that the workload of Regional councillors often makes it difficult for them to participate in all the curatoriums. In this case, it would be good to choose to be present at least in those houses that are in particular need of attention.
We have been talking about personnel, but the other problem regards finances and contributions towards structures (buildings, library, means of communication, means of transport, etc.) This also needs to be defined in the statutes of the Curatorium.
Besides the curatoriums, there are also other ways of governing interprovincial realities. The Jesuits in India, for example, the POI – the Provincial of India, with ordinary authority over formation houses. The interprovincial formation houses, therefore, do not fall under the purview of the provincials. Formation personnel, once assigned to a formation house, cannot be easily “taken away” and assigned to other duties: they are directly under the authority of the POI. This gives a certain stability and quality to the academic personnel and institutions
What about the finding of personnel for the common houses? The Jesuits have six ‘Conferences’ – structures corresponding to our regions. Each conference has a president, and the conferences meet periodically to discuss needs and promote collaboration. In addition, Jesuits have a great deference to the wishes / orders of the Superior General, which also facilitates sharing of personnel.
This is an alternative way of governing interprovincial realities which is very different from ours. As far as stability is concerned, however, it is interesting to note a little implemented note in our Ratio – even though, strictly speaking, it has in mind only Salesian study centres and not formation communities:
FSDB 170: The Salesian study centres need to be supported, and steps have to be taken to ensure that they maintain their excellence in academic matters and in formation, that they are sufficiently staffed by teams of qualified personnel, and that this personnel enjoys a certain permanence in the institution. To transfer confreres who form part of the permanent teaching body of a Salesian study centre the Provincial needs to have an understanding with the Councillor for formation.
Should we attempt to implement this provision, extending it also to formation houses?
The Jesuits have a long tradition of interprovincial formation houses. These houses handle the problem of large numbers of formees by means of “colonies,” each with its accompanying formator. This kind of tradition is also quite common in diocesan seminaries, and we have found it also in some of our own formation communities.
Speaking of interprovincial situations, it might be good to note also that the provincial council of origin is to be consulted when the confrere is outside his own province:
FSDB 301: The pattern for admission to profession, to the ministries and to orders should include the following stages, while making provision for the variety of situations:
This is an important provision of the Ratio that is not always implemented. It is only right that the provincial council of origin be involved in the admission process. When the opinion is asked in good time, several odd and difficult situations can be avoided.
The Ratio also insists on cultivating the sense of belonging to one’s own province:
FSDB 290: Let the sense of belonging to one’s Province be cultivated during initial formation. For those confreres who are sent to formation communities that belong to other Provinces, it not only helps that there are personnel from their own Province on the formation team, but also that they receive visits from their Provincial or from other members of the Provincial Council, they have an exchange of news, meetings are arranged for communicating information and fostering communion with the confreres of their own Province, the programme of their activities during the period of their academic vacation is agreed upon by the Rector of their community and their own Provincial, and other forms of communication are available to them.
At the present moment, a reorganization of initial formation has been carried out in the two regions of Europe and in the two regions of America
After the team visits in the various regions, the Rector Major has asked for a “study” of the remaining three regions – which are also the regions of highest growth: Africa – Madagascar, South Asia and East Asia – Oceania. This will not be a major reorganization as was found necessary in other regions, but rather an exercise to examine certain points and take the steps necessary:
As part of the preparation for the present World Formation Consultation, we have been gathering the “hard data” about the houses of initial formation in each region. On the basis of this, a small ad hoc commission could be set up in each region to carry out the study and to present its findings to the Formation Department, which will bring them to the attention of the Rector Major. (A commission has already been set up in the Africa – Madagascar region; we need to do this in the two regions of Asia.)
The preparation of formation personnel and teachers is of prime importance for healthy processes of formation – and perhaps the key strategy. If a provincial to do this, he will have contributed much to the health of his province
As we have said elsewhere, the Congregation has become familiar with the art of preparing teachers; it has not yet learned that a well prepared teacher does not necessarily amount to a capable formator. We have still to learn the value of preparing formation guides, and we have to learn how to do it. We need to keep in mind the ‘intellectual’ component and the capacity building component (both necessary but not sufficient); and we need to be convinced that most important is the person of the formator, his willingness to grow and to invest in his personal growth. We could say today: “For you I am ready to form myself….”
But there is now also a new risk. When a province does not have its own centre of study and no phase of formation houses besides the prenovitiate and the practical training, it is easy to think that there is no need to prepare formators and to qualify confreres in philosophy, theology, and in the core areas of the charism such as salesianity, catechetics and youth ministry. Besides the fact that every province must contribute formators and teachers to the common houses of formation, as we have said, we should also try to imagine the long term consequences of such a policy on the quality of animation, the quality of our provincial and general chapters, and on the life and animation of our provinces in general.
In chapter 4 of the Ratio, “Methodology of Formation: An Outline,” the third methodology is entitled “Ensure a formation environment and the involvement of everyone responsible.” Under the sub-section “those jointly responsible for formation” come also “Contacts and collaboration at interprovincial level”. Here is the text:
220.127.116.11 CONTACTS AND COLLABORATION AT INTERPROVINCIAL LEVEL
248. The formation work of the Provinces receives support and encouragement from the different forms of interprovincial communication, linkage and collaboration in the field of initial and ongoing formation.
Mention has already been made of interprovincial communities for initial formation and study centres; the importance of joining forces for the sake of better formation has been stressed and concrete suggestions made
Other initiatives have to do with the Provincial Delegates, those responsible for formation, and the confreres in formation, or they concern the whole area of ongoing formation.
There are different forms and structures of linkage, different types and levels of service, and different too are those to whom the service is directed; much also depends on the relationship between the Provinces. The range of options is wide: it extends from occasional coordination to ”delegations” (or delegates), to permanent interprovincial or Conference-level teams, to national or regional centres; from sporadic meetings to periodic initiatives, to a comprehensive programme of activities; from a sharing of experiences to joint study and reflection to organizing meetings, seminars, and formation experiences to preparing common terms of reference and helpful materials; from a first concentration on the provincial delegates and those responsible for formation to the offer of services to various groups of confreres (Rectors, priests and brothers in their first five years after priestly ordination or perpetual profession, confreres for perpetual profession, ongoing formation experiences, etc.).
In this variety of situations and contexts, the linkage between the Formation Delegates, the Provincial Commissions and those responsible for formation helps the Provinces:
The effect of the forms of coordination and collaboration, which are carried out in dependence and in close relationship with the Provincials and those responsible at the level of the Conference or Region, depends to a great extent on the dedication of the coordinators, a systematic programme of activities that answers real needs, the commitment of the Provincial Delegates, and the sharing of responsibility among the Provincials. (FSDB 248)
Some comments on collaboration – not only at interprovincial but also at regional and inter-regional levels.
We have regional centres for ongoing formation now in practically all the regions: Don Bosco Renewal Centre, Bangalore (South Asia), the mobile Formation Team (East Asia – Oceania), the Centro Salesiano de Formación Permanente – America, Quito (Interamerica and America Conosud), the new Salesian Formation Centre for Africa-Madagascar (SAFCAM), Nairobi, and the proposed centre / team for the formation of Salesians and laity (Mediterranean and Central & Northern Europe)
The Ratio mentions such centres in the chapter on ongoing formation, as part of the initiatives at inter-provincial level:
FSDB 550. Some initiatives for the animation of ongoing formation on a wider scale are:
FSDB 551. The Regional Councillors follow up the implementation of the inter-provincial programmes of ongoing formation and keep in contact with the Provincials responsible for them. To this end they foster a greater collaboration and coordination among the Provinces.
The General Councillor for formation has the care and responsibility for the integral and ongoing formation of the confreres. He encourages and supports the efforts made by the Provinces. In agreement with the respective regional Councillor, he asks them to plan and implement the practical guidelines concerning the formation of the confreres; he follows with particular care the progress of the centres of ongoing formation.
A proposal that has been repeatedly made in recent years is the need and the usefulness of greater contact and sharing between the centres. The present Consultation would be a good occasion to think about this and to work out concrete ways to promote such sharing
In general, greater contact between the regions – which are really so different despite the real communion in the spirit and mission of Don Bosco – would be something to be greatly encouraged. We can see that the Ratio already envisages and encourages this kind of initiative.
We need to recognize and acknowledge the possibilities for basic formation and for higher qualifications offered by our international formation houses and centres in Italy and in Jerusalem – including in a special way the UPS
To benefit from these houses and centres is not merely “to study in Rome” or “to study in Jerusalem” but to enter into living contact with the diversity of the Congregation, and this itself can be extremely beneficial for formation and growth. Those provinces that systematically avoid making use of these centres “where the Congregation gathers” are surely missing something by way of interaction with other parts of the Congregation
Our international formation houses and centres are therefore an important element in inter-provincial collaboration and in the building up of a sense of Congregation and of Church.
There are various kinds of meetings at regional and world level: team visits (ratified in GC27 89); the present World Formation Consultation and other such meetings of the other departments; world level formation seminars or courses such as the ones conducted for novice directors; the annual meetings of the Regional Formation Commissions; the regional level seminars or courses such as the ones for prenovice directors and for the postnovitiate formation personnel; etc
A special kind of meeting is that of the provincials of a region or of the provincial conferences of a region. A number of general councillors participate especially in the regional meetings of provincials. These are also occasions for animation, but which need to be better planned and used.
GC27 invited greater collaboration between the sectors or departments of the Congregation at world level, and this has been a concern for us (GC27 86). The Vicar of the Rectors Major never fails to convoke meetings of the sector councillors and meetings of the regional councillors before every plenary session of the council. Further, specific projects have been taken up jointly by certain sectors, such as the study of Salesian personal accompaniment in the processes of initial formation that involved the youth ministry and formation sectors. Our most consistent collaboration is at the present moment with the youth ministry sector.
The internet is a formidable instrument of communication and collaboration, which we are only now beginning to make use of
I take the occasion to point out the web page of the Formation Department: https://formazionesdb.org/ which already contains a large quantity of useful material generated through the meetings and initiatives of the current sessennium, etc. eventually, it will probably be linked to the new official site of the Congregation
There is the whole possibility of webinars and other virtual meetings that we should not ignore
The production of good didactic material – e.g. a presentation of the two forms of our Salesian vocation – is another direction that we need to take, perhaps something that the regional formation centres could think of.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
Indications for the CURATORIUM STATUTES
for Africa and Madagascar
The Rector Major has insisted urgently on the qualitative and quantitative consistency of the formation teams of interprovincial formation communities, with the full commitment and participation of the provinces involved. This proposal of points to be included in the Statutes of the Curatorium of interprovincial formation communities is an attempt to implement this insistence.
The draft, prepared by a team including Alphonse Owoudou, Jose Elégbédé, Jean-Luc Vande Kerkhove, Augustine Sellam, Innocent Bizimana and Silvio Roggia, has been circulated to all the provincials and to the formation teams of the interprovincial communities of the region and the feedback received has been integrated.
KEY POINTS that the Statutes have to include
They participate in the first session of the curatorium, where the current situation of the community (and study centre) is presented and attentively considered. It is the ‘listening and reading the signs of the time’.
§1. This level has the responsibility for governing and making decisions according to the statutes
§2. The statutes will determine the quorum needed to make the decisions binding and whether it is possible for members to vote even when for grave reasons they cannot be physically present or represented by an official delegate. The statute will also establish the modality for the validity of this contribution.
In its Provincial Directory every province must indicate one house for every phase as its preferential option, while retaining the possibility of sending their candidates also to other formation communities.
In the case of interprovincial houses indicated in the Directory, this implies a special responsibility of the Province in their management. In this case, the Provincial or Superior attends the Curatorium as a member of the decision-making level (see 1b above). In case he is impeded, he may officially appoint a delegate for that session. This applies even if he happens to have no students from his province in that community in some particular year.
Any change in the choice of the preferential interprovincial formation house is the competence of the provincial chapter.
In the case of interprovincial formation communities not indicated in the Provincial Directory, participation in the Curatorium is encouraged but not obligatory (see 1a above).
The president of the Curatorium is the Regional Councillor. In case of impediment, the hosting provincial presides.
For the first level (1a), the Curatorium appoints a secretary for a period of three years.
The Councillor for Formation always has the right to be present either personally or through a delegate.
Each curatorium devises appropriate ways of listening to the candidates / student confreres before its meeting, and of later communicating the outcomes
Modification of Criteria and Norms 105
Though this is not directly concerned with our topic, the new interprovincial reality of initial formation, it would be good to take this occasion to make known an important modification of Criteria and Norms 105, which speaks of the procedure for admissions. In 2007, the Rector Major modified this text omitting reference to mention of the Rector’s agreement to the making of the application. The text should now read:
CN 105. While respecting its personal nature, the application addressed to the Provincial and given to the Rector, should contain the following elements:
The letter of Fr Cereda communicating this decision reads:
Through this letter I wish to communicate to you the decision of the Rector Major and the General Council to modify number 105 of “Criteria and norms for Salesian vocation discernment”.
This number of “Criteria and norms” speaks of the elements that ought to be contained in any application for admission: to the novitiate, to first profession, to renewal of temporary profession, to perpetual profession, to the ministries and to sacred orders. Among these elements is mentioned “reference to talking with the Rector and to his agreement with its being made”
A provincial formation commission found the expression, “to his agreement with its being made”, problematic and asked for it to be suppressed.
Decision. To avoid restrictive or juridically binding interpretations with regard to the freedom in making the application for admission, the Rector Major and the General Council acceded to the request to eliminate “to his agreement with its being made” from number 105 of “Criteria and norms”, and at the same time reiterated that in this number the expression, “reference to talking with the Rector”, ought to be retained
Motivation. In the process of admission it is the one in formation who must first carry out a discernment to ascertain whether he judges himself suitable or not for the Salesian vocation. In this discernment he receives help from the Rector and the confessor, and if he happens to be a person other than the Rector, from the spiritual director. Since these persons have been accompanying him, they are in a very good position to offer him their opinion, be it positive or negative. It is then up to the individual to take their advice into consideration with all due seriousness, assume his own responsibility before God and decide in his conscience whether he should, or should not, make his application. Therefore, he does not need the agreement of the Rector to make his application.
 Emmanuel Lim, SJ, delegate superior of China, reported by Rhomel Mendoza.
 Cfr. R 81.
 I. Coelho, “Formation of formation guides,” AGC 426 (2018) 32-47.
 F. Cereda, “Modification of number 105 of ‘Criteria and Norms,’” 24 July 2007, prot. 07/0505.