Rome, 15th April 2006
To the Reverend Provincials,
To the Reverend Provincial Formation Delegates
SOUTH ASIA REGION
Dear Provincials and Delegates,
Let me present to you the “Guidelines concerning initial formation in the South Asia Region”. They are the fruit of a considerable amount of work: my visit to your formation communities, the assessment of their adequacy in terms of number and quality, the revision of the formation section of your Provincial Directories, your responses to my report on initial formation, and finally the study and reflection carried out by the Rector Major and the General Council.
The formation communities in your Region – the prenovitiates, the novitiates, the postnovitiates and the houses for the specific formation of Salesian priests and brothers – are 34 in number, and the Salesian study centres 11. These formation structures represent a serious commitment on the part of your Region, because they require constant interventions to ensure the quality of formation teams, contents and methodologies.
I am deeply grateful for the collaboration you have given me during this process; I hope that the assessment was a useful exercise for you as well. With this letter I intend to highlight some positive aspects of the initial formation in your Region and other points that seem to require more attention. I recommend to you in particular the guidelines given by the Rector Major and his Council.
Thanks be to God, your Region is blessed with the gift of vocations to Salesian religious life; in fact, you have numerous aspirants and prenovices, and every year your novices number around 140.
The Ratio requires that before the prenovitiate the candidate go through a “serious process of vocational choice” (FSDB 329) and that he be admitted to the prenovitiate “only when he has made his option for the Salesian life” (FSDB 330). In fact, it is not possible in a single year of prenovitiate to accomplish the human and Christian formation required for entrance into the novitiate.
That is why a lot of importance is attached to what takes place before the prenovitiate, and in this context, the aspirantate is a particularly strategic choice (Reg. 17). A good formation process cannot do without an aspirantate experience (AGC 385, pp. 44-45).
All your Provinces and Vice-Provinces have at least one aspirantate. The aspirants usually frequent high school and junior college. However, some Provinces, like INM and INT, are trying out an experiment of having aspirants frequent a degree college, at the end of which the candidates do a year of prenovitiate; ING too is inclined to embark on a similar experiment.
At the same time, INM gives those youngsters who have not done their junior college in a Salesian community the chance to have a particular formation experience. The INP Vice-Province too also receives as aspirants youngsters who have already finished their junior college; aware of the limited formation they have hitherto received, it tries to provide differently for them.
The aspirantate is the meeting-point between youth ministry and formation. At the provincial and regional levels, there is a need for vocation animators, those in charge of aspirantates, those responsible for prenovices together with provincial youth ministry and formation delegates to meet and discuss about how to lead candidates to opt for Salesian life and carry out their human and Christian formation before the prenovitiate.
One of the problems that needs to be tackled by vocation animation and formation together concerns university studies. The young men entering our formation processes are desirous of beginning or continuing their university studies or have already secured an academic degree. Moreover, our formation stages, particularly the postnovitiate, envisage studies leading to a degree recognized by the state. This problem needs to be studied so as not to prolong the formation stages excessively.
1.1 In the year prior to the start of the prenovitiate, the aspirantate should be an experience of personal guidance, vocation discernment, study, community living, and the exercise of Salesian pastoral work.
1.2 Aspirantates must make doubly sure to remain open to both forms of vocation to the Salesian life, that of the Salesian priest and that of the Salesian brother.
1.3 For the sake of a better coordination between the aspirantate and the prenovitiate, regular meetings should be held in the Provinces and in the Region between those responsible for aspirantates and those in charge of prenovitiates.
1.4 The experiment of having aspirants frequent a degree college is encouraged, but it should not lead to neglecting high school and junior college aspirants.
1.5 The systematic study of English needs to be intensified, especially during the aspirantate and the prenovitiate, and if need be, also during the novitiate.
Adequacy of numbers
Eight Provinces out of twelve have their own prenovitiate, each with an average of 20 candidates. Only the Provinces of INB-INP and INM-INT have the prenovitiate in common, at Pinguli in INP and at Vellakinar in INT respectively. Over the past years the prenovices of Vellakinar have been numerous, reaching a total of about 40; this year the number of prenovices at Vellakinar has come down as some of the aspirants of the Provinces of INM and INT have not entered the prenovitiate but have continued their aspirantate, while at the same time frequenting a degree college.
Location and context
It is significant that most of your prenovitiates are situated in rural and poor areas: such a location helps the future Salesians, right from their early formation, to be rooted in the context of working-class people, to be sensitive to the needs of the poor, and to learn how to live a simple life.
Almost each of the prenovitiates of the Region is a community all by itself, including those recently begun at Thibaw in MYM and at Arabegama in LKC. This ensures the presence of an adequate team of formation personnel and the focus of the entire community on the work of formation. It is however important that the prenovitiate communities engage in some pastoral activity.
For the time being, the Province of INC has put its aspirants and prenovices together in the same house, albeit with different programmes and living quarters.
In almost all your Provinces, the prenovitiate lasts a full year comprising not junior college studies but following a special programme of intellectual formation. This choice is coherent with the Ratio. The Ratio, in fact, requires of the prenovice “a general cultural foundation which should correspond to what is generally expected of young persons who have finished the normal education in their country”; furthermore, it requires that “the studies that are done during the prenovitiate must fit in with the tasks assigned for this phase. The quantity of academic obligations ought not to be such as to take away from its fundamental objectives” (FSDB 342).
The Provinces of Guwahati and Dimapur too, whose prenovitiate year coincides with the final year of junior college, are presently veering round to the idea of having a prenovitiate year free of any academic studies.
The Vice-Province of LKC is realizing that the inadequate intellectual level of its prenovices is partly due to their poor grasp of the English language; the prenovices, in fact, do not have an opportunity of frequenting a school in English during the period of the aspirantate. In general, it may be said that the knowledge of English needs to be improved in all the Provinces.
In the prenovitiates care is taken to present both vocations to the Salesian life and to offer criteria for discernment; the actual choosing of one’s vocation, however, takes place during the novitiate.
The formation team
Your formation teams are sufficient in number, but you have to focus more on their preparation for the specific work of the prenovitiate. The prenovitiate has to take care of human and Christian formation in the first place, which means: self-knowledge, facing one’s past, discovering and safeguarding one’s affectivity, a life of faith, prayer, the sacraments and catechesis. The one who is in charge of the prenovitiate has to be a true formation guide, someone who is especially prepared in the art of human formation, spiritual direction and discernment.
It is important that there be a Salesian brother among the formation personnel of the prenovitiate. I say this because some Provinces do not have a brother on the staff. His presence can influence the prenovices as they move towards the decision they have to take during the novitiate concerning the form of their vocation.
Some months ago the Rectors of the prenovitiates held a meeting at Kolkata. The most interesting and enlightening part of that meeting was their sharing of experiences. If such meetings were to be held regularly, they would greatly serve for the continuing formation of your formation personnel and for an exchange of experiences and programmes.
2.1 Hopefully, the Provinces of IND and ING will begin the prenovitiate as a formation year without academic studies after the junior college is over.
2.2 In the coming years the Provinces and Vice-Provinces should make a serious effort to prepare formation personnel for their prenovitiates; they should try to have a Salesian brother as one of the formation guides or invite a brother frequently to the prenovitiate.
2.3 It is recommended that during the prenovitiate, in a climate of serenity and trust, there be a serious commitment to formation in the faith and to human formation, by drawing upon means such as spiritual direction, writing an autobiography and formulating a personal plan of life.
2.4 With the help of the Regional Formation Commission, the Provinces and Vice-Provinces of the Region should draw up a common “Ratio studiorum” for the prenovitiate and discuss the formation programme for this particular phase.
2.5 The systematic study of English needs to be intensified, especially during the aspirantate and the prenovitiate, and if need be, also during the novitiate.
Adequacy of numbers
I find that there is a serious work of formation carried out in all your novitiates: they are all doing well. In every novitiate you have the right number of novices to ensure an efficacious formation experience.
Altogether you have are nine novitiates: six Provinces and Vice-Provinces have their own novitiate, while six others pair up to share a novitiate between themselves. Each of the novitiates is a community all by itself, except those of LKC and MYM where they are joined to the postnovitiates but retain their own distinct formation programmes and living quarters. LKC’s present situation is a provisional one; as for MYM it is already taking steps to have a separate community and residence for the postnovitiate.
There is a collaboration in novitiate formation between Kolkata and New Delhi, Mumbai and Konkan, Chennai and Trichy.
The Province of New Delhi would like to have its own novitiate, but not having sufficient formation personnel, it deems it more appropriate to continue collaborating with Kolkata.
As for the Province of Trichy, it has had an increasing number of novices in recent years. Consequently, it has sent the majority of them to the Yellagiri Hills novitiate which it has in common with INM, and the rest to the novitiate of Nasik which belongs to the Provinces of INB-INP.
For want of prior investment in the preparation of confreres, there is at times some difficulty in finding a Master of novices or an Assistant-Master. It also happens that not always does the Master of novices have with him a real team of formation personnel. And not always is there a Salesian brother among the members of the formation staff.
Location and context
On the whole, the location of your novitiates is good; you must see, however, how you can create a Salesian context for pastoral and educative action around your novitiate community. It is important, in fact, that there be apostolic activities, especially catechesis, and other possibilities for contacting boys and young men.
3.1 With the help of the Regional Formation Commission, the Provinces of the Region should prepare a common “Ratio studiorum” for the novitiate.
Adequacy of numbers
There are 9 postnovitiates altogether. Here is the numerical consistency of the postnovitiates in which more than one Province is involved: Nasik has 30 postnovices, of whom 22 belong to INB, 4 to INP, 2 to ING, 1 to INH and 1 to INT; Sonada has 36 postnovices, of whom 12 belong to INC, 10 to INN, and 14 to ING; Dimapur has 54 postnovices, of whom 17 belong to IND, 23 to ING, 6 to INN, and 8 to INK; Karunapuram has 34 postnovices, of whom 19 belong to INH, 10 to ING, 3 to INC, and 2 to IND; Aluva has 24 postnovices, of whom 20 belong to INK, 2 to INN, and 2 to IND; Yercaud has 45 postnovices, of whom 25 belong to INT, 14 to INM, 2 to ING, and 4 to INH. In addition, there are the provincial postnovitiates of Anisakan for MYM and Kotadeniyawa for LKC. At Kalyani there are 15 brother postnovices.
In the formation community of Sonada there are also 38 diocesan seminarians. Efforts are being made to keep these diocesan students of philosophy as a separate community or group with their own quarters, their own distinct moments of formation and prayer, and with some Salesians as their formation guides. There is a gradual move too to separate the scholastic block from the community residence, as the study centre is frequented by lay students as well.
At Nasik the separation of the quarters of the postnovices from those of the students of the 2nd cycle is now complete, thus allowing the two groups to have their own times for prayer, formation activities, recollections and meals, and formation staff.
One of the praiseworthy features of your Region is that all your postnovitiates have their own Salesian study centre; this is a big advantage in that it makes for a good grounding in Salesian formation. Six of your study centres have a two-year curriculum of studies; they are: Aluva, Anisakan, Kalyani, Kotadeniyawa, Nasik and Yercaud; of these Nasik offers a Baccalaureate and a Licentiate from the UPS. Three other study centres, which offer a B.A. degree, have a three-year curriculum; they are: Dimapur, Karunapuram and Sonada; they are open to religious men and women, diocesan seminarians and the laity.
Some of the centres do not have a solid teaching body: since permanent professors are not available, practical trainees holding a licentiate in philosophy step in as formation guides and professors.
With a view to strengthening their study centres, INC and LKC are moving towards affiliation with the UPS. Since the INM students finish their graduation before the novitiate, the Province would like them to pursue a Master’s degree at Yercaud; but INT is not in favour of the proposal.
It has been observed that where there is a junior college or where it is possible to obtain a recognized degree, a proper equilibrium is not always kept with regard to the various formation requirements; the rhythm of academic work becomes so absorbing that the other formation aspects tend to suffer. On the other hand, where the study centre is not a degree college, the initial formation tends to be prolonged by an additional two years at least in view of obtaining a university degree.
There are four communities and study centres which have an experience of interprovincial collaboration. They are: Nasik has INB and INP; Yercaud, INT and INM; Sonada, INC and INN; and Dimapur, IND and ING. However, all the postnovitiates in India are open to the other Provinces, in case of particular need.
Ordinarily, the Indian Provinces send their postnovices to their own postnovitiates or to those in which they have chosen to collaborate with on a permanent basis. Some Provinces, however, send to the two-year postnovitiates of Aluva and Nasik those postnovices who, after the postnovitiate, will pursue university studies in fields other than the humanities. Other Provinces send to the three-year postnovitiates of Dimapur, Karunapuram and Sonada those who are to obtain an academic degree in the humanities. Since Guwahati has its specific formation at Shillong in the north-east of the country, it feels that its confreres need contact with other cultural contexts and for this reason it sends its students to all the postnovitiates.
The postnovitiate for Salesian brothers at Kalyani
The Region is not in favour of Salesian brothers being dispersed in the different postnovitiates; if that were so, there would be a numerical disproportion between the lay and clerical postnovices and it would not be possible to take good care of the vocational identity of the brother postnovices.
At its meeting of August 20-23, 2004 at Dimapur, the Provincial Conference of South Asia confirmed the validity of the postnovitiate of Kalyani for Salesian brothers and each Province committed itself to send its brothers to that community for their formation. Only in exceptional cases and for a specific reason may a Provincial send a brother to another postnovitiate, and that too after consulting the Regional Councillor.
There is an awareness today that a poor intellectual preparation does not have to be a determining factor in the choice of the brotherhood. As a matter of fact, the valid requirement for all, be they desirous of becoming Salesian clerics or Salesian brothers, ought to be the completion of their secondary school and junior college.
With a view to raising the level of studies and in consideration of the new curriculum for the specific formation of Salesian brothers, the study programme at Kalyani has been revised. In the present situation it is somewhat difficult to increase the number of professors; however, it would be a different matter altogether if this community were set up as an autonomous entity, close to a Salesian study centre for philosophical studies.
The Conference of South Asia is open to receive the brother postnovices of the other Provinces of Asia at Kalyani, but this no longer seems a practical possibility.
4.1 Should any Province in India need to have its postnovices frequent a two-year course or a university course of studies, it may send its students to other postnovitiates of the Region, in addition to its own. However, in order to guarantee a continuity of formation between the different formation phases, it should be careful not to disperse its postnovices in all the postnovitiates.
4.2 We confirm the position taken by the Provincial Conference, viz. that all the brother postnovices should go to Kalyani, allowing for exceptions approved by the Regional Councillor. The study centre at Kalyani should be guaranteed qualified professors and a good library. If the Vice-Provinces of LKC and MYM have difficulty in obtaining an entry visa to India or, if they wish, they may keep their brother postnovices in their own postnovitiate.
4.3 The postnovitiates of Dimapur, Karunapuram and Sonada should see to it that the degree studies do not in any way diminish the complete formation programme of the postnovitiate and that a proper balance is kept between academic obligations and the other formation requirements.
4.4 The Provinces and Vice-Provinces should commit themselves to preparing formation personnel for the postnovitiate, especially professors of philosophy and the human sciences, with a view to having permanent professors.
4.5 Sonada should move towards having a separate community or group for the diocesan students of philosophy so that they have their own set of Salesian formation guides together with their own quarters, prayer and formation activities.
A proper assessment of practical training has not been done, but in my meetings with various groups of practical trainees certain elements have emerged. In general, practical training is not yet considered a true phase of formation.
Generally speaking, not much attention is paid to the formation process of the young confreres; the communities, to which the practical trainees are sent, are not always the most appropriate; and the spiritual and pastoral guidance of the young confreres remains weak. Sometimes the practical trainees feel that they are left to themselves and given no help to shoulder heavy responsibilities; it often happens that in a short space of time they lose the values they acquired during their earlier formation years. Every Province or Vice-Province conducts at least an annual meeting of all its practical trainees.
The tri-monthly assessments require care and exactness in all the phases of formation, and this is especially the case of those communities that receive practical trainees.
In some Provinces there are particular communities for those Salesians in formation who frequent a degree college either before or after their practical training; these normally have their own formation staff to offer them guidance.
5.1 Ordinarily the practical trainees should be sent only to canonically erected communities which have at least three perpetually professed confreres, and where they can be followed up by the Rector; they need to have an experience of community living, and receive guidance from the community by way of tri-monthly assessments.
5.2 The community should have its own plan supervised by the Provincial for the formation of its practical trainees; this plan should be prepared by the Provincial Formation Delegate on the basis of a common proposal drawn up by the Provincial Commission and the Regional Formation Commission.
5.3 Periodic meetings of practical trainees at provincial level are important. It is likewise necessary to provide a forum for an exchange of views and common guidelines for those Rectors who have practical trainees in their communities.
5.4 Those in formation, who are engaged in university studies either before or after their practical training, need to receive guidance by way of a community plan for their formation, as well as an experience of community living, spiritual direction by the Rector and assessments by the community.
Adequacy of numbers
The communities for the specific formation of Salesian priests are five in number.
At Shillong this year there are 14 formation staff-members and 66 Salesian students: 25 in the 1st year, 10 in the 2nd, 16 in the 3rd, and 15 in the 4th. Their Provinces of origin are as follows: 21 from ING, 11 from INC, 12 from IND, 12 from INN, 8 from INK, 1 from INH and 1 from INM.
At Bangalore there is a total of 14 formation staff-members and 78 Salesian students: 22 in the 1st year, 17 in the 2nd, 18 in the 3rd, and 21 in the 4th. Their Provinces of origin are as follows: 31 from INK, 7 from INH, 11 from INM, 4 from INT, 4 from INB, 6 from INC, 6 from INN, 4 from IND, 4 from ING, and 1 from THA.
At Poonamallee there are 16 Salesian students: 14 are from INM and 2 from INH. At Trichy there are 22 Salesian students: 14 are from INT and 8 from INM. At Pune there are 16 Salesian students: 6 from INB, 5 from INP, 3 from INM and 2 from INH. LKC has 8 students: 2 are at Gerini – UPS, Rome, 2 at the Crocetta, Turin, and 4 at Manila. MYM has 1 student, and he is at Gerini – UPS, Rome.
Aware of their large numbers, the communities of Shillong and Bangalore that it is not always possible for them to foster a good personalization of the formation processes (FSDB 224). They have been reflecting on this problem and seeking to devise solutions.
Shillong has received the approval of the Rector Major and the General Council to separate the academic block from the community residence. It is now also in the process of forming a separate community for the non-Salesian students.
Bangalore has received the approval of the Rector Major and his Council to build a multi-purpose hall; this will facilitate a better separation between the academic and community premises. The local council has been reflecting on the problem [of a personalized formation process]; it does not envisage that the problem will be solved by forming smaller communities within one and the same building, seeing that a similar experiment some 20 years ago of dividing the community in two, resulted in a negative outcome.
In every formation community the Salesian students come from different Provinces. But the interprovincial collaboration remains weak. At present, Shillong has a “Curatorium” comprising the Provinces of ING, IND, INC and INN.
Bangalore had a “Curatorium” some years ago. With the birth of three other formation communities at Mumbai, Poonamallee and Trichy, and because of ensuing difficulties, the Curatorium stopped functioning. An attempt was made to have a “consulting body” take its place among the Provinces of INK, INM, INT and INH; the results were limited, in so far as there were no commitments binding the Provinces concerned, especially in the sectors of formation and teaching personnel. At present, INH is the only Province that could constitute the Curatorium for Bangalore together with INK; however, this should not prevent the other Provinces from sending their own students to Bangalore.
The new Vice-Provinces of Myanmar and Sri Lanka are seeking an interprovincial collaboration witin the two Regions of South Asia and East Asia. They would like to send their Salesians to India for formation, but they remain uncertain when it comes to securing an entry visa.
Of the five communities for the specific formation of Salesian priests, two are theologates or communities with a Salesian study centre, viz. Bangalore and Shillong. The other three formation communities – Pune, Poonamallee and Trichy – send their confreres to non-Salesian study centres.
The Ratio requires that ordinarily a Salesian study centre be chosen (FSDB 145-146, 168-171). It would seem necessary therefore to assess the present situation in which our students of theology frequent non-Salesian study centres.
6.1 A study needs to be made of how to foster personalization and the involvement of those in formation within the formation communities of Shillong and Bangalore, for example, by means of a better articulation of the community.
6.2 To promote a sense of belonging to the community, it is necessary that as and when the restructuring of buildings takes place, the process of separating the academic premises from the community residence continue, both at Shillong and at Bangalore. Shillong would need to keep the religious students as a separate group with their own residence, formation personnel, formation activities and prayer.
6.3 We confirm the guideline of the Ratio which recommends that “ordinarily a Salesian centre” (FSDB 168) be chosen for studies. We invite the Provinces of INB-INP, INM and INT to strengthen the Salesian aspect of their phase of specific formation for Salesian priests (FSDB 180) and to carry out an assessment of their formation experience after some years.
6.4 The Provinces and Vice-Provinces which do not have a formation community of their own or in any case wish to send their own students of Theology to other communities of specific formation for Salesian priests, should consider choosing those communities that have a Salesian study centre. If MYM and LKC are unable to send their students of Theology to India, they will have to opt for another formation community in Asia.
The Region has attempted different ways of organizing the specific formation of Salesian brothers. It first asked the Salesian brothers to do a year-long course of Theology for the Laity at Shillong and a subsequent 2 months of Salesianity at the Salesian National Formation Centre at Bangalore. However, the level of the course for the laity was found to be too elementary and so this solution was given up.
Next, the Salesian brothers were given the possibility of frequenting two years of study at Shillong, during which time they could choose among the different courses of Theology offered to the candidates for priestly life. Not being a well-articulated proposal, it too had to be given up.
In the wake of the proposals of the Regional Congress of Salesian Brothers, as also the suggestions of the professors of Sacred Heart Theological College, Shillong and the decisions of the Provincials of the Region, August 2005 saw the beginning of a course of specific formation for Salesian brothers at Shillong for the duration of 2 years. The course has its own programme, based on the Ratio. At the end of the two years, a diploma in Theology, recognized by the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, is awarded. The programme is open to religious women and other religious brothers, in addition to the laity. The brothers have a formation community of their own, the Mathias Institute.
All the Provincials of the Region are agreed that all the Salesian brothers should begin this phase of their formation in the same way in which, on finishing their practical training, all the Salesian clerical students begin their own specific formation. A point that remains to be studied is the time for the specialization of Salesian brothers; normally it ought to be, as for the Salesian clerics, after specific formation.
7.1 The Provinces should support this phase of formation by sending all their Salesian brothers for the course of specific formation after they finish their practical training. The course is cyclic, and therefore, it is possible for the brothers to join it every year; there need not be any interruption.
7.2 Salesian brothers, who are already perpetually professed and have not had any previous formation, can enrol for this course. As for choosing the community in which to reside, this will be done upon an understanding with the Rector of the community of Mathias Institute and the Provincial of ING.
During the month of January each year, the national centre for ongoing formation, “Don Bosco Renewal Centre”, Bangalore conducts a course of preparation for perpetual profession for the Provinces of ING, INC, IND, INN and INK. From this year onwards the same centre conducts another course during the months of April and May for the Provinces of INM, INT and INH. The other Provinces and Vice-Provinces organize their own courses of preparation for perpetual profession.
8.1 The preparation for perpetual profession should begin a year before the profession itself, after the confrere has told the Provincial explicitly of his desire to begin this preparation. During this year he should evaluate his lived experience of the Salesian religious life, carry out a discernment before arriving at a final decision, and strengthen his motives for embracing Salesian life.
8.2 The Regional Formation Commission should study the best ways of carrying out this preparation in the Provinces and in the Region. We encourage the Provinces to begin or continue initiatives of interprovincial collaboration in the preparation for perpetual profession.
There is a noticeable lack of Salesian studies, especially in the postnovitiate and in the specific formation of Salesian priests. The Department of formation has concluded a process of consultation within each Region regarding the situation of these studies during the course of initial formation. To help the formation communities, the Rector Major and the General Council have offered some guidelines in the matter that apply to the whole Congregation.
9.1 We ask that every formation community and study centre adopt the new Guidelines for Salesian studies issued by the Rector Major with his Council. We also ask that in study centres of philosophy and theology these courses become a part of the class time-table – with teaching done by qualified professors, with exams conducted and with academically recognized credits.
9.2 It is necessary to prepare professors, even with a doctorate, to teach Salesian studies. As for those who are presently teaching Salesian studies, they may need a year or a semester at the UPS for their updating in Salesian studies. The Regional Formation Commission could see how to promote meetings and the updating of the professors of Salesian studies within the Region itself.
Today’s consumer culture and individualism tend to make young people weak in the face of difficulties. Initial formation must therefore be able to harness their best energies and take pains to avoid the danger of forming a generation of weaklings. It is necessary to form to work and temperance and to live and work together.
GC25 reminds us of our commitment to set an example of “a simple, sober and modest way of living, taking account of the local neighbourhood, in assiduous and self-sacrificing work, with a readiness to carry out even the most humble tasks” (n. 35).
Formation communities are inserted in social contexts of poverty; they ought to have a way of living that is in keeping with that of the poor who surround them and should pay attention to their needs.
During initial formation efforts have to be made to form in the doctrine and practice of evangelical poverty. The regular use of the scrutinium povertatis can help to create a sensitivity about setting an example of community poverty and form to an awareness of the requirements of personal poverty.
10.1 The residence in formation communities should be simple and reduced to the essentials. The whole setup of the house and of its life must be such as to foster growth in a spirit of community. Encouragement must be given to community settings and spaces. A common study hall is to be preferred in the prenovitiate, the novitiate and the postnovitiate. Those who are in formation ought to be involved and made to feel responsible for domestic services; the domestic staff needs to be reduced to what is strictly necessary.
10.2 The formation community ought to have a way of living that corresponds to that of the poor people of its neighbourhood and should be sensitive to their needs, especially to those of the young. It is necessary to create in those being formed a greater vigilance and moderation with regard to personal expenses, the use of vehicles, and the possession of personal instruments, especially those of social communication.
10.3 In its community plan, the formation community should choose some concrete and important lines of action for its life of poverty and conduct the “scrutiny of poverty” at least once a year. The presentation of the budget and the expenses of the community will also help to create a sensitivity to community poverty.
Shared responsibility in initial formation becomes concrete above all when interprovincial teams of formation guides and professors are formed, a common formation programme is shared, and there is financial assistance. It needs to be guaranteed by an Agreement between the Provinces concerned (AGC 388, p. 60) and ensured “on a durable basis” by “the establishment of a ‘curatorium’ or other mechanisms” (FSDB 224).
All the Provinces of the Region collaborate in the formation of Salesian brothers, be it in the postnovitiate phase at Kalyani or in the phase of specific formation at Shillong.
The Province of INB and the Vice-Province of INP collaborate in all the phases of formation: the prenovitiate, the novitiate, the postnovitiate, and the specific formation of Salesian priests. The same happens between the Provinces of INM and INT. These Provinces find themselves in the particular situation of being able to ensure a continuity of formation.
Some cases of collaboration need clarification for want of a clear picture of the subjects involved and the responsibilities assumed.
11.1 Interprovincial collaboration should be guaranteed on a durable basis by means of an Agreement and ensured by a “curatorium” or another mechanism that allows for an exchange of views, decision-making, planning and common assessment.
11.2 The Provinces and Vice-Provinces of the Region have a common responsibility for the postnovitiate at Kalyani and the phase of specific formation for Salesian brothers at Shillong. The “Curatorium” for these formation phases could be held on the occasion of the meeting of the Provincial Conference.
11.3 The Provinces of INB-INP and INM-INT should devise a mechanism for common discussion and decision to guarantee not only interprovincial collaboration but continuity of formation as well.
11.4 The Provinces that lack a particular formation phase need to clearly identify the Province with which they intend to collaborate; for such a collaboration they should choose formation communities with a Salesian study centre.
There is an increasing awareness today of the need for a specific formation to be a formation guide. It is a matter of forming the person of the formation guide himself and making him capable of forming others.
The Provincial Conference has decided to launch an annual programme of formation for the formation personnel of all the formation communities of the Region. In January 2006 this programme will be conducted at Bandel, Kolkata for the Northern Provinces; in April and May it will be held at Pune and Bangalore for the Southern Provinces. It is important that for this course the formation personnel be present as a team and that the course be conducted annually, as is already the case in other Regions of the Congregation.
In some Provinces there are initiatives such as a provincial plan for the formation of formation personnel, an annual two-day meeting of all the formation staff of the Province, and the qualification of some confreres at the UPS for the task of formation.
12.1 Let the Provinces and Vice-Provinces have as one of their priorities the establishment or reinforcement of formation teams, and ensure that they are adequate in number and quality.
12.2 Let opportunities be given to formation staff-members, both present and future ones, to qualify and update themselves for their task of formation; they should be encouraged to prepare themselves by following the curriculum of the UPS for formation personnel. In particular, let the Rectors of formation communities and the masters of novices be given a year of preparation, or at least six months of updating, prior to their assuming office.
12.3 All the Provinces and Vice-Provinces should ensure the participation of their formation teams in the annual formation course.
12.4 Regular meetings should be promoted among formation personnel - every month among the formation staff-members of the same formation community, and every year among the formation staff of the various formation phases of the Province.
I wish to thank you for your kind consideration and your cooperation in putting these “Guidelines” into practice. Let them be an object of study, especially on the part of Provincial Formation Commissions and Provincial Councils, the Regional Formation Commission, and formation communities.
In Don Bosco,
Fr. Francis Cereda