Rome: July 14, 2006
and the Reverend Provincial Formation Delegates
of the East Asia – Oceania Region
Subject: Guidelines concerning initial formation in the East Asia – Oceania Region
Dear Provincials, Superiors and Delegates,
I present to you the “Guidelines concerning initial formation in the East Asia - Oceania Region”. They are the outcome of a considerable amount of work: my visits to your formation communities, the assessment of those communities in terms of their numbers and quality, the revision of the Formation section of your Provincial Directories, your responses to my Report on initial formation, and lastly, the study and reflection on the part of the Rector Major and the General Council.
Let me thank you sincerely for the collaboration you offered me during this process; I hope it was a useful exercise for you as well. Now, with this letter, I intend to underline some positive aspects of initial formation in the Region and others that seem to require more attention. I want to draw your attention in particular to the guidelines issued by the Rector Major and his Council.
In these pages reference will be made to the Regional Formation Commission, which comprises the Provincial Formation Delegates; it is envisaged that the Commission will meet once a year to promote knowledge, coordination, an exchange of experiences, help and collaboration among the Provinces. There will also be established very shortly a “group of confreres” to be at the service of the ongoing formation of the Region, particularly by way of Salesian studies and formation programmes for Rectors.
1. LINK BETWEEN VOCATION ANIMATION AND FORMATION
In your Region vocations are on the increase. There are, however, Provinces with very many vocations, and others with very few. In the years between 1990 and 1995 the average number of novices a year was 56; between 1996 and 2001, 55; and in recent years, i.e. from 2002 to 2005, the average number of novices a year has gone up to 62, of whom the biggest numbers are to be found in VIE, ITM and KOR. At the end of 2005, if we exclude the prenovices whose exact number we do not know, there were altogether 435 in the various phases of formation in the entire Region.
The Ratio asks that before the prenovitiate the candidate go through “a serious process of vocational guidance” (FSDB 329) and that he be admitted to the prenovitiate only “when he has made his option for the Salesian life” (FSDB 330). In article 17 of the General Regulations the vocational guidance preceding the prenovitiate is called the “aspirantate”.
While it is possible to give it different names and organize it in different ways, the aspirantate is essentially a follow-up of those youngsters who shows signs of a vocation to Salesian consecrated life; this follow-up consists of spiritual direction, vocation discernment, sharing in the life and mission of the Salesian community, study and intellectual advancement. The aspirantate is also a time for the Salesians to get to know the candidate’s family and involve it in his formation.
There is an awareness nowadays that it is not possible for candidates to Salesian life, in a single year of prenovitiate, to accomplish the human and Christian formation required for entrance into the novitiate. The aspirantate formation is therefore strategic; it is necessary both for the formation of the candidate and the discernment of his vocation.
All your Provinces have some form of vocation programmes for your candidates, postulants or aspirants before the prenovitiate. Your aspirants comprise secondary school students, University students, volunteers considering a vocation, and aspirants of tribal origin. Some Provinces conduct occasional formation initiatives for their aspirants; others have a sustained programme. You need to have a deeper reflection on these various experiences.
In fact, some Provinces feel the need for more clarity in this area. AUL, for one, intends to draw a better distinction between the aspirantate and the prenovitiate, and would be inclined, in each State where there is a significant Salesian presence, to nominate a Salesian to be responsible, together with a community, for following up those young men who are leaning towards the Salesian vocation. ITM is reassessing the programme of its aspirantate in East Timor, and seems disposed to start an aspirantate in Indonesia as well. CIN too is reviewing the formation carried out in its aspirantate.
FIN is thinking of giving an aspirantate experience to those candidates who opt for courses and University studies which are not offered by its study centre at Canlubang. For its part, FIS is closing its aspirantate for high school boys this year and intends to focus its attention on the formation of aspirants studying at the University.
In KOR the candidates begin their aspirantate after making their option for the vocation of Salesian cleric or Salesian brother. Starting this year, the candidates for the priesthood will stay at Shin An Dong – Kwangju for their one-year aspirantate during which they will frequent the first year of philosophy at the diocesan seminary; the candidates for the Salesian lay consecrated life will have their own formation programme lasting a year at Dae Rim Dong - Seoul.
Today we find that the young men entering our formation processes are desirous of beginning or continuing their University studies or have already secured an academic degree. Some Provinces have made it a necessary condition to possess a University degree before entering the prenovitiate. Sometimes, our formation phases, especially the postnovitiate, require studies leading to a State-recognized degree. You will therefore have to see how to coordinate University studies in your Province with other studies.
1.2 Before the prenovitiate, and while they pursue their studies, let candidates to Salesian life have an experience of personal guidance, vocation discernment, community living, and the exercise of Salesian youth ministry; in other words, let them have an aspirantate experience.
1.2 Since the aspirantate is the meeting-point between youth ministry and the formation process, there is a need at the provincial level for the provincial youth ministry and formation delegates, vocation animators, those in charge of aspirants, and those responsible for prenovices to have an exchange of views on the subject of the aspirantate. At regional level too a similar exchange of views could be useful between the provincial youth ministry and formation delegates.
1.3 The following problems need to be studied jointly by the youth ministry and formation sectors: the criteria for choosing young men for the aspirantate, the elements of the human and Christian formation of an aspirant in coherence and continuity with the youth ministry programme and the prenovitiate requirements, the role assumed by the aspirantate experience within a Province’s framework of vocation animation, the modalities of guidance and discernment leading to the option for Salesian life prior to the prenovitate, the preparation of vocation animators for the aspirantate, the coordination of University studies with other studies. 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 aspirantate needs to reinforce its presentation of both the vocations to Salesian life, viz. that of the Salesian priest and that of the Salesian brother, without however inviting the candidate to take a decision at this juncture.
There are 13 prenovitiates in the Region. Four Provinces have two prenovitiates each: FIN has a prenovitiate at Canlunbang and another at Port Moresby – Papua New Guinea; AUL, one at Brunswick – Melbourne and another at Alafua – Samoa; ITM, one at Los Palos and another at Tigaraksa; KOR, one at Kwangju and another at Dae Rim Dong.
The prenovitiates of Lawaan – FIS and Banpong – THA are autonomous communities, where the prenovices live together with the aspirants, but have their own formation programmes. Some Provinces have their prenovitiate together with other formation phases, as in Kwangju and Dae Rim Dong in KOR, at Chofu – GIA, and Port Moresby – PNG. Other Provinces have their prenovitiate as a part of an apostolic community, as in Alafua – AUL, Hong Kong – CIN, Canlubang – FIN, Tagaraksa – ITM, Los Palos – ITM, and Cau Bong – VIE.
The Ratio allows the possibility of a prenovitiate as an autonomous formation community or as a part of a Salesian community (cf. FSDB 344). Sometimes, especially because of a shortage of formation personnel or of those in formation, it may become necessary to put different formation phases together in the same community. In every such case, however, it would be necessary for the prenovices to form a separate group having its own formation guides, programmes and premises, but at the same time taking part in the life of the Salesian community.
ITM sees the need of laying down criteria to assess the intellectual capacity and the preparation of its candidates for admission to the prenovitiate as it requires them to do an entrance examination. It is also drawing up criteria to assess the candidate’s health, family, etc.
In most of the Provinces the prenovitiate lasts a year and has its own programme of intellectual formation in lieu of academic studies. The Ratio, in fact, requires that “the studies that are done during the prenovitate 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).
There are Provinces, however, in which academic studies do take place during the prenovitiate, as at Canlubang – FIN where the prenovitiate coincides with the final year of college. Since the University studies take four years, this period is considered sufficiently long enough for carrying out the formation required both for an aspirantate and a prenovitiate. However, the Province will have to verify if the academic studies at the college do justice to the formation requirements of the prenovitiate, as spelt out in the Ratio.
The situation in Korea is quite complex because of the obligatory military service for all young men reaching the age of 21. The prenovitiate takes place after military service and follows a dual pattern: those who have done a year of aspirantate studying philosophy at Shin An Dong – Kwangju go to Dae Rim Dong after their military service to carry out the prenovitiate programme. Instead, the other candidates who come to us after doing their military service, go for their prenovitiate to Shin An Dong – Kwangju where they do their first year of philosophy.
THA supposedly has two years of “prenovitiate” but it is not so in reality; in fact, a year of prenovitiate is followed by one or more years of University studies. It would be desirable, however, that the University studies be done first, and then the prenovitiate year immediately prior to the novitiate.
Sometimes the prenovitiate is looked upon as a simple introduction to the novitiate and not as a first true phase of formation having its own goals. Often too the formation programme remains indeterminate.
Almost all the Provinces of the Region have a lay confrere among the formation guides. His presence is necessary because in this phase the young candidate enters into close contact with the Salesian vocation and orients himself towards choosing the form of his vocation, a choice which he will make in the novitiate.
2.1 In the coming years the Provinces should prepare formation personnel for the prenovitiate and set up formation teams, which include a confessor and a Salesian brother. The formation staff ought to have the specific preparation and necessary experience, particularly for the task of human formation and spiritual direction. “Today the one in charge of prenovices needs the same preparation and experience as a master of novices” (ACG 385, p. 45).
2.2 In the prenovitiate there should be a serious commitment to human and Christian formation, drawing upon means such as spiritual direction, writing an autobiography, formulating a personal plan of life, and psychological help. The programme of human and Christian formation must include: self-knowledge, assessment of one’s past, rereading one’s life-history, discovering and safeguarding one’s affectivity; a life of faith, prayer, the sacraments and catechesis. The one who is in charge of the prenovices must have a good knowledge of their families.
2.3 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 exchange ideas about the formation programme of this particular phase. Those in charge of prenovitiates and masters of novices ought to be involved in this task through their provincial formation commissions.
2.4 In the prenovitiate the presentation of both vocations to Salesian life should continue, that of the Salesian priest and that of the Salesian brother: there should no anticipation of the work of discerning and choosing either vocation, as this is to be done during the novitiate.
2.5 During the aspirantate and the prenovitiate, the study of English needs to be begun or intensified, in addition to that of the international language in use in one’s own country.
We have 7 novitiates in the Region: Ba Thon – VIE, Daejon – KOR, Sampran – THA, Lawaan – FIS, Port Moresby – PNG/SI, and two novitiates in ITM, one at Sumba and the other at Fatumaca. CIN and GIA have suspended their respective novitiates for the time being. AUL too has suspended its novitiates at Lysterfield and Alafua.
For quite some time now the two Provinces of FIN and FIS have been collaborating in connection with the novitiate at Lawaan; for example, FIN sends a practical trainee regularly every year as novice assistant. As regards the novices from Pakistan who belong to FIS, they experience some problems of adjusting to a different culture. GIA and CIN have begun sending their novices to Lawaan, but this is due solely to the extremely small number of their novices; in fact, the two Provinces intend to continue with their respective novitiates when they have 3 or more novices.
The interprovincial collaboration between FIN and FIS concerning the novitiate of Lawaan needs to be strengthened by establishing a Curatorium and giving it a certain stability. In this way there will be a sharing of responsibility for the formation programme, economic matters and formation personnel.
AUL would like to reopen a novitiate in the Province, seeing that at present both the novitiates of Lysterfield and Samoa are suspended; the matter is under discernment. As for THA, it feels that an interprovincial novitiate might be a good solution for those Provinces that have one or two novices or lack qualified formation personnel, but it does not see it as a solution for itself, considering the fact that its candidates need a couple of years to pick up a new language.
In general, the novices live an enriching experience in an atmosphere of serenity, openness and receptivity. They have a great love for Don Bosco and a strong sense of belonging to the Congregation. ITM has a language problem: it is continually translating basic books like the Constitutions and the Project of Life of the Salesians of Don Bosco, and teaching Portuguese to the Timorese.
3.1 There is a need for guaranteeing a continuity of formation between the prenovitiates and the novitiates, and between the novitiates and the postnovitiates by arranging a dialogue involving the formation personnel of contiguous phases and having the Provincial Formation Commissions carry out an assessment. This can also be a matter for study in the Curatorium.
3.2 It is important to invest in preparing a confrere to be a master of novices or a socius. Steps should also be taken to provide the master of novices, who more appropriately ought to be the Rector of the community, with a formation team that includes a Salesian brother.
3.3 With the help of the Regional Formation Commission, the circumscriptions of the Region should prepare a common “Ratio studiorum” and exchange ideas about their formation programme for the novitiate.
3.4 The criterion formulated by CIN and GIA regarding the minimum number of novices is acceptable; if they consider it opportune, these Provinces may reopen their own novitiate, provided they have at least three novices. With regard to the novitiates of Samoa and Australia, there needs to be a discernment involving AUL and the Rector Major.
There are 13 postnovitiates in the Region: Suva – Fiji, Clifton Hill – AUL, Shaukeiwan – CIN, Chofu – GIA, Canlubang for FIN and FIS, Kwangju – KOR, Port Moresby - PNG, Jakarta – ITM, Dili – ITM, Sampran – THA, and Dalat – VIE. In addition, there are two other postnovitiates for Salesian brothers: at Dae Rim Dong, Seoul for KOR, together with the students of theology; and for the time being, at Baucau in East Timor for Timorese brothers only. The last-mentioned postnovitiate will gradually cease to exist when a new postnovitiate is built at Dili for brothers and clerics.
The duration of the postnovitiates varies between 2 and 3 years. Those postnovitiates that have a two-year duration are: Canlubang, Suva, Dili, Chofu, Port Moresby and Kwangju, while those with a three-year duration are: Dalat, Jakarta, Sampran and Shaukeiwan.
To make up for the small numbers in the postnovitiates of AUL, CIN and GIA, the same community plays host to two formation phases together – the postnovitiate and the specific formation of Salesian clerics - albeit each with its own formation programme. Such a situation can be legitimate for reasons of language and culture.
Acknowledging the tensions that can sometimes arise from having different phases together in the same formation community, AUL is thinking of separating the postnovices and the students of theology at Suva in one of the following ways: establishing a second formation community at Suva, separating the two groups within the existing structure, delineating the formation programmes of the two groups more clearly, or relocating the students of theology to Melbourne.
As of now, the only interprovincial collaboration that exists is between FIS and FIN concerning the postnovitiate of Canlubang. However, what is needed is a Memorandum of Agreement between the two Provinces and the establishment of a Curatorium.
With the exception of Canlubang and Dalat, all our postnovices in the Region study in non-Salesian centres. As for our two study centres, they can consider embarking on a process leading to their affiliation with the UPS. FIN has already declared itself in favour of affiliating Canlubang; however, it acknowledges that it has to prepare more doctors of philosophy. We have to ensure that in the non-Salesian study centres our students frequent, the studies are of a good standard.
At Suva the postnovices of Samoa and Fiji frequent the Pacific Regional Seminary which belongs to the Bishops’ Conference of the Pacific and is run by the Dioceses and Religious Institutes of the Marists, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Columbans, the Salesians and the Vincentians. AUL sends its postnovices to a study centre at Melbourne with which it has an agreement.
The postnovices of Shaukeiwan study at the Holy Spirit Seminary College, which is under the responsibility of the bishops of Hong Kong and Macau as well as the Provincials of the Jesuits, the Salesians and the Franciscans; some of our formation personnel are professors at the College and members of the Faculty Council. At the end of a biennium of studies the postnovices receive a baccalaureate in philosophy.
The postnovices of Chofu attend the Sophia University of Tokyo. Since, however, half the number of students at the Sophia University are non-Christian, one remains perplexed as to whether the studies there offer a truly Christian and religious formation; we need therefore to rethink our position and find another way of obtaining recognized degrees. Those postnovices, who already have a University degree, frequent the philosophical biennium at the St. Anthony Theological School in Tokyo run by the Franciscans.
At Kwangju the clerical postnovices frequent the third and fourth years of philosophy and theology at the diocesan seminary, having already completed the first and second years during their aspirantate. From 2008, instead, the postnovitiate will include the second year as well; this means that the postnovitiate will be of three years’ duration.
As for Thailand, the postnovices need a baccalaureate not only in philosophy but also in education to be able to teach in our schools. This is why they attend the ‘Lux Mundi College” of Sampran, which is frequented by seminarians from the ten dioceses of the country and several religious institutes. To secure a recognized degree in philosophy, the postnovices do a year of studies before the novitiate, then three years during the postnovitiate; to obtain a baccalaureate in education, they complete another 20 credits during an additional year, utilizing for this purpose the weekends during their first year of practical training. One of the professors at the College is a Salesian.
At Port Moresby the postnovices frequent an interdiocesan and intercongregational seminary at Bomana, which is under the responsibility of the Episcopal conference of PNG.
The centre frequented by our postnovices in Jakarta is the Jesuit School of Philosophy, where one of our Salesians is a professor. Meetings are held from time to time between the academic and the religious authorities. The baccalaureate of philosophy, a recognized degree, is got only after four
Postnovitiate studies for Salesian brothers
In several Provinces the Salesian brothers do not follow the postnovitiate programme of the clerics. At Suva, for example, the brothers do some theological and professional studies according to needs. At Canlubang, the brothers do only one year of philosophical studies and then concentrate on technical subjects during the second year. At Baucau the Timorese brothers frequent an Institute for religious, but this is a transitory arrangement.
Korea’s choice of having the brother postnovices frequent the Korean Catechetical Institute in Seoul for two years is acceptable for the time being because of their peculiar situation. However, these postnovices must be given courses in pedagogy and Salesian studies.
All the formation communities of the Region practise shared responsibility for their community life by drawing up their formation community plan, which thus becomes a useful instrument for the communities to grow while they achieve the aims of their particular phase of formation. It remains to be seen whether the postnovitiate of the clerics in KOR can focus its attention on formation to religious life and therefore give up conferring the ministries of lector and acolyte on the clerical postnovices.
Good formation is ensured by the formation team. However, most of the teams in the Region are weak. Several communities are without a confessor on the team.
The real challenge of the postnovitiate is to achieve a balance between community life, spiritual growth, studies and pastoral activities. What contributes to this balance is an appropriate, not excessive, number of classes so that space is left for personal study and reflection.
The quality of formation is determined by the ability of the team to offer specific personal guidance for each phase of formation. The Ratio frowns upon having more than one formation phase in the same setting, but there are cases in which it is not possible to physically separate the phases; in such situations, each phase ought to have an adequate team of formation personnel together with separate residential quarters, and above all, its own specific formation programme.
It is important that in this phase of formation there be not only a proper community spiritual direction, but above all a personal spiritual direction carried out in true Salesian style. The Rector of the community is the spiritual guide proposed to the confreres in formation. In all postnovitiate
4.1 It is recommended that the brother postnovices do their postnovitiate in the same formation community as the clerics. Their programme of formation and studies must last at least two years and include philosophy as well “considering its importance for the formation to religious life and for the preparation of an educator of the young” (FSDB 408). It is advisable that the brother postnovices do the same two-year programme of philosophical and pedagogical studies as the clerics. Their postnovitiate studies must be different from those of the specific formation which they do after their practical training, and also from those of their professional specialization which they do after their postnovitiate, after their practical training or after their specific formation.
4.2 Since the postnovices in many Provinces of the Region study at non-Salesian study centres, the formation communities must provide for Salesian studies, Salesian pedagogy and Salesian youth ministry to be taught in all seriousness. The Provinces need to commit themselves to preparing formation personnel for their postnovitiates, especially professors of philosophy, the human sciences and Salesian studies.
5. PRACTICAL TRAINING
Practical training is not always carried out as a true phase of formation. The difficulties are sometimes clearly seen: scant attention is paid to the progress of practical trainees in their formation; not always are the communities which have been chosen for them the most appropriate; and the spiritual and pastoral guidance of practical trainees leaves much to be desired. Practical trainees run the risk of losing in a short time the values they learned in their previous phases of formation.
The tri-monthly assessments, which require more attention and exactness in all the phases of formation, call for particular care in the communities that receive practical trainees.
The community’s plan for the formation of its practical trainees appears to be a useful means for putting the Ratio into practice. Also useful are formation meetings for those Rectors who have practical trainees in their communities.
The Province of VIE has practical trainees in ILT, FIN, FIS and PNG, and this has turned out to be a positive experience, as, among other things, they have had to learn Italian or English. However, it seems necessary that before they embark on their two years of practical training they be given a year for language study. After their practical training they will pursue their theological studies at the UPS, Rome or at Parañaque, Manila. Sending practical trainees as missionaries has also been a positive experience.
5.1 Practical trainees should be sent to those communities where they can be followed up by the Rector, have an experience of community living, and receive guidance from the community, particularly by way of the tri-monthly assessments. The Rector is proposed to them as their spiritual guide. It is advisable that there be not one but two practical trainees in a community.
5.2 The community should have a plan for the formation of its practical trainees, drawn up on the basis of some common proposals offered by the Provincial and Regional Formation Commissions and implemented under the supervision of the Provincial and the Provincial Formation Delegate. The plan should be drawn up and shared with the practical trainees of the community.
5.3 Attention needs to be paid to the practical trainee’s pastoral performance. Pastoral guidance ought to be given him to help him reflect on his own experience, confront it with the guidelines of the Congregation and of the Province and assume the corresponding attitudes and practices, viz. team work and community action, a planning mentality, an ability to work with the laity, concern for a comprehensive pastoral approach in one’s daily activities, etc.
5.4 Periodic meetings of practical trainees at provincial level should continue. Upon an understanding with the Provincial, these meetings could be entrusted to the Provincial Formation Delegate. It is likewise necessary to create for Rectors who have practical trainees in their communities a forum for exchanging views and plotting the course of their work of formation.
6. SPECIFIC FORMATION OF SALESIAN PRIESTS
At present there are 7 formation communities for the specific formation of Salesian priests: Xuan Hiep – Saigon for VIE; Parañaque – Manila for FIS, FIN, ITM, THA, and PNG; Clifton Hill and Suva, Fiji for AUL; Chofu for GIA; Dae Rim Dong at Seoul for KOR; and Hong Kong for CIN. At Manila there are also students from VIE and LKC. THA sends its students also to Melbourne and Messina. ITM has its students in Rome, Messina, Jerusalem and Brazil.
The theologate of Manila is an interprovincial venture between FIN and FIS, now expanding to embrace other Provinces of the Region too, in particular ITM, VIE and THA.
For both its formation community and its study centre, it has a single Curatorium, comprising the Provincials who send their students there. The Curatorium is in its early stages, and therefore needs to function more regularly with an annual meeting if it is to effect a sharing of responsibility. Decisions have to be taken collegially by the Provincials; the team of formation personnel must be interprovincial, and the programme of formation ought to be the joint responsibility of all. Above all, there has to be a Memorandum of Agreement among the Provinces concerned.
FIN however has some misgivings about making Parañaque an interprovincial formation centre. It is afraid of a setback in the inculturation of its Filipino students since English is the language used in formation and in the classroom, whereas the ordinary Filipinos speak Tagalog.
In the Region the two Salesian study centres are at Xuan Hiep – Saigon and Parañaque – Manila. In keeping with the guidelines of the Ratio, we encourage Xuan Hiep to seek affiliation to the UPS; such a move is both possible and desirable.
The Center of Studies at Parañaque – Manila is affiliated to the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. Its study centre is run by a Salesian community distinct from the formation community. To ensure unity of formation it is important for the councils of the two communities to meet periodically. The formation community ought to continue keeping an appropriate distance from the study centre.
The other Provinces send their students to study centres in their respective countries: the Pacific Regional Seminary in Fiji; the Holy Spirit Seminary College at Hong Kong, the St. Anthony Theological School at Tokyo, the Catholic University at Seoul, and the Catholic Theological College at Melbourne. The study of theology at all these centres takes four years.
The Catholic Theological College of Melbourne offers a baccalaureate in theology recognized by the State. It is a consortium comprising 5 dioceses and 3 religious institutes: the Salesians, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Conventual Franciscans. For the past 30 years the Salesians have been collaborating with the CTC; at present there are 5 Salesian professors, some of whom are members of the academic council and the senate; the Provincial is an ex-officio member of the senate and has the right to vote.
AUL is prepared to receive in its formation community those Salesian students from East Asia - Oceania who choose to study theology in English. It also plans to reconsider the possibility of having its Pacific candidates study theology at Melbourne. However, it wishes to investigate if there are problems connected with visas and the financial implications for the Province should there be a sizable number of students from abroad.
The formation community and the study centre at Manila are still striving for a proper balance in formation and a better consistency of the formation team. This is why ITM sends some of its students also to Messina in Italy.
To resolve the problem of small numbers of theology students, the Provinces of CIN and GIA have their postnovitiate and theologate in the same community. Normally postnovices and theology students have distinct residential quarters and formation programmes.
One notices a certain interest in spiritual direction. While in some communities the Rector is clearly proposed as the spiritual director, in others it is left to each confrere to choose his own spiritual director, and this leads to a variety of experiences that need to be evaluated.
The different phases of formation and the several pastoral activities in the one community of Dae Rim Dong at Seoul are not conducive to providing specific formation programmes for each group and strain the availability of formation personnel. While we would hope for a simplification of the formation phases and a strengthening of the formation team, the Province does not feel it is in a position to divide the community or to provide more formation staff.
6.1 Considering the regional importance of the formation community and the study centre of Parañaque – Manila, the Provincials who send their students there should commit themselves to a true sharing of responsibility through a Memorandum of Agreement and a Statute. This will require them to choose the Rector jointly, contribute formation staff members who are also professors, have a joint formation plan… It will also require that the Curatorium be held at least once a year.
6.2 The Provincial Formation Commissions should reflect on the topic of spiritual direction in their formation communities, taking their cue from the Ratio, and those who are responsible ought to ensure that the Salesian ideas about spiritual direction are clearly understood. The same reflection should be carried out in the Curatorium of the interprovincial communities.
6.3 Pastoral exercises need to be properly balanced with the study of theology; quality must be preferred to quantity, and guided supervision ensured so that the exercises become meaningful and leave sufficient time for study, reflection and prayer. Formation communities adjoining apostolic communities should be careful not to become absorbed by immediate pastoral needs.
6.4 The communities chosen for this phase of formation must lie within the Region itself; those Provinces that consider it opportune may send their students to the formation community at Clifton Hill in AUL. A discernment needs to be done concerning the continuation of the specific formation of Salesian clerics of the AUL Province at Suva - Fiji. While giving precedence to the international communities of Rome and Jerusalem and undertaking to strengthen the formation community of Manila, the Provinces of the Region may, if they find it necessary, continue to send their students to Messina.
7. SPECIFIC FORMATION OF SALESIAN BROTHERS
The Ratio requires that after practical training the Salesian brothers have a phase of specific formation (cf. FSDB 448) in the same way as after practical training the Salesian clerics have a specific formation for the priesthood. They must be offered a “serious theological, pedagogical and Salesian formation” (Reg. 98). This phase is not the same as qualification in the professional field (cf. FSDB 456).
All the Provinces have been trying on their own to do something for the specific formation of Salesian brothers. For example, in Vietnam, the Salesian brothers, who have completed their practical training, live and study together with the clerics at Xuan Hiep, and enjoy a certain flexibility in their formation programmes.
To help the Provinces in implementing the Ratio and the requirements of our Constitutions, the Formation Department has, with the help of some Salesian brothers, prepared a two-year curriculum of studies that reflects the Ratio and maintains a balance between studies of systematic theology, Sacred Scripture, history, liturgy, moral theology, pastoral studies, spirituality, Salesianity and the human sciences.
This curriculum has a greater chance of success where there is a Salesian study centre that offers it also to other religious brothers, religious sisters and lay people; in this way the programme continues even when the brothers are few in number.
Considering the small number of our young brothers for this formation phase, the Region has chosen to send them to the formation community of Manila, where they will be together with the Salesian clerics, but have their own formation programme, even while they attend classes at the Salesian study centre of Parañaque.
7.1 We invite the Provinces to support this new phase of formation by sending all their Salesian brothers to Manila every year after they finish their practical training.
7.2 Let the Provinces take up for discussion in their provincial formation commissions and in the Regional Formation Commission the matter of the professional qualification of Salesian brothers.
8. PREPARATION FOR PERPETUAL PROFESSION
The preparation for perpetual profession begins a year before the profession itself, after the confrere has told the Provincial explicitly of his desire to begin this preparation (cf. FSDB 515). The year of preparation aims at an assessment of his lived experience of Salesian life, a discernment with a view to his arriving at a final decision, and a consolidation of his motives for embracing the Salesian vocation (cf. FSDB 512).
8.1 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 implementing this formation phase (cf. FSDB 514).
9. SALESIAN STUDIES
Apart from the Province of CIN where for the past 20 years Salesian studies have formed part of the curriculum of the postnovitiate and the specific formation for the priesthood and have been taught by competent persons, there is a noticeable absence of these studies in the rest of the Region, especially for want of systematic programmes, trained professors, and translations of Salesian sources, texts and useful materials.
To remedy this situation, the Rector Major and the General Council have, after widely consulting the Regions and the Provinces, approved guidelines for the whole Congregation concerning Salesian studies during initial formation.
Some Provinces of the Region have already been making great efforts to translate Salesian books into Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese; other Provinces have just begun translations in Thai, Indonesian and Tetum.
To put the Guidelines into practice, the preparation of confreres is a must. Our Institute of Spiritual Theology at the UPS has launched a new two-year Licentiate programme that aims specifically at preparing professors of Salesian studies. Four Provinces have already sent their confreres for this specialization in Salesian studies at the UPS.
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 history, Salesian spirituality, Salesian pedagogy and Salesian youth ministry. 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.
10. A SIMPLE WAY OF LIVING IN COMMUNITY
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 the candidates’ best energies and avoid the risk of forming a generation of weaklings. It is necessary to form to work and temperance and to live and work together.
By and large, the formation communities of the Region have a poor style of living; they inculcate a solicitude for and solidarity with the most needy; they are alert to situations of marginalization and rejection.
During initial formation, efforts have to be made to inculcate the doctrine and practice of evangelical poverty. The regular use of the scrutinium povertatis can help to create a sensitivity to the need of setting an example of community poverty and produce an awareness of the requirements of personal poverty.
10.1 The residence in formation communities should be simple. The whole setup of its life must be such as to foster growth in a spirit of community. Encouragement must be given to community settings and spaces. Those who are in formation ought to be involved in 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 is simple, reduced to essentials and at one with the poor. 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 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.
11. FORMATION OF FORMATION PERSONNEL
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 and making him capable of forming others. Without qualified formation guides it will not be possible to bring about a renewal of the methodology which is asked for by the Ratio and which is chiefly based on the personalization of the formation processes.
Opportunities have to be given to formation personnel to qualify and update themselves for their formation task; helps towards their preparation are the updating course for formation personnel held at the UPS from February to May, and the two-year curriculum, again at the UPS, for formation staff.
The formation team of each formation community should meet at least once a month for the purpose of reflecting on a formation topic drawn from the Ratio. The formation personnel of each Province should meet once a year for some days of study, reflection and common formation.
Finally, the Regional Formation Commission should coordinate the work of organizing the formation of the formation teams region-wise or preferably by groups of Provinces, as CIN, THA and VIE suggest. The Department would be willing to help in realizing these initiatives. At these meetings the Regional Commission could foster a reflection and discussion among the Rectors or among those responsible for formation in prenovitiates, novitiates, postnovitiates and theologates, either as groups according to individual phases or as groups comprising two or more contiguous phases.
11.1 Let the Provinces and Vice-Provinces have as one of their priorities for the coming years the establishment and reinforcement of formation teams, and ensure that they are adequate in number and quality.
11.2 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, formation staff should be prepared for spiritual direction and the ministry of Confession.
11.3 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. The formation of formation personnel is to be fostered also at interprovincial level: the Regional Formation Commission should examine ways of promoting and organizing this formation.
12. INCULTURATION OF FORMATION
The inculturation of initial formation is a need everywhere, but more urgently in this Region. The concluding words of the Rector Major at the end of the Team Visit are a practical programme of action for all the Provinces of the Region.
“To communicate our Salesian identity to new vocations in the Region we have to give them greater care and attention, see to their inculturation and offer competent guidance. Some aspects become particularly necessary:
“The inculturation of our charism requires a knowledge of Don Bosco and of our Salesian identity. Therefore we need to revise and make more concrete the programme of Salesian studies to be taught in each of the phases of formation; we have to see to the formation of Salesians in ‘Salesianity’, drawing on the resources available at our Salesian Pontifical University; and we must take steps towards a more robust Salesian spirituality and pedagogy in the region.
“Inculturation will be effective if we know the family background and the past life of our candidates, pay attention to their prenovitiate and the formation preceding it, and offer them personal guidance.
“Inculturation needs to be reinforced through an experience of the various ways of expressing the Salesian charism in the cultures which are found in the different Provinces of the Region; to this end, encouragement ought to be given to interprovincial collaboration in initial formation and to the study of the English language.
“Religious inculturation requires the study of the great religions and formation in inter-religious dialogue.”
12.1 The Provincial Formation Commission ought to reflect on the actual situation of inculturation in the Province and consider ways and means of making it a reality. A useful instrument for spelling it out in practical terms is the Provincial Formation Plan.
12.2 The inculturation of our charism will take place in the course of initial formation if we foster a knowledge of Don Bosco and a study of the local cultures. We also have to ensure that “The Project of Life of the Salesians of Don Bosco” is translated in the national languages.
13. STUDY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
During the last Team Visit the Region took the decision to promote the study of English in all the Provinces starting from the aspirantate and the initial phases of formation. It would certainly make for better communication with the Congregation and within the Region itself.
There are various ways in which this study can be done. English can be inserted in the study programmes of the phases of initial formation. Volunteers can be invited from the English-speaking Provinces to teach English.
Then, there is the possibility of spending a year to learn the language or doing practical training in one of the Provinces of the Region where the language is spoken - AUL, FIN, FIS and PNG - after a year spent in learning English; the year devoted to picking up the language is not a substitute for the year of practical training but an extra one.
Encouragement should be given to studying theology in centres where English is spoken, like Manila, Melbourne and Jerusalem; however, it would be necessary to ensure a prior knowledge of the language.
13.1 The Provincial Formation Delegate together with the Provincial and his Council should plan the concrete steps to be taken to ensure that English is learned by all right from the first stages of Salesian formation.
I wish to thank you for your kind consideration and 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