Formation is not just imparting knowledge of tenets and truths of faith, but rather a process of personal growth in different areas that empowers us to be effective and affective ministers of the word of God or in general the Kingdom of God. Formation, undoubtedly, is one of the most vital aspects of our life as religious. The history of the church provides us with various models of formation. It is important to note that all these attempts are a continuation of Christ’s own work of formation: “And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” (Mk 3.13-15)
Ecclesial thinking and documents describe the importance of formation as “demanding and important tasks for the future of the evangelization of humanity.” In the post-Vatican II era there has been a significant awareness of a need for renewal in the way we form candidates for the priesthood and religious life. In recent years we have the Papal exhortations Pastores Dabo Vobis, Vita Consecrata along with the Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes that have stressed that the aim of formation is to develop a relationship of deep communion with Jesus in view of the Church’s mission. All these documents urge that formation programs be rethought and re-envisioned so that they are relevant to the “signs of the time.”
In responding to this invitation for renewal, the Capuchin Franciscan Order has not lagged behind. We have a wealth of reflection and insight and inspiration that impart direction to the way we form our brothers. There is a chapter on Formation in our revised Constitutions, the documents from the Plenary Councils of the Order (PCO), especially PCO IV (Rome, March 2-31, 1981), which deliberated on formation in the Order. More recently we have the writings of the Minister General, John Corriveau in the twenty-four Letters of the Order that he has written over the last twelve years. We also have the document that has emerged from the Convention on the Post Novitiate held in Assisi from September 5-25, 2004.
How are the students formed? Has the formation process evolved sufficiently so that it has kept pace with the new thrust of the Church and the Order? Is formation really responsive to the signs of the time?