There is no denying the power and role that a community can play in the process of formation. Vita Consecrata portrays the community as the chief place of formation because the formational community, by its non-verbal and verbal messages, has the potential to be living models and facilitators of positive growth in the vocational pursuit of the candidates. As A. Kunnatholy observes, “It is through community life, young religious or priests learn the meaning of their congregation or their fraternity. It is through the way the community lives the values upheld in its codes, rituals and patterns of practice that they discover the Gospel vision at the heart of their congregation. The community is the visible model where the congregational way of life and witness can be observed.”
In attempting to answer the question whether our formational communities aid the process of formation, we need to be able to answer whether our young men feel challenged by the members of the community in the way the Gospel challenges? Does the community support those who take up the challenge? If the report of the Indian student representative at the Post-novitiate conference in Assisi is anything to go by, then our answer may have to be “no.” The student highlights the lack of proper guidelines; non availability of the formators; the duality of the message – when formators do not walk the talk with regard to the habit, personal goods, friends, or even ministry to the poor. In my opinion, many of our students and even some of the senior friars think and feel the same way. They do not see our formational communities as inspirations and models.
If anything, our communities then become models of mal-formation. Those negativities that pervade our communities will surely affect the commitment of our young men. Our own powerlessness to witness for the Kingdom becomes the alternative model that our formees imitate. It comes as no surprise that at the end of the period of formation our candidates may be seen to indulge in the same kind of behavior that they have observed in their formators or other friars in the Province