John Corriveau in his address to the friars at the Convention on the Post-Novitiate insisted that much greater importance must be given to the accompaniment of formators and spiritual directors. Mentors or Accompaniers “are those who are appropriately depended upon for authoritative guidance at the time of the development of critical thought and the formation of an informed, adult, and committed faith.”
Hence, a concrete suggestion would be that each student in formation finds someone in the Province who will accompany him on his journey. In addition, adequately trained spiritual directors are a necessity. I would like to suggest that at the initial stages we do away with the practice of the Director also being the Spiritual Director and rather provide friars with wisdom and experience to guide our young men in the journey to communion. Formation is different from education. As mentioned earlier, this is a serious lacuna in our formation program. We have professors but not formators. We have provided friars to teach with adequate training in their field, but we have failed to provide the faculty with the training to be formators. Commenting on the skills that a formator needs, Luisa Saffiotti observes: Formators need to form individuals for awareness and for dialogue, for openness to conversion. They need to form for a healed, sustainable and robust capacity to be in relationship and to build healthy intimacy – not just with a few close friends, but with a community and with those who are different, transcending the rampant individualism and impoverished relational capacity that are seriously hobbling contemporary ministerial life (and life in society at large). They also need to form for embracing all of creation, including one’s own embodied self, and for personal and communal attention to the use of natural resources, to ecological considerations, to health attained and maintained through moderate, judicious use of resources. Moreover, they need to form at both individual and group levels for transparency and accountability – essential dimensions of healthy and transformative relationships that often are not sufficiently in ministry and formation settings.
This prompts us to give serious thought to the friars we choose to be the formators of our men in formation. What are the criteria we use to select such men? From the above it is clear that intelligence should not be the only or main criteria. We need men who are examples – they need not be perfect – of conversion and truth-telling; men who are not afraid to reveal the truth about themselves, the truth about their community, the truth about the world. These friars should be adequately prepared with skills to guide the friars in formation come to know themselves, accept themselves and change in direction of their self-proclaimed religious values of charity, compassion and justice. They should also receive training in how to invite the local community to understand its own relational styles of authority, leadership and service.