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BROTHERS’ FORMATION PROGRAMME
Congo Province (CNG)

I. INTRODUCTION

“The goal of all formation and education in our Society is growth by the power of the Holy Spirit into unity with the Incarnate Word of the Father and into a missionary community comprising members from many countries and cultures… In this way we become capable to carrying out the missionary task of our Society…“ Const. 501

This applies to all of us, clerics and brothers. But it is also true that the life of Brothers today is numerically the most important form of consecration and the most varied in its charismatic expression, with greater diversity of apostolic and social services in favour of humanity. To enable him to do these, today's brother needs a good formation, intellectual and human. For this reason, it is recommended to every candidate called to this vocation, to have the required capacities (physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual) in order to fulfil these needs.

It is, of course, very difficult to establish a general programme for all Brothers, considering the diversity of professions they have and also the level of studies of each of them. Some join the Society with a specific profession, while others still have to make a valid choice.

This programme should not be compulsory to all candidates for brotherhood, but it draws the main lines of formation of a Brother in D.R. Congo. The Brothers’ programme director is asked to study each case individually, to really orient the candidates according to their desires, their capacities, their talents, etc. He must take into account the studies they had made before.

The Brothers’ programme director is the first responsible for this programme. His role among other things will be:

  • to make sure that the Brothers’ formation programme is applied in the Province.

  • to evaluate annually the Brothers’ formation programme and to propose changes if necessary.

  • to intervene in the event that the Brothers’ formation programme is not followed.

  • to help every Brother to discern his vocation in the SVD, and to make a good choice of his profession.

  • to propose to the provincial and his council the possibilities of the Brother's nomination during the temporary vows

  • to coordinate the Brothers’ periodical meetings if possible.

II. OBJECTIVES

The Brother's involvement in the apostolate is more direct, people-oriented, and calls him to assume more the role of a professional. Therefore, the candidate for brotherhood must be competent in his work. However, the accent must not only be placed on his excellence in his profession, but much more on a “total and integral” formation.

Thus, after his formation, the Brother should be:

  • A social and honest man with great maturity

  • An exemplary man in his religious and missionary life

  • A man of prayer

  • An intelligent man, capable to prove himself worthy of his profession,

  • A man ready to help

  • A responsible man

  • A true missionary of the Society of the Divine Word.

III. STAGES OF FORMATION

3.1. RECRUITMENT

1. Pastoral of vocations

The pastoral of vocations is assumed by a vocation team, led by a vocation director. This team is made of our confreres in charge of our four vocation centers (Ngondi, Kinshasa, Kikwit and Bandundu), including of course the principal vocation director. The later coordinates the activities between the four centers and answers the application letters of the aspirant candidates. It is recommended to have at least one Brother in final vows in the team in order to share his religious life experiences to the candidates. This is what is being done until now.

During this time, the vocation director and his collaborators should be regularly in contact with the candidates (by correspondence or personal contact), visit the families of the candidates, organize recollections (bimonthly), accompany them spiritually, give them some intellectual tests (dictation, summary of a biblical text…), etc.

We require to the youth aspiring to join us to have:

  • Brotherly and healthy relations with the youth of his age,

  • A sacramental life that leads him regularly to communion and confession,

  • A particular love for the Word of God, spiritual basis of the religious and missionary life,

  • An intensive life of prayer,

  • A transparent and pure life

  • An apostolic commitment into the Christian community where he lives or studies. Without any real commitment in the parish or in his basic community, the candidate cannot be taken into consideration. For this reason, the candidate must be known by his Christian community/parish.

  • At least a State diploma.

2. Session of discernment

After having followed the candidates closely, the responsible of our four vocation centers make a selection of candidates. They must respond to all required conditions to be admitted to the session of discernment.

This session is organized in Kinshasa for one week. It consists of giving a series of appreciation tests to the candidates and to evaluate with them their vocation history before the session.

This discernment week is divided into five days:

  1. Recollection day: a time of reflection with two conferences on the SVD, its charisma and identity, and the vocation history in the life of Peter.

  2. Vocation day: with two themes "vocation according to my understanding" and "the history of my vocation"

  3. Day of the Word: where one speaks especially on the SVD, a community founded on the Word of God.

  4. Mission day: dedicated to questions concerning the mission.

  5. Commitment and Brothers day: dedicated to the Brother's vocation (Brothers in the SVD and a Brother's life experience) and other lectures on the religious commitment.

From the discernment of the vocation, we insist that the candidate who finishes his high school should not be beyond 21 years old.

The criteria of recruitment are the same for the candidates for brotherhood and for priesthood.

3.2. PROPEDEUTIC

The candidates who have passed the session of discernment are admitted to the Propedeutic. Up till now, all candidates (Brothers and Clerics) live together. This is a stage of spiritual deepening and of vocation discernment, which pursues the following objectives:

  • To discern and to mature in one’s vocation

  • To cover up deficiencies in previous years in formation at the spiritual, human and intellectual level.

Normally, the Propedeutic lasts one year. But it can be extended to two years for those who have a lower intellectual level. At present, formation in the propedeutic is taking place in the same compound with the Novitiate in Bandundu.

The Propedeutic Programme:

The program can be summarized in three words: INTEGRATION (community life) – SPIRITUALITY and STUDY. The stage of Propedeutic emphasizes mostly on the academic life.

During this time, the propedeutes take the following courses:

1. spiritual formation:
SVD spirituality (1 hour/week)
Liturgy (1 hour/week)
Introduction to Bible (1 hour/week)
The Gospels (1 hour/week)
Preparation for Sundays (1 hour/week)

2. languages:
French / exercises (3 hours/week)
French / phonetics (1 hour/week)
Vocabulary and essays (2 hours/week)
Latin (2 hours/week)
English (3 hours/week)

3. intellectual and human formation:
Communal psychology (1 hour/week)
Geography and history (1 hour/week)
Introduction to Philosophy (20 hours/year)
Education to life (10 hours/year)
Scientific studies and researches (10 hours/year)

At the beginning of the year:
Introduction to the spiritual accompaniment
Initiation to the use of the breviary

During the year:
Introduction to philosophy (January - April)
Education to life
Scientific studies and research
Savoir-vivre/good manners

At the end of every month, the propedeutic director receives a report of each candidate from the teachers on the progress of their studies.

3.3. PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

After the Propedeutic, the candidates for brotherhood continue their professional training, while their colleagues (candidates for priesthood) go for philosophy. We give them the possibility to deepen what they had already learned from high school or from the university.

For those who have lower intellectual levels, we offer them other alternative such as taking practical courses in appropriate formation centers (electronic, mechanical, data processing, etc). These courses can take two to three years. For the most gifted, they have the possibility to go for further studies or for a convenient practicum.

Normally, it is during this time that the candidates for brotherhood decide once for all, of the kind of profession they would like to commit themselves for their missionary and religious life.

For the time being, they share the same community with their colleagues of philosophy, but they have their own schedule, depending on their programme of studies.

3.4. NOVITIATE

"The novitiate serves to mature and clarify a vocation. It provides a basic introduction to the following of Christ as outlined in the life and spirituality of the Society and in our constitutions; thus it leads one to follow him in an ever deeper way. Through a living union with the Divine Word and through life in community, a novice should come to understand himself more clearly and know our Society better so that he may make a mature and responsible decision about his vocation." Const. 512

Brother candidates do their novitiate with the clerical candidates in Bandundu. The Novitiate lasts one year. During this time, the novices learn to appreciate themselves, to love Christ, the Church and the SVD, which they are called to live. It is merely a "canonical" year, dedicated to different spiritual exercises and teachings on the SVD.

The following subjects are taught during this time: the introduction to the Bible, the constitutions, music, the introduction to spirituality, the history of the church (this course is organized by the novices themselves in groups, a kind of seminar), life and the family of Arnold Janssen and biblical Greek.

A part from these subjects, the novices follow some workshops on missionary spirituality and communication.

It is necessary to note that during the novitiate period, the manual work takes a very important place. Brother candidates can also practice their profession from time to time.

After the Novitiate, Brother candidates, like all others, makes their first vows. This is done after a certain assessment and appreciation of the Novice Master and his collaborators, taking into account the requirements of the Society.

3.5. TEMPORARY VOWS

“The years in temporary vows assist the further development of the spiritual life. They serve to dispose confreres to respond better to the claim God has on them through the evangelical counsels and to help them see more clearly the fields of work open to them in the Society. During this time each confrere should grow in the assurance that he will find human fulfilment in his vocation as a religious missionary. Thus self-reliance and balance, the capacity for community life and work, lively faith and readiness for mission should continue to grow during these years.” Const. 513

Since the recruitment of candidates until the Novitiate, going through the basic professional training, Brother candidates follow the same programme like the Clerical candidates, with a slight difference at the level of professional training. They are, therefore, entirely under the direction of the responsible of these entities, although the Brothers’ program director may intervene from time to time.

At this stage, the work of the Brothers’ programme director becomes more determinant. His role will be to coordinate all activities of Brothers in temporary vows (see director's responsibilities).

During this period, the Brother in temporary vows must normally exercise his profession fully, in a given community that is not necessarily a formation community (He is also given the opportunity to deepen his studies in his field if necessary). He participates to all community activities and therefore, he becomes an effective member of that particular community.

However, the community should not forget that the Brother in temporary vows is still in formation. Thus, the Brothers’ programme director has to make sure that this young Brother is well trained. The community and the superior of this community are responsible for this Brother's formation as well. The Brothers’ director in accord with the superior of the community will designate a confrere in the community to accompany the young Brother in everything that concerns his formation. Besides the supervisor, the Brother may also have a spiritual director of his choice.

1. Community expectations and responsibilities

a. Community

  • We, like our founder, must be men of prayer, filled with faith and hope, constantly seeking closer union with God. This is the source of our apostolic zeal.Const.122

  • We live the celibate life in community. This means that we strive to form a true brotherhood where every confrere can feel at home, form deep friendship and find fulfilment in his work and in the development of his talents. Const.204

  • The heart of our shared life is the Eucharist. Our oneness in Christ grows particularly through its celebration where we are strengthened by listening to the word of God and where the one bread we break is a communion with the Body of Christ. Const.302

  • Each confrere should be eager to work in harmony with others in the activities entrusted to the Society. Const.304

  • Meals taken together are a sign of friendship and love for the community; they promote a sense of community. Likewise, common recreation and friendly get-together are of great value in fostering community.

b. The community’s superior

  • The community’s superior has all these rights and duties as outlined in the Constitutions and directory. (See Const. 636 and other.)

  • He determines school (if the brother in temporary vows must follow other studies), and other activities outside of those of his community (parish activities, for instance) in which the young Brother is implied.

  • He will make sure that the Brother in temporary vows has regularly his pocket money and that he uses other funds of the community objectively.

  • The superior has the right to expect an account from the Brother in formation regarding all activities in which he is concerned.

2. The Brother formandi’s obligations and responsibilities

  • We foster a sense of personal initiative and responsibility in carrying out our missionary task. Const.119,1

  • Daily participation in Mass. Const. 402

  • We devote a suitable amount of time each day to reading the scriptures and studying spiritual and theological questions. Const. 407,1

  • In our daily examination of conscience we reflect on our lives and our following of Christ, keeping alive within us the will to repent. Const. 410,1

  • Confreres will strive to live a simple way of life and so become a challenge to the mentality of a consumer society. Const. 211

  • The apostolic scope and community character of our poverty demands the conscientious use and administration of all temporal goods given to us. Const. 212

  • In the sacrament of reconciliation, we experience the merciful love of the Father through Christ who grants us forgiveness and peace. Frequent and regular meeting with Christ in this sacrament helps us grow in love and become more credible witnesses of his word. Const. 411

  • All confreres should entrust themselves to regular spiritual direction. Const. 403,1

3. Supervisor’s responsibilities

Where a confrere in perpetual vows has agreed to function as on-site supervisor of the Brother in the community, his supervision entails above all else:

  • A willingness to listen,

  • A readiness to encourage,

  • An ability to spot weaknesses and failings to help correct them,

  • Occasional visits classes or other activities where the Brother is involved,

  • A general readiness to help foster the individual’s growth and development by prompt advice, by a concern for his needs and difficulties, and by foreseeing and forestalling whatever may be negative,

  • To help the brother to deepen the understanding of his vocation,

  • To help him to develop his appreciation of the SVD and his commitment in the Society activities…

4. Responsibilities of the Brothers’ programme director

  • To meet the Brother yearly before the renewal of vows in order to make an evaluation together with him.

  • To meet the Brother quarterly in order to be aware of his problems/questions.

  • To conduct the annual evaluation of the Brother.

  • To elaborate the annual retreat for the Brother.

  • To draw a programme of theological study (doctrinal cycle) together with the Brother.

  • To provide guidance and evaluation of his activities aside from his profession.

  • To assist in the planning and evaluation for the preparation for perpetual vows.

  • To provide a budget for his respective activities. Ordinary expenses are provided by the local community.

The Brother must renew his vows every year. Before the renewal, his direct superior (the superior of the community or the director of Brothers) will introduce him to the provincial council for admission. He should take into account all the aspects of the Brother's life before recommending him for the renewal of vows.

3.6. OTP

“At every stage of formation, brothers dedicate part of their time to supervised social and apostolic ministry. The possibility of crosscultural experiences and temporary mission assignments is highly encouraged during their formation.” Const. 515,3

The Brother may also choose to have a missionary experience (OTP = Overseas Training Programme) in another country. By its nature, the OTP should be a free option made by the candidate. This will be approved by the Brothers’ programme director.

The goal of OTP is to give our young confreres in formation an opportunity to have a concrete experience of our missionary life out of their socio-cultural context of origin and to live the international aspect of our community.

It is a period during which the applicant receives the opportunity to live concretely the charisma of our community, to confirm, to strengthen and to assess his missionary convictions in a very precise apostolic context.

The objectives of OTP would be:

  • To expose the Brother to a concrete life and works in our own communities and missions, either in the home country or in another one;

  • To strengthen and to mature the missionary vocation;

  • To develop the Brother’s talents and to stimulate his fulfilment in his religious and missionary vocation;

  • To encourage the relations between the provinces/regions, to cultivate and to promote our charisma of internationality in this multicultural world.

  • To appreciate a new culture, to acquire emotional balance by getting acquainted to the realities of the country in which the Brother works.

Before going to OTP, we insist that the Brother must:

  • Be in temporary vows for at least two years

  • Be stable in his vocation

  • Have an appropriate level of emotional and spiritual maturity

  • Be in good health

  • Have sufficient professional skills or knowledge to contribute to the missionary efforts of the host province/region.

The Brother who desires to do the OTP must express it to his director. The director will orient him on the choice of the country and on how to make contacts.

The Brother has to adjust himself to the programme of the receiving country and will keep in touch with the Brothers’ programme director of Congo.

The ministry of the Brothers during the OTP should be:

  • A contribution to the missionary work of the host province/region,

  • An opportunity for the Brother to apply his profession,

  • An ongoing experience of his role in the mission work of the Society,

  • An exposure to new professional realities in another culture.

That’s why before going to OTP, the Brother should have mastered his profession. It is recommended that he be given sufficiently the possibility to practice it during his ministry as OTP.

The length of the OTP must not exceed three years.

3.7. DOCTRINAL FORMATION CYCLE /THEOLOGICAL INPUT

We give the opportunity to our young Brothers to follow some courses with theological basis and other different topics, to help them acquire solid theological and spiritual knowledge and also to open their horizons on the realities of the society on the political and social level.

At the Oblate theologate, where our scholastics do their theology, there is a doctrinal formation cycle. Normally this cycle lasts two years. Due to the length of this programme, we opted to take only the first year for our young Brothers. The following courses are dispensed during this year:

1st semester:
Theodicy (34 hours), Sociology (22 hours), Law, Justice and Social Mutations (22 hours), Ecclesiology (22 hours), Christology (34 hours), Familial Morals (22 hours), Congolese Liturgy (22 hours), Document of the CENC (22 hours), History of Mission in Congo (22 hours), African Theology (22 hours).

2nd semester:
Experimental psychology (22 hours), Political Evolution in Congo (22 hours), Missionary Spirituality (22 hours), Theology of Sacraments (44 hours), Pastoral, Catechesis and Homiletics (22 hours), Great Religions of the world (22 hours), Management and accounting (22 hours), Seminars (22 hours).

By opting for only one year of this doctrinal formation cycle, we want simply to insist on the Brother's initial profession. During two years of intensive studies on other domains, the Brother runs the risk to lose his reflexes on his own profession.

The doctrinal formation programme should be done right before the preparation to the perpetual vows. The Brothers’ programme director, the supervisor of the Brother and the superior of the community where he lives, each in his responsibilities will keep a watch on the accomplishment of this cycle.

3.8. PERPETUAL VOWS AND FIRST APPOINTMENT

Like others, the Brother in temporary vows will conform himself to our constitutions regarding his admission to perpetual vows and his first appointment.

Perpetual Vows

  • The immediate preparation for perpetual vows takes place under special spiritual direction. Conscious regularity in meditation and prayer, scripture reading and participation in the Eucharist must now confirm confreres in their response to the Lord’s call. In this way they are helped to make a final decision to dedicate themselves for life to the Divine Word in our Society and thus cooperate in his ministry of salvation. Const. 514

  • Confreres spend the time of preparation for perpetual vows in a house of the Society where thorough training and preparation are assured. Preparation for perpetual vows lasts six to twelve months. Cont. 514,1

  • The superior general, with due regard to the regulations of universal law and with the consent of his council, admits members to perpetual vows. Cont. 514,2

First appointment

  • Whoever joins our Society must be ready to go wherever the superior sends him in order to fulfil our missionary mandate even if this entails leaving his own country, mother tongue and cultural milieu. Const. 102

  • Confreres ordinarily receive their first assignments on admission to perpetual vows. They make known to the superiors both the country and the kind of work for which they feel themselves best suited. In making the assignments the superior general takes into account their health, inclinations and capabilities. Const. 116,1

  • Because of the character of our Society, confreres are appointed to various provinces according to the principle of relative internationality. Const. 116,2

For the admission to perpetual vows, the following aspects should be taken into account:

  • Community Life

  • Physical and intellectual development

  • Apostolate

  • Religious Life

  • Personal and emotional maturity

  • Spiritual Life

  • Professionalism

IV. ONGOING FORMATION / FURTHER STUDIES / SPECIALIZATION

Changes in the world and in the Church, in the science and theology, as well as development in the different phases of one’s life, demand of each confrere and community continual study, development in one’s field and lifelong maturing. Const. 520

This kind of formation is very important for a Brother's survival and even for all confreres. It is necessary that the Brother is up to date on the fast change of technology. Thus, he will take advantage of seminars, readings, workshops, specialization courses and other means to learn a few more on his profession.

Kinshasa, February 20, 04