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SAFC deliberates on formation process and policies

By Castilino
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Hyderabad, Sep. 10. The members of the South Asian Formation Commission met in Mathias Institute, Shillong (the new Provincial house of the Salesian Province of Silchar) for the annual meeting on September 9, 2013.  Some of the chief topics discussed on the first day of the meeting were the reasons for departures from the Congregation, the report of the Rector Major on Formation, the need for our study houses of Philosophy to be in 'association' with UPS, the duration of the course of Philosophy, and issues concerning personalisation, motivation, purely academic centred formation and improper understanding of consecrated life.
Earlier during the day, after welcoming the two new members, Fr Bosco Periyanayagam (IND) and Fr Paul Kachipally (LKC) and finalising the schedule for the day, the first session was animated by Fr Chrys Saldanha, on behalf of Fr Francesco Cereda, the General Councillor for Formation.  He presented to the members the statistics of the congregation of the past 9 years (since 2002). Initiating a discussion, he asked for possible reasons for departures from the congregation, especially during the years after post-novitiate and ordination. Among the many factors cited, some of the significant ones were the following: culture of the Province, lack of personalisation, a tendency to 'pass the buck on', and a misplaced emphasis on certain aspects in our formation process itself. A great deal of discussion went on about the lack of personlisation in our formation process and the role of motivation in the same.  

Fr Loddy Pires, the Regional Coordinator of South Asia, then presented to the commission the letter of the Rector Major on Vocation and Formation (March 31, 2013).  The letter of Fr Cereda on the qualification of confreres was proposed to the commission, with the emphasis that members need to play an active role and assist the Provincial and his council when it comes to planning and  preparing confreres for the mission.

Fr Chrys also stressed on the need for our Study Houses of Philosophy to be 'associated' with UPS to align our Philosophical studies with the requirements of the ecclesial decree for those preparing for priesthood. There was also a discussion on the period of post-novitiate itself which concluded with the agreement that each Study House of Philosophy and its curatorium would decide about the number of years for the philosophical studies and the mode, keeping in mind that philosophical studies should not be compromised for the sake of gaining degrees (qualification).

In the field of collaboration, it was pointed out that the practice of holding regularly the curatorium of the different combined formation houses needs to be revived. The need for an experience-based formation too was stressed.  The issue of delicately balancing individual freedom with community requirements too was discussed.

The discussions concluded for the day at 05.45 pm after which all moved to Savio Juniorate (the aspiranatate of the INS province) for an interesting and lively interaction with the staff and students in smaller groups.

The inaugural Holy Eucharistic Celebration was presided over by Fr Paul Lynkghot, the Vice-Provincial and delegate of formation of the hosting Silchar Province. The meeting concludes on September 12, 2013.
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