Conversation, especially one from the depth, can unite people and this is what the Conference Secretariat for Formation (CSF) experienced. The annual meeting and sharing of PCFs and Superiors of Common Houses, became an opportunity to experience togetherness, in spite of the fact that it was online. We began the annual meeting keeping with the time, online. All the PCFs were present, and we got off to a start with the words of Fr. Arjen Tete (CDF) welcoming all. The prayer by Fr. Arul Selvam from a corner of Nepal, set the mood of togetherness, though each one present in one’s own Province was spread across India or Sri Lanka. Fr. Arjen laid out the meticulous plan for the three days and all the participants were glued to the screen, listening attentively. It was the turn of the Rectors/Superiors of Common Houses to share their consolation and desolation, and none of them hesitated to declare that having the scholastics in their respective houses was the first consolation. After a long gap of online life, scholastics bring much life and energy, and the Rectors are consoled that the arrival and quarantine have gone well and the scholastics are happy.
The theme chosen for the meeting of this year could not have been better – Socially Oriented Formation – and the resource person Fr. Jossie Lobo (KAR) was indeed resourceful. Fr. Jossie pointed out the opportunities and challenges of such formation against the backdrop of the current scenario of the pandemic, and the prophetic life of Fr. Stan Swamy. He situated the inputs in the context of the country, the Church and the Society, and pinpointed a need for a new ethos in formation houses: socially oriented formation is the need of the hour. The conversation that took place after the presentation was indeed coming from the depth of each one and there was a lot of enthusiasm. It was an energising experience to have talked with depth, as well as to listen to one another.
In the afternoon, Fr. Stany D’Souza (POSA) encouraged all the formators to work together to help the formees “see all things new” keeping in line with the Ignatian Year. He exhorted us to see the reality through the glasses of Fr. Stan Swamy and to help the scholastics take stands for our target groups, by awakening their social consciousness.
The culmination of the first day was the presence of Fr. Mark Ravizza, Fr. General’s Counsellor for Formation, from Rome. Fr. Mark opened the global horizon of formation as well as the perspective of renewal of the entire Society and the Church at large. His exhortation on the Ignatian Year and call to conversion, resonated with the overall theme and we were consoled to hear him passionately speak about the concern of the entire Society to have Christ-centred men who are passionate about mission. Accompaniment was the catchword throughout the session. Fr. Mark encouraged all to walk with the youngsters in their ‘probación’ as Christ did with the Emmaus disciples.
After the first day of reflection and new vision, we got into evaluative mode: each of the PCFs shared his consolation while taking care of the scholastics in this year of the pandemic. We got a chance to listen to each and every one, and these sessions were much fruitful – thanks to attentive listening and intentional speaking. Spiritual conversations indeed helped each one to listen, to appreciate the hard work and to understand the process of accompanying the young Jesuits.
After the sharing of the PCFs, the common issues and concerns were taken up for discussion. It was a good exercise of discerning together as a group of formators – Rectors, Superiors and PCFs – together looking at the ways and means to better accompany our men in formation. One or the other handled each of the sessions and all shared the responsibilities, big and small. Following the spiritual conversation tool as well as having this online meeting in a prayerful manner helped us greatly to listen, to understand, to see where the Spirit is leading us as a group. We were affirmed that we are God’s instruments who provide the structures and accompany the process. Overall, the online meet was an experience of companionship, with a sense of sharing in the same mission.
Somy Mannoor, SJ