Jesuits in Formation Annual General Meeting: Zimbabwe-Mozambique

 

THEME: FORMATION OF JESUITS IN AFRICA

Young Jesuits in formation met for their Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Management Training Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe from the 18-21 June. The focus of the AGM was on formation in response to the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) questions on the kind of Jesuits Africa should have after formation. We discussed as scholastics and brothers in formation on the questions and sent our recommendations to JCAM. 

On the first day of our meeting we focused on the JCAM document and it was facilitated by Fr Gibson Munyoro SJ, Rector of Arrupe Jesuit University. He used Fr Kolvenbach’s letter on formation. Fr Munyoro emphasised that God is the primary formator since he is the one who calls us. The second formator is oneself and third formator are one’s peers and superiors. If God is the first formator we meet him in personal prayer that is why we are taught to pray in the novitiate by doing he morning meditation, evening prayer and the examen before retiring for the night. Without personal prayer we cease to be in touch with God. St Ignatius encourages Jesuits do the examen at twice a day. This brings in an awareness of where one is in one’s vocation. The Examen is a tool for one to be in touch with reality by looking back at the hand of God in the day.  The Examen helps us to grow if  it is done properly. We were encouraged that as young Jesuits we should never take the Examen for granted. Personal prayer enables us to listen to God and it brings us closer to him.

Since the second formator is oneself, it means that one has to be honest at least with oneself. One can pretend or lie to formators and peers but the greatest injustice is to lie to oneself. Being authentic to oneself helps the man in formation to grow in freedom and accept one’s strengths and weaknesses. The third category is that of superiors. They are  meant to offer companionship along the journey of formation. But their assessment is based on observation. 

The formation of a Jesuit does not consist in a mere observation of rules or norms but  in personalising and internalising the Jesuit way of proceeding. Sometimes we have a strong vocation but we destroy it by not reading the documents of the Society. Missioning is done in search of the will of God and in an effort to help someone to grow. Before missioning  a person, superiors are meant to pray in order to seek the will of God and in this way avoid harmful emotions and biases.

We then focused on the profile of an African Jesuit after formation looking at various stages of formation in the Society of Jesus.  In the nnovitiate one has to know the Society, himself, God, The Church, while loving the magis (the more). If one is filled with this particular love, then one can embrace the Society of Jesus. Philosophy should enable the man in formation to have tools for thinking and research as well have to develop a capacity to work with professionals. Theology should inspire a Jesuit to love the Church and God through becoming a man of prayer and faithful creativity. Special studies give us skills for the mission. Tertianship enkindles the love one has for the Church and Society. For this to take place cura personalis (care for the person) and good formators are needed There is also need for psychotherapy and counselling at every stage of formation in order to deal with matters that may arise. We were encouraged to openly talk about human sexuality and spiritual life among ourselves for purposes of growth.

The second day of the meeting focused mainly on ourselves as Jesuits in Formation, with different speakers coming to talk to us. Fr Dominic Tomuseni SJ spoke to us about frustration, disappointment and irresponsibility. His main point was to encourage us to be there for one another. Frs Joaquim Biriate and Costa Izequiel SJ reflected on restructuring in Brazil and encouraged us to be open to the reality of the new big province with hope and love. Fr  Emmanuel Kaparasa SJ encouraged us to collaborate with one another and enjoy each other’s company as young Jesuits. 

We then had the Provincial’s address were he touched on historic issues of formation in the Province. He gave us Province updates especially on the ongoing restructuring. He encouraged us to be men of prayer and excellence. Fr Roland spoke to us on the Universal Apostolic Preferences with a special focus on discernment. He emphasised the three modes that makes a man: the physical, psychological and spiritual. Discernment is about finding God and that is done in prayer and conversation. The Delegate for Formation , Fr George Bwanali SJ spoke last. His were words of caution and encouragement to us. The AGM was not just time for meeting but also an occasion for bonding with one another and relaxing as brothers in formation. Some young Jesuit priests and brothers in formation joined us for the evening’s social at the end of the second day. I would end with this quote from Fr Munyoro “If you should leave the society, leave it with a smile. If you must stay, stay with a smile.”

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