To accompany young people in their vocational discernment processes is both a blessing and a great challenge. Fr. Ignacio Marin shares some thoughts on his already long journey as formator.
PUBLISHED ONOct 2016
Reflecting a little bit on “the mission of sharing the Faith in formation, my mind went back to my mission time in Karamoja, Uganda. When I arrived there in 1992, the task of the Comboni Fathers and Brothers working in Karamoja was not only to evangelize but also to put the Karimojong people in contact with new ways of working the land and some other new technologies still unknown to many of them. Evangelization was done by sharing our faith and reading and understanding the Bible as a message of God. The truth is I enjoyed very much visiting the villages and sitting down under the shadow of the trees with a group of women, children, and some men, and talking to them about the actions of God in the sacred Scripture and in the reality they were living. It was not an easy job but I found it enjoyable. A greater reason for amazement was the spiritual change that took place in the people. It was a delight to witness so many young people coming to the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays. They are the fruits of the “seeds” the missionaries had planted.
When we come to share the faith in the formation of seminarians, then things change a little bit. I have been a formator of seminarians in Costa Rica and here in the Philippines for almost 13 years now. I have seen many young men entering and leaving the seminary; a few reaching the goal of priesthood and working in the missions. These are young men who persevered humbly and simply to become willing instruments of the Lord-Shepherd. The vocation of these young men presupposes a question: “Master where do You live? (Jn 1:35-42)” and the answer: “Come and see.” From the quality of their response to follow Jesus and a deep experience with Jesus, emerge a true commitment to become true disciples of Jesus Christ. They are now challenged to live a life beyond the normal, into a life of self-transcendence. They now allow themselves to be led by the Spirit. Therefore, the young men’s response demands a continuing discernment of and growth in his motivation to become a Comboni missionary priest or brother.
The whole experience of faith must contain an intention to serve in the mission. Therefore, their sharing of faith means spreading the Good News of Jesus that they have received. They must become witnesses and proclaimers of the life and message of Jesus to the people of our time. If we are truly growing in faith as disciples, we will become better witnesses.Witnesses are those who have seen something, and talk about it, describe it, and communicate it. In formation, a personal encounter with the Lord gives not only authenticity to their words but also credibility to their ministry, to their being and their doing.
Pope Francis reminds us that “sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church” (WYD Homily, 2013).
To a group of seminarians and novices, Pope Francis extended an invitation to “come out of yourselves to proclaim the Gospel but, to do this, you must come out of yourselves to encounter Jesus. There are two ways out: one, towards an encounter with Jesus, towards transcendence; the other, towards others in order to proclaim Jesus. These two go hand in hand. If you only take one of them, that is no good! I am thinking of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was a fantastic sister.... She was not afraid of anything. She went about on the roads.... This woman was not even afraid of kneeling for two hours before the Lord. Do not fear to step out of yourselves in prayer or in pastoral action. Be brave in order to pray, and in order to go and proclaim the Gospel” (Paul VI Audience Hall, July 6, 2013).
So, I humbly ask all of you, dear friends of the missions, to continue praying for us – for those of us in charge of the formation of seminarians – so that we can continue communicating our experiences of faith to our candidates through the formation program dynamics so that our candidates may joyfully embrace all these with faith.