By Fr. Jay Lituñas, A.A.
In the Assumption, I began my responsibility in formation when I was in 3rd year of my theological studies. I helped on a part-time basis in the prenovitiate formation. Since 2015, I began as a fulltime formator to our prenovices. I love formation work so much because I believe it is my way of building the congregation as well as the Church significantly.
I must admit though that not everything is well in this ministry. Some people come and go. Some people seemed to be promising at the start but ended up almost a disaster because of some matters they are not transparent about. Some people would have some hard start but finish the year with much growth. Since most of those we accept are in their 30s and had a career of their own, one big challenge is to help them adjust to the rigors of a structured life and their gradual detachment from their family, accomplishments and behavior/attitudinal patterns. It helps though when one deals with older and professional persons. I do not have to act as a policeman to each. For those who have no seminary background, one big challenge is to be patient in showing them the dynamics of community life. However, this circumstance is a great opportunity to do formation because they are more “formable”.
There is exactly no fast and hard rules in formation especially as I experienced in the Assumption because we deal with each individual. The formation is more flexible always keeping in mind the goal of such a formation stage and the readiness of the candidate to proceed to the next stage. Hard decisions need to be made on whether or not a candidate is ready for the next stage of formation. The decision is always communal such as in the Formation Commission or in the Council of the Territory or on the level of the Provincial and his Council. Frankness need to be exercised to point out to the candidate his growth areas and to do fraternal correction. I need to journey with the candidate up close and personal and in almost every aspect of their lives considering that this is their first entry into religious life. Per my experience, the formation process will be effective only if the Brother is transparent enough about his journey and his openness to collaborate with the formator, superior or God.
As a formator, I strive to be like a Brother to those in formation without setting myself apart from them. We usually play games together. We laugh at our mistakes together. We joke at one another. We eat the same food and drink almost the same drink. We pray together. We do apostolate together. We share our reflections, joys and pains. We do household chores together. We commute together. We are affected by some difficulties together, though not in the same intensity. I get to know their families as well as their friends. I get to visit their families in their homes. Formation is indeed a very exciting ministry as well as frustrating at times. I thank God and my Superiors for this mission. Ultimately, I tell myself: “This is God’s work. I am just a collaborator.” As a formator, one has to be as close to God as possible.
In my 3 years as formator, I have seen the worst and best in people. I have seen the innermost desires and loftiest dreams of the Brothers. I thank those I have journeyed with and I continue to journey with for allowing me to enter into their worlds and for the trust they gave me. I thank my fellow formators and my Superiors for the confidence they have been giving me in doing this very important task of forming people in the initial stage. I also thank them for their great help especially when matters seem very confounding.
The Rule of Life, the Ratio Institutionalis, some documents of the congregation and of the Church aid me in this responsibility of forming future religious. In this ministry, I am enabled to check myself too as a religious and as an ordained minister. Am I giving the candidates a good example? It is not a matter of showing them the perfect model but it is forming them by example as I strive to follow Christ in His being poor, chaste and obedient. It is also a matter of showing them how the Kingdom is present in my action and in my attitude. Finally, in the Assumption, one big challenge in formation is formation to internationality without prejudice to individuality. In formation, things can be such a big leap of faith and a seeming impossibility. But with God, everything becomes a reality only if we collaborate with His graces that are just there for our taking.