Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum 2

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updated 3:28 PM UTC, Jan 23, 2023

Formation at the Heart of Our Structures

Formation at the Heart of Our Structures 

I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss with you three important challenges involving formation as well as the manner in which they should be carried out in the various circumscriptions. In the General Curia we are working on a commission called the Commission of Perseverance and Fidelity, which aims to uncover the reasons for brothers leaving the Order. Even in the midst of our efforts, we believe we are already having insight into what needs to be done to prevent so many exits from happening: we must urgently address in each circumscription the need to both strengthen our formation programs and to create environments that are sturdy, healthy and capable of imparting our charism.

Reviewing and Strengthening Our Formation Programs

The formation programs, which consist of both brothers in formation and their formators, must be strengthened, especially in the preparedness of the formators, so that they can provide effective accompaniment, especially in two areas of greatest concern today. The first is charism: we are not only religious, but we are Capuchin religious, and so we must know our Franciscan spirituality thoroughly so as to impart these values to others. The second area is humanness, especially in terms of affectivity and psychosexuality, specific dimensions which demand our reflection and attention in order to grow as religious in freedom and in the ability to love in a more universal and gratuitous way. In this regard, the essential goal must be to review the formation programs in our circumscriptions, evaluate how they are run and the level of pertinent skills obtained by the friars running them – skills for actualizing and imparting our charism, and for advancing the young man toward authentic affective and psychosexual maturity.

The Structures/Brothers Combination

The Order must make an effort to reflect on finding a balance between the setups in which we live and the brothers who live in them. There is a truth underlying our lives that can be expressed, “we always sacrifice the brothers in order to maintain the structures”. From the Secretariat of Formation we are striving to develop the idea of “Theology of Gifts”. In the process of accompaniment, formators must help brothers discover the personal gifts given to them by God. In fact, the bothers who knock on the doors of the friaries must not only maintain the structures, but must also be able to provide for themselves a space for expressing the experience they receive through fraternity and pastoral ministry. Many of these gifts point to priestly service, while others point to an infinite number of services such as art, medicine, mission, manual work, helping the poor, etc. For this reason, we urge circumscriptions to succeed in making room for adapting to the various gifts of the brothers, so that they may bear lasting fruit that can be shared throughout the Church and throughout the world. 

This is one of the few demands that St. Francis places on our family, namely, that gifts should not be ours to appropriate; rather, it is ours to give them joyfully to others, as stated before, to our fraternity, to the circumscription, to the Church and to the world. It is important that we respect them as if we were treading on sacred ground; these are gifts which God – God himself – has given to each of the brothers, and we should not ask for useless and sterile sacrifices in order to save structures that are sometimes not even suitable or necessary.

Formation in Capuchin Pastoral Ministry

Thirdly, Pope Francis, in his ten years of teaching, through his two Encyclicals, Laudato sii and Fratelli tutti, is pointing out to the whole Church and to us in particular as Franciscans, what priorities we should have concerning pastoral ministry. We know that everything we do for people is very good, but we should prioritize having a greater sensitivity for everything that has to do with the poor, with caring for the earth, to collaborate and create peace in our countries, promoting the ways and means of justice; and in a particular way, working together as brothers, not individually, careful not to fall into the temptation of “pastoral narcissism”. We all make an effort; we read the Gospel; and with the Gospel, we read reality and attempt to respond to the challenges that are presented to us, spurred on by the values of our charism.

The priority for our Circumscriptions could be precisely the following: to consider our pastoral issues in such a manner and together with that process to seek the creation of healthy, rich and strong formation programs so that our charism can truly take root in the places where we live.