FORMATION AS A LIFE-LONG PROCESS: OBLATE TRIENNIUM: YEAR II
Fr. Cornelius Ngoka OMI, Assistant General
The Oblate Triennium is meant to be an instrument opening our lives to God’s grace to fan the flame of Oblate life and mission as we prepare for the 200th anniversary of the Congregation and the General Chapter of 2016. The Oblate Triennium is a pilgrimage of grace into the ‘Call to Conversion’ of the 2010 General Chapter in five dimensions of Oblate life and mission.
Year I of the Oblate Triennium was dedicated to “A New Heart: Life in Apostolic Community” and to the vow of Chastity. Year II, beginning on 8 December 2014 and going until 7 December 2015, is focusing on “A New Spirit: Formation as a Lifelong Process” and the vow of Poverty. We remember that there are two pillars to the Oblate Triennium: sharing faith among us in apostolic communities and concrete signs of conversion, both personal and communal commitments, in light of each year’s focus.
First formation and ongoing formation are parts of one continuous journey, a life-filled commitment. Our CC&RR state in C # 47: “Formation is a process which aims at the integral growth of a person and lasts a lifetime. It enables us to accept ourselves as we are and develop into the persons we are called to be. Formation involves us in an ever-renewed conversion to the Gospel and a readiness to learn and to change in response to new demands.” Formation over a lifetime is a wonderful interplay of our humanity and God’s grace so that we develop as Saint Eugene proposed: as humans, Christians and saints. Lifelong formation helps us become joyful witnesses of the Gospel and generous, audacious missionaries. C # 69 challenges us: “Ongoing formation encompasses all aspects of our development. It renews and develops our spiritual life and its inner resources and favours our growth in emotional and affective maturity. It increases our pastoral skills. It enables us to be critically aware of the integration of our life and mission at all stages of our development.”
The second year of the Oblate Triennium is calling us to commit ourselves to the process of life-long formation and to a new living of the vow of poverty. We recognize that we are in the process of growing, changing and aging in the midst of serving the mission of God in a constantly changing world. Formation over a lifetime is a dimension of our vow of perseverance and is the capacity, like Mary had, to “…live in creative and ongoing fidelity…”(C#46) throughout our lives so that we develop as effective religious and missionaries. “Formation is vital to the life and mission of the Congregation…”(C#49) so that we have the wisdom and the holiness to be able to connect the Gospel to peoples’ lives in the reality of today in diverse cultures and situations. We might say we need formation for transformation.
This second year of the Oblate Triennium is also the call to conversion in the area of the vow of poverty. Gospel poverty is the key to evangelization. Beginning with Jesus, this has always been true in the history of the Church. We see it embraced by the First Christians (see Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 5:1-11) and a constant value throughout the history of religious life. Evangelical poverty “…compels us to enter into a closer communion with Jesus and the poor, to contest the excesses of power and wealth and to proclaim the coming of a new world freed from selfishness and open to sharing” (C#20). The renewal of our living of the vow of poverty will cause an explosion of new life and missionary ardor for the Congregation that we cannot imagine. Do we not hear the call? Do we not believe?
The General Chapter of 2010 called us to a profound personal and community conversion to Jesus Christ. He is the center and reason for our missionary lives. The second year of the Oblate Triennium focuses us on this relationship to Jesus, both as individuals and as communities for the sake of the mission. Formation over an entire life and the commitment to a poor life are meant to help us know Jesus “…more deeply, to identify with him and to let him live in us so that we reproduce in our lives the pattern of his life” (C#2). As exhorted by Eugene de Mazenod in his 1825 Preface, we are invited in this second year of the Oblate Triennium to allow Jesus to train us in piety, to fill us with his Spirit and to send us as audacious and joyful missionaries to preach the Gospel to the poor and most abandoned.
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