Change the Pedagogy of Formation! (Church Restoration Series VIII) By Fr. Anand Muttungal

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Restoration of the Church is a matter of great concern for every devout follower of Christ. It can be achieved through a new pedagogy of formation for the diocesan clergy totally distancing from the religious orders. The members of the religious orders are trained to work as per their charism (a particular work) and spirituality. But when it comes Diocesan clergy their formation should be based on the pastoral ministry and the spirituality oriented to evangelization.
The genesis of this practice of entrusting formation of the diocesan clergy to the religious orders goes back to the fourth century, ‘when monastic life was just beginning’. The bishops of Vercelli, Verona, Aquileia and Saint Eusebius, and then in the fifth century Saint Augustine’ sent seminarians to the religious orders for training. This practice continued till the Council of Trent which decreed the establishment of diocesan seminaries in 1563, yet Pope Pius IV entrusted the training of his own seminarians to the Society of Jesus, and under his auspices the Jesuit-run Roman Seminary was opened in February of 1565.’ This practice is continuing till date.
It is heard very often that diocesan priests are not doing well in their pastoral ministry. We need to analyze the issues in relation to formation. The religious who are trained to be experts in their own particular charism have taken over the formation network. Very few diocesans are sent for higher studies and those trained to get fewer opportunities to manage the major seminaries. A section of the diocesan clergy involved in formation sees it as a planned strategy to expand and perpetuate their supremacy over the diocesan clergy, brothers, nuns and the laity as well. In many centers of formation we find congregation that runs the seminary invites their own personnel,(qualified or not), to take classes. The Church suffers from this because the clergy get neither ‘diocesan formation’ nor ‘religious formation’.
The religious who are trained to work in a particular aspect of ministry have drawn up a curriculum that is not suiting the evangelization demanded by the local Church. The brothers who are joining the minor seminaries are given a basic orientation and core values as per the diocesan requirements but when they reach the major seminary there is a shift of thoughts. There could be a clash of understanding of the working systems and understanding of ideologies. The result is losing of many vocations.
The Optatam Totius calls for a pastoral concern in formation which ought ‘to permeate thoroughly the entire training of the students also demands that they be diligently instructed in those matters which are particularly linked to the sacred ministry, especially in catechesis and preaching, in liturgical worship and the administration of the sacraments, in works of charity, in assisting the erring and the unbelieving, and in the other pastoral functions.’
If we look at the present formation system managed by the religious orders for the diocesan seminaries have very little special training specific to their mission in the field. They do not have much evangelization oriented curriculum pertaining to their pastoral ministry in field. After having gone through formation of over a decade the diocesan priests after ordination have to learn to administer sacraments including the Eucharist and Baptism. There is very little training on skills of proclamation and oratory, interpretation of the word for the parishioners in the given milieu, family visits, catechising the Christians, evangelization of the evangelized, evangelizing the people, spiritual family counselling, conducting family prayers, maintaining the parish records etc. In the case of the diocesan clergy don’t we feel that these practical aspects should have been the centre of formation but are neglected to the core? So under the present set up if the diocesan clergy is not doing what is expected of him then it might be called a ‘formational defect’ rather than individual mistakes alone!.

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