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CROSSCULTURAL FORMATION PROGRAM IN THE CENTRAL AMERICAN REGION SVD

 

Introduction

Since the 80´s, Nicaragua and Panama , being still districts belonging to their respective Provinces, were already receiving students from other countries for an OTP experience. In evaluating these experiences we realized that they have been enriching, not only for the SVD seminarians and brothers in the discernment of their vocation and missionary profile, but also for the SVD community. As the new Central American Region came into existence in the year 2005, we see the need to continue with this practice of the Congregation as an important element of the formative process of the SVD students that also plays a positive role in the dynamics and development of the Region.

For this reason, at the district and regional levels, we are devising the new crosscultural formation program, systematizing the different practical aspects that may contribute to the success of a PFT experience in our central-american reality.

I. EXPOSITION OF PRINCIPLES

1. The Sending Province / Region :

One must consider the PFT experience as an important part in the stage of formation and of the missionary experience of the SVD students. The fundamental axes of this stage are: a different culture, the local SVD community, life in common, and the sharing of the same mission within the characteristic dimensions and the missionary charism of the SVD.

It is important to indicate that the PFT is not a phase to resolve personal problems known beforehand, to get rid of the difficult cases or to test a doubtful vocation. The sending Province should provide the necessary information on the expectations, talents and other preoccupations of the student.

2. The PFT Student:

The student carries the main responsibility for the success of his own PFT experience. He has the following responsibility of:

- Learning: The missionary work, especially when it is carried out in another culture, requires enormous capacity of learning. Therefore, the student of PFT should be dedicated and diligent in learning the new language and culture. One must always keep in mind that this process requires patience, an effort to listen and a readiness to adapt to the realities, demands and inconveniences of the new culture.

- Participating: The PFT experience gives the student an opportunity to test in practice some of his ideas about crosscultural life and ecclesial ministry. The practical experience can stimulate a greater maturity in these same ideas. It is expected that the student contribute with his gifts and talents in the works that the Society carries out in the new central american Region and within the community and its coordination, show the readiness to collaborate in all the works that the pastoral team carries out.

-Reflecting: In the experience of living in another culture it is extremely important to continue reflecting on the new spiritual, social, political, cultural, and religious reality. It is recommended to have a kind of personal journal to take note and to evaluate the notable experiences. Besides, it is required to maintain an adequate contact with the spiritual director.

-Praying: The PFT experience puts the student in front of the challenge to discover the presence of God in a new religious and cultural context. Prayer is the womb of this discovery and of all pastoral work.

-Evaluating: It is necessary to continue periodically with the evaluations that provide space so that the student can make adjustments in his journey and make use of his time better.

•  The Receiving Region CAM :

The PFT student comes to do an experience of religious life in an SVD community – where in the concrete he lives and works - and to get to know a different people. He should not be treated as a "semi-priest" or a person who comes to solve the personnel problem in the region or in the pastoral work. It is understood that the PFT student comes to learn by serving and by developing his missionary and religious vocation. He comes not only to receive, but also to give. The PFT is an SVD seminarian or Brother who carries out this experience as part of his juniorate, who lives a new stage of his life and who comes to be formed. He is understood that the PFT confrere is in a stage of self-formation and must have an adequate accompaniment. The region should organize said accompaniment in various levels: in the spiritual level, level of the local SVD community, and in the level of intellectual formation and reflection of lived experiences.

The Central American Region can receive four confreres at the same time for this PFT experience.

II. SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES OF THE PFT EXPERIENCE

1. Encouraging the student to define his SVD identity within the context of the crosscultural experience. This implies the capacity to perceive the presence of God in the other, that "the other" be a sacrament of God for the student and also that the student be a sacrament of God for the other.

2. Helping the student to focus his identity as minister in being a Divine Word religious missionary. This is still more important for the students in preparation for the priesthood because thus the ministry is not reduced to priesthood only.

3. Helping the student to listen, observe, and wait before working. Every time that the student is found outside of his own cultural context, it is essential that he learn this listening attitude immersing himself in activities.

4. Accompanying the student in his experience of living in a crosscultural community. The PFT experience will give the student a stronger opportunity to live in a multicultural community. To learn to work in multicultural pastoral teams is an essential aspect of our common life as SVDs.

5. Supporting the student in his reflection on his life as a missionary. The essence of the PFT is not the pastoral work, although this may be indispensable. The essence of the PFT is the reflection on the experience to work in a crosscultural context.

6. Introducing our formandi to the quadruple prophetic dialogue of the SVD in a practical and concrete way.

III. STEPS TO CARRY OUT THE PROGRAM:

1. Before the arrival:

Before the student leaves the country, he begins the preparation for this experience. This consists, on the one hand, in studying the program of the crosscultural experience that is sent to those who express their desire to do their PFT in Region CAM. It is recommended also that the student try to acquire a preliminary knowledge about the reality of the countries that compose the Central American Region: Nicaragua , Costa Rica and Panama . As much as possible, the interested confrere will try to be familiar with the basic literature on the culture and anthropology of the abovementioned countries. The themes that are very important in this aspect will be the following: knowledge of his own culture, how to recognize the culture of a person, the importance of culture in the personal and community life. For such purpose, the sending Province can organize courses or preparatory workshops, especially if there are various candidates who will be doing the PTF experience.

Part of the preparation for this experience, is the elaboration of a personal project for this time. This project will contemplate the challenges in the personal environment that the seminarian or brother proposes, his expectations, hopes and fears. It is obvious that this project can be very different from what can be carried out in the concrete situation and seeing the possibilities. It is important also that he has expectations, goals and personal challenges at the start of the program, although the project is personal and flexible, still open, but equally realistic at the moment of the elaboration. This project will be the starting point for the accompaniment on the part of the responsible for the program as well as for the person who will accompany the student.

The sending Province prepares the necessary traveling documents and sees to it that the candidate have some basic knowledge of the language before coming to the Region CAM. At the same time, in the Central American Region, the Regional Superior, the District Superiors and the Director of the program, after talking with the members of the SVD communities, choose the place which can provide the student the best conditions for his transcultural experience. A community to be chosen must have a person to accompany the student more closely. At the same time, the pastoral work, the conditions and the SVD way of life would help him in his vocational and spiritual growth and missionary commitment . As soon as the place (the country) where the PFT student will be working in the first phase of the program is determined, the migratory procedures will be initiated. The superiors of the sending Province should communicate with the regional of CAM to receive the information on the migratory requirements of the country and initiate the arrangements of the necessary documents.

2. The Start of the Experience:

On his arrival, the student will be cordially welcomed by the regional or another member of the regional council together with the responsible for the program.

As it is a new experience and culture for the student, a two-week period can be utilized to familiarize himself with the place and the environment, before entering the more formal part of the program. Those who do not speak the language will have to take a language course to acquire sufficient knowledge of Spanish.

After acquiring a working knowledge of the language, the student begins a phase of introduction to the culture of the country and to the orientations and concerns of the region. An intensive course of one month at least is recommended. During this course, visits and trips to notable historical and cultural places of the country can also be included.

Also it is important and recommendable that the student do a tour to the different SVD communities and places of work of CAM , to know better the environment of the Central American reality.

3. During the OTP / PFT Experience:

After the course of language and culture, the student enters a phase of accompaniment during the remainder of the time of the PFT by way of permanent formation, participating in the meetings of the community in all levels: assemblies, retreats, chapters, formation courses, rest and recreation. During the time of the PFT, the evaluations are done according to the schema that is utilized in the Region. The PFT experience is programmed for two or three years in the country, according to the agreement with the sending Province. After the time of introduction there should be a more extensive period, like a year and a half, of a concrete experience in particular community. At the end of the program, the student has the option – in agreement with the director of PFT, the companion and the Regional – of a shorter experience in another environment, within the same Region.

4. After the Experience:

On his return to the province of origin, it is very important that a program of reintegration be organized so that the student can return to his own culture, process the experiences he had in another culture and obtain more benefits out of this experience. It will be also a time to see what can he contribute to his own culture out of what he has seen and lived in another space and cultural environment. It will be also a time - and a need - to take up again points seen as deficient or points dealing on personal, affective, spiritual and psychological maturity which have to be worked so that the student advance in his journey as follower of Jesus.

IV. PERSONNEL INVOLVED:

1. The Regional Superior

The regional of CAM is the first responsible for the formative process of PFT. Along with his Council he should see to it that the Regional Program of OTP is carried out, know the student and find the time to talk and to know his preoccupations throughout his crosscultural experience.

2. Director / Guide of the Program:

A PFT Program Director is appointed who should have sufficient authority and endorsement of the region to assure the monitoring of the program presented and to be able to act in case of some conflict.

The director is the contact person for the students, the companions, the formators and all those who have something to do with the program. His role is seen in a bridge. For this reason, it should be someone who has the necessary time to be with the PFT students. An important part of his job is to meet with those who accompany the students in the communities of work and mission. This he can do during his regular visits and contacts with the students in their respective communities.

The director has to see to it that the candidate has spiritual accompaniment. This does not exclude the possibility that the PFT student seek a confessor and spiritual director of his choice, but the director has to make sure that he is informed about the progress and the spiritual journey of the confrere entrusted to us. It is about knowing the student´s welfare – spiritual and vital - in religious life. A personal accompaniment is needed.

Another duty of the PFT Director is to take charge of the cultural insertion and the language course of the students. Similarly, he has to make sure that the students have sufficient space and time to develop the dynamics of his own group, to evaluate, to plan, to enjoy, to express themselves and to develop their own initiatives.

The director must also act as mediator in the event that there are problems and conflicts between the student and the community and/or his work. The designation of the director / guide does not reduce the importance and responsibility of the regional superior, his council, the mission procurator, and those responsible for the formation in the region.

3. The Person Responsible in SVD Community:

In the SVD community where the student resides, there should be a confrere responsible in helping him to grow in his religious and missionary vocation. If the is in a parish his immediate superior is the parish priest who should be aware of the program, who should be willing to collaborate in the terms presented, and should take part in the Regional Commission of Formation accompanying the student in the program of the PFT experience. This confrere will also see to it that there would be a healthy variety of experiences and works and that these are evaluated. Besides, he is responsible that the experience of the PFT be lived from a point of view of religious life (aspects of prayer, community life, following of Jesus, and spiritual growth). He assures also at the level of the community that the student receive subsidy for his material needs (pocket money) and have sufficient time to read and to rest.

V. THE REFLECTION:

The director of the program PFT is responsible for the formation of the student, the reflection of his praxis and his crosscultural experience. This monitoring and reflection refer to something like the permanent formation of the student. For this purpose, every three months, encounters, workshops and evaluations are organized. The director of PFT should see to it that these evaluations work properly. These encounters will offer the possibility to deepen themes of actuality and of difficulty for the student. Also in the plannings of the community where the student is received, and in his own project, these spaces of formation (courses, encounters, meetings, etc.) have priority over commitments which are clearly of work-related. These meetings are organized by the director of PFT, the responsible for accompaniment and the student. The responsible for the accompaniment should suggest also other experiences like courses and retreats that are given at the level of the Conference of the Religious or others.

Plan of Evaluations

1. SVD Community Level: once a month and when there is a need.

The confrere responsible in the SVD community should see to it that these evaluations are carried out-- these can be done informally. In this level, the evaluation should be focused on the integration of the student in the life and work of the community. Also they have to encourage, to correct and to strengthen the young confrere in the PFT process.

2. With the director of the PFT program: every three months.

Here the evaluations at the level of the community and the journey of the student plus personal matters go hand in hand. His desires, difficulties, conflicts, and spiritual matters (as mentioned above) are also taken into consideration. An important part of these evaluations will be the monitoring of the personal project that the student has brought from his province of origin and which he continues elaborating. It is necessary to prepare the themes of formation for these encounters.

3. With the Regional Formation Team: three times during the experience PFT.

Every seven / eight months the student will present in writing to the director of PFT and the Regional Formation Team the evaluation of his PFT experience based on four points:

a) Spiritual life: personal prayer; spiritual direction; participation in the Eucharist, in community prayers and in the prayers of the people; emotional Development; affective life and relationships; the vowed life.

b) Community life; Identification with the SVD and the feeling of belongingness to the Congregation; Integration with the confreres in the community; Teamwork; Cooperation in community activities; Simplicity in the way of life; Fraternal Correction.

c) "Academic": Cultural adaptation; Participation in the religiosity of the people; Private Reading; Courses of language, culture, theology

d) Apostolic life: Commitment to the pastoral works; Initiative and capacity to organize; Journal of the apostolic experiences; Attendance in the pastoral meetings of the local Church; Pastoral work and the Vows; Openness to reach out to and relate with the people.

4. At the end of each experience:

This evaluation is done in cases that there are two different types of experiences, for example in the different parishes or two countries with different realities. The student does the evaluation of his experience with the director of the program. Likewise his parish priest does it or another confrere responsible the SVD community. These evaluations are complemented and integrated to reach finally a global evaluation of the experience.

5. At the end of the PFT experience:

At the end of the PFT period, a general evaluation of the experience of the student and of the program proposed will be done. The participants are the regional superior, the members of the Regional Formation Team and the students who prepare in writing the final evaluation of all their crosscultural experience. Out of this evaluation of the team, reports will also be sent to the sending province and to the competent superiors.

VI. FINANCE:

1. During the initial period of the PFT experience (study of language and culture), the SVD Central American Region shoulders the expenses the student for his board and lodging and personal expenses.

2. During the phase of pastoral work, the parish and the SVD houses will assume the expenses of the student of PFT: board and lodging, pocket money, trips, clothes-footwear, formation.

3. The sending province that shoulders the following expenses: • Roundtrip ticket; tuition fees; materials and school activities for the study of language and culture. • Migratory Documents. • Insurance for greater medical expenses and expenses for dental treatment,oculist, etc. • Extraordinary Expenses.

4. There can be private arrangements among the provinces.

5. The corresponding payments will be done through the Mission Offices of Techny (USA) or San Augustine ( Germany ).

Conclusion

According to the SVD Constitutions (Const 515.3), the experience in different cultural environment is important in the journey of the SVD. For this reason, the Central American Region, within its limitations, wants to contribute so that some seminarians and Brothers of other provinces can consolidated themselves in their following of Jesus, the Word Incarnate in our culture of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Said program is presented as guide for the experience SVD life and still will be analyzed and finally approved by the new Commission of Formation of the CAM and the Regional Superior with his Council.

Managua Panama City , May 25, 2005