The formators from Africa held its formation program between the 3rd of July and 11th of August 2017, in Enugu, Nigeria. This was the first time that the formation program was held in Nigeria. This is significant due to the fact that the COVIAM theologate which is situated in Enugu, is in its nascent stage.
The program was held in a serene and fraternal atmosphere. There were daily masses, prayers, recreation, sports, conferences, small group discussions, informative and clarifying conversations between confreres. It was a time when formators were able to reflect on the Vincentian identity and mission and the challenges that confront us as Africans. It was also a moment of delving deeper into our roots, that is, reflecting on the Vincentian heritage and integrating it into the African context of formation. It also afforded the formators an opportunity to further develop the required skills in carrying out the task of formation.
There were visits to the Vincentian formation houses, apostolates of confreres as well as some houses of the Daughters of Charity in Nigeria.
Attendance: In attendance were:
EMENE Justin, cm (Congo)
EKE Justin, cm (Nigeria)
MAGALHAES Manuel, cm (Mozambique)
NSANZIMANA Jean-Paul, cm (Cameroun)
ODUM Longinus, cm (Nigeria)
RAKATOARISON Pierrot, cm (Madagascar)
RAKOTONDALANA Henri, cm (Madagascar)
TEWOLDE Hagos, cm (Eritrea)
UKURIKIYEYEZU Emmanuel, cm (Rwanda/Burundi)
UKADIKE Cosmas, cm (Nigeria) Facilitator
UMETIETIE Ambrose, cm (Nigeria) Facilitator
1st week (3rd-8th July)
Fr Damian Nwankwo, CM from the province of Nigeria spoke on VINCENTIAN HERITAGE with sub-themes on the history of religious life, of Vincent and of the community, as well as the Vincentian charism and the Vincentian saints and blessed.
On the weekend there was the priestly ordination of four confreres from the province of Nigeria and this celebration enabled the participants to meet and interact with confreres from the province and other religious who were present. The participants also visited the postulancy which was near the place where the ordinations were held.
2nd week (10th-15th July)
Fr Michael Ngoka, CM from the province of Nigeria spoke on VINCENTIAN SPIRITUALITY with sub-theme bing the Vincentian virtues, the evangelical counsels, the vows in the Vincentian tradition. He also spoke about the formator living as holy, healthy, happy and morally transparent Vincentians.
During the weekend, the participants made a tour of the town of Enugu which was an enriching experience.
3rd week (17th – 22nd July)
Fr François Benolo, CM from the province of Madagascar spoke on VINCENTIAN INTEGRATION. He discussed the integration of African traditional values into our formation.
During the weekend some confreres were privileged to visit the Internal Seminary in OGOBIA located about 160km from Enugu.
4th week (24th -29th July)
Fr Justin Eke, CM from the province of Nigeria spoke on FORMATION SKILLS, which included a discussion on confrontational skills, confidentiality, cordiality, and psychological, personal, sexual, ethical boundaries. He also discussed issues related to the internal and external forum in formation.
On the weekend we toured the city of Enugu and visited two communities where our confreres are working.
5th week (31st July – 5th August)
Fr Justin Emene, CM from the province of Congo addressed themes regarding the evaluation of seminarians, pastoral counselling, vocational discernment, intervention, and dismissal skills.
It is worthy to note that on the weekend we visited Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria where we were able to see the places where our confreres and the Daughters of Charity are ministering.
6th week (7th – 11th August)
Fr Guenole Feugang, CM from the vice province of Cameroun spoke on ministry of presence, ministry of accompaniment, psychological evaluation and other issues concerning candidates.
We travelled to the house of philosophy in Ikot Ekpene and visited some of confreres in their places of apostolate … we also visited some of the houses of the Daughters of Charity.
At the end of the program the formators made the following resolutions and offered some suggestions for consideration and implementation:
- Reinforce Vincentian studies in general in all the houses of formation especially in the houses of philosophy and theology formation houses: we have come to understand that we are not forming Vincentian priests unless we ground the students in authentic Vincentian spirituality.
- Vincentian spirituality should be a major focus of our on-going formation, especially as more confreres become formators in the Congregation.
- Initiate ministries so that that will enable the students to have direct contact with the poor.
- Our seminarians should begin to learn how to collaborate with the larger Vincentian family, that is, members of the St. Vincent De Paul Society, etc. This will also encourage the member of these societies and will further the work of evangelizing the poor.
- Our seminarians should be formed from intercultural and international perspectives. This will open them to other realities that are distinct from their own culture (inter- postulancy, inter-novitiate etc).
- Our students MUST learn a second language during their formative years. This will better prepare them for the missions, especially in Africa.
- Themes related to the African reality should be emphasized in the theologate.
- Our Seminarians should be formed to take on leadership roles with love, humility and prudence.
- There should be a clear written program for COVIAM formation … this should include guidelines, objectives and requirements for he different stages of formation and all of this should be elaborated in light of the African reality.
- There should be a close relationship between the formation team and the provincial/council.
- Visitors should listen carefully to the recommendations of the formators when assigning the newly ordained.
- Discernment should play a greater role in the admission and evaluation process of our candidates.
- A formator should be a model for the students. He should be charged with the work of formation (and not be assigned to other ministries at the same timer).
- Formators should invite experts (e.g. psychologist) when the need arises to help the seminarians.
- Formators should be properly formed to be able to accomplish the task of formation.
“The Congregation and COVIAM look forward to priests that will live and work with the realities of the African society. Since the seminary is the breeding ground and place for the nurturing of one’s vocation, the African formators must be equipped and often reminded of the standards that are required in the formation of the priests of tomorrow.
Fr Ambrose Umetietie,CM
Edited for publication:
Charles T. Plock, CM