Friday, March 29, 2013

Fr. Chavez's New Letter on Vocation, Formation

Fr. Chavez's New Letter
to the Salesians
Links Formation, Vocation
The future of the Congregation
depends on the quality of formation

(ANS – Rome) – Just as we are celebrating Easter, the Rector Major has given the Congregation a new circular letter, titled “Vocation and formation: gift and task.” It aims at illustrating the beauty and the demands of the Salesian vocation and formation, and at the same time showing the current situation of vocational inconsistency. The letter is in two basic parts.
Fr. Chavez at Holy Rosary Parish in Port Chester in 2007

Consistency and vocational fidelity
The Rector Major highlights the need to help young confreres achieve vocational consistency, and help those who have already made a definitive choice to live their vocation faithfully. Weakness of vocation is particularly evident in the statistics which the Rector Major wants to make known to the entire Congregation so that people can be aware of the problems and then help by taking on responsibility.
There are two complementary aspects noted, basic causes of a lack of consistency and fidelity:
  • a wrong idea of vocation; this is sometimes identified with a personal project motivated by the need for self-realization. Often there are weak or insufficient motivations for beginning the journey in Salesian consecrated life, and sometimes a lack of conscious awareness; if motivations are ignored, fragility or infidelity are more likely to result.
  • The culture we live in presents opportunities but also risks. An anthropological understanding is a resource, but also a challenge for the vocational journey. There is a need for authenticity, sense of freedom, history, constant seeking for experiences, appreciation of relationships and affectivity, difficulties in renouncing things and remaining faithful – all these in a postmodern and multicultural context. These anthropological aspects, while challenging, are essential for a consecrated life that desires to be fully human and therefore credible.
Vocation and formation
Vocation is the foundation for the journey of formation, and formation is there to serve the full development of vocation. They are both gift and task.

Each individual’s life is a vocation; therefore life is a response to God’s call. Vocation is not principally a human project but God’s plan for each one: it is a plan to recognize, accept, and live. The discovery of one’s vocation is at the origins of realizing our individual lives; it takes a lifetime to live a vocation. It is a call to a mission entrusted to us by God; there is no vocation without mission. This is why mission, with vocation, gives form and content to formation.
Formation is a constant process of identification with the vocation received. This is why the letter presents the identity of the Salesian consecrated vocation and the formative methodologies that ensure the process of identification. Acquiring identity is the aim of formation.

Fr. Chavez once again proposes, as objectives, the fundamental elements of Salesian vocational identity: sent to the young (being conformed to Christ the Good Shepherd); brothers in a single mission (common life as the place and object of formation); consecrated by God (witnessing to the radical nature of the Gospel); sharing of life and mission (animating apostolic communities in the spirit of Don Bosco); at the heart of the Church (building it up); being open to real circumstances to realize the charism.
To ensure that we acquire identity and to foster the process of vocational identity, the Rector Major reminds us that the Ratio offers specific approaches that we need to adopt with more awareness and commitment. It is a case of reaching into the depths of the individual, of animating an experience of formation that unifies, of ensuring a climate of formation and everyone’s shared responsibility, of giving quality formation to daily experience, of qualifying our accompaniment, of paying attention to discernment.

At the end of the letter the Rector Major makes an appeal that formation, initial and ongoing, be an “absolutely vital priority in the Congregation,” and he turns to Mary, asking her to accompany us as she did from the beginning and throughout Salesian history.
The Rector Major’s letter, no. 416, is, apart from the Strenna 2014 commentary to come, the last thematic letter in Fr. Chavez’s mandate.

The complete text is available in Italian and French for now. It will very soon be available in other languages.

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