Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More Orientation

Continuing our orientation, getting to know more about the program and housekeeping.

Been reading our novitiate preparation manual, which spells out the program philosophy, formation goals, program components, and practical matters concerning life in the program. We talk about these things during our morning and evening orientation meetings. Just a few items of note:

1. This is a formation program unto itself. It is not the postlude of our provincial postulancy program just completed, and it is not a prelude to the canonical novitiate. We are neither postulants nor novices, but it is also inaccurate and misleading to call us post-postulants or pre-novices. We are moving into closer affiliation with the international fraternity of Capuchins; in other words, we are entering our first formational experience of living as a brother within the global Capuchin community. Therefore we are now being addressed simply as "brother" or "new brother."

2. Our formation goals in this program are threefold in nature: they are human, they are Catholic/ecclesial, and they are Franciscan. Within each goal we have categorical subgoals concerning knowledge, attitudes, and skills, with objectives for growth in each area.

3. Each brother will be assigned a formation advisor, a friar from the three-person formation team. We will meet individually with our formation advisor regularly, much as we did in our postulancy formation conferences, to talk about how we are doing in the program. Spiritual direction, which is different in nature from formation advisory meetings, will resume in novitiate.

4. Classes are three days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, in the morning. We will reflect as a group on methods of prayer, meditation, and contemplation; liturgical rubrics; Franciscan spirituality; novitiate guidelines; human interaction; and public speaking. From time to time, we will participate in workshops with our formators and with guest speakers on topics such as community living skills; personality profiles (e.g. Myers-Briggs, enneagram); problem solving and conflict transformation; stress management; leadership; identity issues facing ministers as public representatives of the Church; intercultural issues; and sexuality.

5. Fraternal interaction is key to our experience of formation during these two months in Kansas. Every evening is devoted to "scheduled, informal times of fraternal recreation." This is not private time or personal time. We will spend our time together, as a group. Twice a week the brothers will take turns sharing their vocation stories in "fraternal conversations." Once a week the brothers will take turns sharing personal reflections on their experiences of ministry within the program. Once a week the brothers will meet, as in house chapter, to discuss "common problems or concerns evolving within the fraternity or within the program." These evenings will always end with socializing in our community room, just talking, playing games, having snacks, and so forth. On Saturday nights we will have "planned group recreation." The brothers will be given some spending money and use of the common cars and urged to do something together in town or in the neighboring towns. The point is to get the brothers bonding over activities outside of the friary. Staying home is not an option!

6. We are not being formally evaluated at the end of the interprovincial postulancy. We are not auditioning again for novitiate. We have all been accepted into novitiate; we are ready for novitiate. The goal of this program is simply to join together all the brothers who have been accepted to novitiate in a common community and teach us additional skills to enhance our participation in the next phase of formation. So there's really no pressure to "perform," and every incentive just to "be" and live into the experiences awaiting us.

7. For all the time spent in fraternal interaction, there is also ample periods of unstructured time. This is personal time to be devoted quietly to spiritual readings, journaling (or blogging!), private prayer, liturgical preparation, fraternal service (i.e., house chores), manual labor, recreation, and so forth. Personal time is conducive to reflection and service to others. We can come and go as we please from friary during fraternal time without asking permission, but as a courtesy it is good to inform a brother of our whereabouts, and to invite others to join us as appropriate.

Time to wind up this post. Next time I'll elaborate on fraternal service and how we take care of the friary. And maybe I'll say a word about money and the things we hold in common!

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