Looking at formation within the Order today the picture is indeed a positive one. This is not to say that there are not problems. In the older provinces in Europe, the United States and Australia, the numbers of those joining the Order are small, but across the continents of Asia, Africa and South America we see an expansion that is bringing with it new life and many vocations. Following the General Chapter of 2007, the General Council set up a new international formation commission. The members are John Keating, Councillor General, Mario Alfarano, Secretary, Quinn Conners (PCM), Günter Benker (GerS), Desiderio García Martínez (Arag), Giampiero Molinari (Ita), Dionysius Kosasih (Indo), Romauldo Borges de Macedo (GerS-Par) and Vitalis Benza (Hib-Zimb).
The commission is the guiding force behind the vision and direction of the formation policy within the Order today. It has attempted to prioritize the issues relating to formation for the years ahead. These they have identified as Carmelite community lifestyle, vocational promotion, the training of formation personnel and intercultural formation within an international Order. Initially the commission examined the recommendations regarding formation that came from the General Chapter. The first task of the commission was to prepare a series of formation courses for the six-year term of this Council. A special meeting of the commission took place in 2008 to examine the course methodology to be used during these courses. With the help of the Prior General and Professor Donna Orsuto (Gregorian University, Rome) a mystagogical approach was adopted “as a means of deepening the transformative experience” of the participants. A course for students in initial formation then took place in the Holy Land, applying this theory, in July and August of 2009. There were just over 40 participants who spent one week on Mount Carmel and a second week in Jerusalem. Members of the formation commission gave presentations on key Carmelite topics and the guide for the visit to key locations was Fr. Alexander Vella, O.Carm. (Mel).
An International Course for Carmelite Formators from around the world took in Camocim de São Félix, Brazil from 1st to 15th August 2010. The two-week course provided an opportunity for the 69 participants to engage in a common reflection on the Ratio Institutionis Vitae Carmelitanae (RIVC). There were four main areas of discussion: the roles of formator and formandi; the interior spiritual journey; human development and the vows; internationality, inculturation and fraternity. Principal speakers were: Frs. Desiderio García Martinez (Arag), Michael Plattig (GerS), Quinn Conners (PCM) and Carlos Mesters (Flum). A paper from Charlò Camilleri (Mel) was read for the participants. There were also a number of special topics addressed by Frs. John Keating (Curia), Francisco de Sales Alencar (Pern), Albertus Herwanta (Curia), Giampiero Molinari (Ita) and Raúl Maraví (Curia).
In line with the Order’s Constitutions (no. 129) the commission began a consultation process within the Order regarding the updating of the RIVC by sending a questionnaire to all provincial, commissaries, general delegates and their formation personnel in October in 2008. Both the commission members and a small sub-committee then drafted some new articles for inclusion in the new edition of the RIVC. There was a common feeling expressed in the responses to the questionnaire that only small changes should be made to the existing text. Formators in Camocim has the opportunity to look at the changes and make suggestions.
Two further courses for on-going formation will take place in 2011 and 2012. The first in 2011 will take place in Spain in August “In the footsteps and John and Teresa” and a further course will take place in the Holy Land in 2012.
The crucial issues facing formation in the Order today relate to: the training of formation personnel; the role of the formation community in the formation process in line with the RIVC (37 & 55); that all in formation learn at least one of the official languages of the Order; the emerging importance of the pre-novitiate as solid preparation for the novitiate and the religious life; the promotion of higher studies relating to our history, spirituality and charism; and finally the international aspect of formation within a world-wide, multicultural community.
For this reason, at the Council of Province in 2009 a strategic plan for international cooperation on formation was presented by the commission to the provincials, and it received a positive response. International cooperation is now beginning to take place especially with regard to novitiate formation.