Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Formator's Conference

From the moment I arrived in the United States June 24 until I left again July 20 my time was consumed with the Formator's Conference. I worked on the plans for this conference for many months, pecking away in internet cafes and using my cell phone to make arrangements with different participants. It was an amazing experience. At the end of the three week program Sr. Joyce and I wrote an introduction to the new internaional curriculum, which I have excerpted here:

"It gives us great pleasure in introducing this curriculum to you. It is the result of the input, experience and hard work together of participants in this Formators’ Conference. Those who participated came to Little Portion, Long Island, from all Provinces of SSF and from CDC, Zimbabwe. This was an historic occasion!

The participants were: Clifton Henry and Samson Siho (Province of the Solomon Islands); Lester Meso and Philip Etobae (Papua New Guinea Province); Bhekimpilo (CDC, Zimbabwe); Donald Campbell, who could only attend for half the conference, and Nathan James (Australia/New Zealand Province); Pamela Clare and Eric Michael (Province of the Americas); Jenny Tee, Desmond Alban and John (European Province), together with us Ministers General.

The impetus for this meeting came out of the last Chapter of the First Order, September 2008, where there was much concern expressed about Formation, especially up to Life Profession. The goal was to produce a ‘road map’, something that would be flexible enough to cross the boundaries of our different cultures and contexts in order to build up confidence especially for those given the direct responsibility for Formation. As Don Bisson said, “if you are in Formation, you are in formation”. However, we also recognized that the formation of our newest members lies with all of us. Each new member who joins us is expected to change in the process of development, but unless the Community changes too there is the likelihood of slow strangulation or torture of the new member.

So we undertook some formative experiences around some core Franciscan values to hear some ‘parables of formation’, to open our understanding to what might be possible and how to do formation by listening to those who work for environmental justice, social justice, and ecumenical and inter-faith relations. First we met with Don Bisson, Marist Brother, about how to do Formation. Travelling by van, and some sleeping on church hall floors, we met in New York City with the West Harlem Environmental Initiative, the Poverty Initiative at Union Seminary and the parish of St. Mary’s in Harlem. We then went to Graymoor as the guests of the Brothers of the Society of the Atonement to discuss ecumenical relations. We visited the Chaung Yen Buddhist Monastery to experience inter-faith relations. We also had the opportunity to meet with the Sisters of the Atonement and the Franciscan Missionary Sisters at Peekskill (where the founder of CSF died as a member of that Roman Catholic congregation). We travelled on to Boston and the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Ecclesia Ministries, and a meeting with Dr. Kwok Pui-Lan at Episcopal Divinity School.

On returning to Little Portion, we received advice on curriculum development from Wendell Chu, Superintendent of Islip School District on Long Island, Lucas Benitez, founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Derrick McQueen of the Poverty Initiative who gave us very valuable help in facing some of the challenges in developing this curriculum..."

So it is finished; let the good times roll!

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