Ongoing Formation of Young Priests in the Bangalore Province

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(India) From 8 to 10 September 2022, the Bangalore Province organized a gathering of all those Redemptorists who were less than 8 years ordained. Twelve young priests gathered at St. Joseph of Annecy’s Convent in Bangalore, India. Their main animator was Fr Juventius Andrade, CSsR, the Second Consultor for the Bangalore Province. He was assisted by Fr. Anthony Charles, CSsR, the Director of the formation of candidates at Sadupadesha community.

The seminar began with a Holy Eucharist on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was celebrated by Fr Anthony Charles during which Fr Juventius Andrade proclaimed the Word. He reminded the young confreres that Mary’s ‘yes’ to God, emboldened her to say ‘no’ to every sin or oppression. Thus, he held out Mary as a model of the truly empowered woman that Redemptorists are called to proclaim and work for.

On the first day, Juventius set the tone by enunciating the threefold purpose of the gathering – formation, fellowship and fun. In the first session, he invited the young confreres to share one enriching and one challenging experience since their ordination. There was frank sharing in small groups of three. After this, there was a plenary session. On the positive side, many shared the growth experienced by immersing themselves in ministry – parish missions, parochial or educational ministry to the most abandoned. The challenging experiences included conflicts with confreres, a lack of appreciation or support for new initiatives, and tensions arising from broken trust within the community. In the second session, Anthony Charles helped the participants to reflect on the experiences which they had shared. He shared his own conviction that the purpose of our vocation as Redemptorists is an ever-deepening consecration to Christ the Redeemer. He also emphasized that maturing into this identity is an ongoing process. It requires great resilience in facing challenging situations in the pastoral sphere and sometimes within the community. This growth is characterised by a movement from emotionally charged ego-driven reactions toward Gospel-value-based Spirit-led responses to our challenges. Following this input by Charles, Juventius facilitated the sharing that followed. This was truly a ‘synodal’ process because each member honestly reflected on their own experiences. Suggestions for managing the challenges came not merely from the two resource persons, but also from among the participants, drawing on the collective wisdom. The day ended with a Holy Hour and a grand fellowship meal at the Provincial House.

On the second day, the participants were introduced to Ms Belinda Rego. She is a professional art therapist and trained Jungian counsellor based in Bangalore. Her gentle, respectful and creative method of interacting with the participants immediately put them at ease. Through the use of physical movement, deep breathing and projective interpretation of different carefully selected paintings – she helped the participants to become aware of their emotional dynamics. The session helped the participants to temporarily suspend their compulsive ‘masculine’ need to rationalize and control everything and to get in touch with the ‘feminine’ capacity to allow ambiguous things to be as they are – without feeling threatened. The dynamics of the sessions were also helpful for them to get to know one another at a deeper level. In the afternoon session, Juventius addressed the concerns which were raised by the young priests – dealing with sexual integrity, addictions, interreligious marriage, and proclaiming the uniqueness of Christ in a multireligious context. Other questions pertaining to faith, morals and Province issues were also discussed.

Having addressed the major concerns of the group, Juventius went on to impress upon the young Fathers that after the decisions of the successive General Chapters, the lay partnership is the decisive way forward for the Congregation worldwide.

The first two days were filled with fellowship and formation but the final day was reserved for fun, with a picnic in a resort on the outskirts of Bangalore – Guhaantara.

It was a great initiative of the Province to gather the young priests for ongoing formation. The young confreres gave their feedback for the improvement of the programme. We look forward to more programmes like this in the future. Many thanks to Juventius Andrade and Anthony Charles for the time, effort and planning that went into organizing this programme.

Sandeep Menezes, CSsR

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