Frank Kuczera, OMI

We gathered for our General Formation Committee meeting from March 1 to March 5, 2021 on zoom, due to various Covid restrictions, which did not allow us to travel. There were five of us meeting: Cornelius NGOKA (Assistant General for oblate formation), Cleber LOPES (Latin America-The Caribbean), Sebastian LUSZCZKI (Europe), Joseph PHIRI (Africa-Madagascar), Ross KAPUNAN (Asia-Oceania) and Frank KUCZERA (Canada-US).

We began our meeting with checking-in and sharing how we are and we listened to the reports of our formation/vocation efforts from our regions. As the various reports were shared, we were glad that formation ministry has continued in spite of COVID pandemic. We have continued our efforts online, connecting with each other. Even though we realize that connecting online will never replace face to face encounters, we expressed being grateful for having the opportunity to use internet and different meeting platforms to be able to reach out to others. COVID pandemic has brought its own challenges to us. We have been invited to be more creative and prophetic in using social media to pray and support each other.

We discussed the upcoming workshop for post-novitiate directors.

The workshop will take place in Rome July 5-31, 2021. Some of the formators will be physically present and some, not being able to travel, will join the workshop on zoom.

Then, we also discussed the formation of Oblate Brothers.

Unfortunately, the workshop scheduled for November 2020 had to be cancelled, but after our sharing, we believe that such workshop should happen. It was important for us to reflect on the vocation of Oblate Brothers, who as the document of 2013 states, “are united in the same charism and are full missionaries.” We hope that it is an ongoing conversation and gathering of oblate brothers can happen in the near future.

We also shared the importance of ongoing formation.

Many Units of our Congregation have been struggling with this important stage of formation. It seems that this ministry falls “by default” on major superiors or superiors of districts. Very few Units have fruitful ongoing formation program. We realize that there is a need for training of potential directors for ongoing formation. We often gather for retreats or study days, but real experience of sharing seems to be lacking. We encourage various Units to reflect and appoint an oblate or oblate team who will lead members of their Units in deepening of our oblate life and renewal.

Another item on our agenda was the call to have protocols in safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults.

We encourage each formation house to include workshops during orientation at the beginning of formation year and before sending candidates for regency experiences. Each formation house should be familiar with the Unit guidelines for protecting and safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults and have a copy of such guidelines in their formation houses.

Interculturality was also a topic we discussed.

Many of our formation houses are multicultural, but the call to become an intercultural person is very much a challenge for us. We noted the need for preparing Units for sending and receiving candidates, either for regency experiences or mission. We have done some extensive work and have participated in many workshops dedicated to interculturality, but actually living it is an invitation for each and every one of us to embrace daily.

At the conclusion of our meeting, we mentioned again and reaffirmed the importance of workshop for Oblate Brothers. We also spent some time sharing on how important the preparation for novitiate is. Such preparation needs to be more adequate and intentional during the Pre-novitiate formation stage.

Although we were not able to meet in person, we remain grateful for “the next best thing,” which is having the opportunity to connect online. There was a great sense of support and appreciation for each member of our committee, as well as encouragement to continue serving the Congregation in this important ministry.