Andrew Chen OMI, Australia

18 months have passed since the current global pandemic began; it continues to cause devastation to millions around the world and there is no sign of end at the horizon. It has created so much uncertainty and insecurity; many activities have been either postponed or cancelled altogether.

The Oblate Formation Workshop for Post-novitiate formators was originally planned to be held in Aix-en-Provence in July 2020. It was postponed to July 2021 and to be held in Rome with the hope of easier international travel. Once again, it was proved to be impossible as the pandemic is far from over. However, the organizing team under the leadership of Cornelius Ngoka OMI, Assistant General, believed such a workshop is too important to be further delayed, let alone cancelled, and decided to press ahead with hybrid format: those who can, are gathered in the General House, and those who cannot, join the meeting online.

Thanks to the hard works and perseverance of the organizing and animation team, the workshop began on 5 July 2021. Thus far, we have spent almost two weeks together to share, reflect, listen, affirm and support one another in the ministry of formation in the Congregation.

The daily activities of the workshop are divided into two parts: morning session is additional for those gathering in Rome to familiarize with various services of general administration, and afternoon plenary session for all participants.

The first week we spent on personal sharing: formators from Africa-Madagascar, Asia-Oceania, Europe, North America and South America, shared their personal Oblate journey and the experience of working in formation ministry. In addition, we were asked to reflect and share on the two questions: what calls are we hearing from this changing society? How should we better prepare our formandi for the post COVID-19 Church and society?

Fr. Louis LOUGEN before invoking his blessings over the participants

The sharing was extraordinarily rich, diverse and insightful, that helps to highlight the diverse face of the world and the Oblates. At the end of the week, we had the opportunity to listen to the Superior General, Fr Louis Lougen OMI presenting on the current state of the worldwide Oblates, and have intimate dialogues with Fr general on all matters concerning the life and ministry of the Congregation.

The second week, we have two presenters, Fr. Tim Norton, SVD, and Fr. Mokone Rathokhoa OMI, superior of the General House, on the topics of Interculturality and Human Accompaniment. Fr. Tim shared from his own experiences as a missionary in Mexico, formator in Australia, and now as resource person for SVD’s formators and ongoing formation program, and presented on topics of Missionary formation in an intercultural context, Spirituality and Interculturality, and Leadership in interculturality.

Fr. Mokone’s presentations touched on the important area of human growth and accompaniment.

These presentations make me become more aware of the increasingly complex reality of formation ministry because of the intercultural communities of the Oblate world, and the vastly different background of young people entering the Oblate formation today.

As Fr. Louis reminded us that the formation ministry is for the Oblate Congregation, not merely for one particular unit or culture, the missionary fields of today and the future expects Oblates who firmly embrace the intercultural dynamics of the mission and who are mature and balanced human beings, in touch with their humanity and the humanity of Jesus Christ.

These two weeks have been really enriching for me to listen to wonderful inputs, and more importantly to spend time with fellow Oblate brothers in the ministry of formation. I look forward to the next two weeks of the workshop.