On 18-22 January, 2016, 63 Brothers and our Co-worker, Frances Dignan, gathered in Rome together with the General Government as the persons responsible for Vocations Promotion and Formation in the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God, to attend the meeting organised by the Commission on Pastoral Care and Formation, on the theme “Living and promoting the Hospitaller life today”.
Having concluded the meeting, we wish to address the whole of the Hospitaller Family, particularly our Brothers, with a few words to share the experience with you, and to help give an impetus to our fraternal and Hospitaller life.
Over the past three days we have reflected and debated on, and prayed about, our current situation in the matter of Vocations Promotion/Pastoral Care and Initial Formation, sharing the diversity of our respective situations in the regions in which the Order is performing its mission, and the challenges with which we are confronted. We have been enlightened by the thinking mind of the Church, our own charismatic identity and the latest ideas in contemporary pastoral theology.
For all of us it has been a joyful experience of a new Pentecost, of rediscovering our spiritual and intercultural wealth, based on a mutual and simple welcome.
These days of discernment have been valuable, for they have enabled us to identify the present-day challenges to Vocations Promotion and Initial Formation in the Order, which are asking us to take upon ourselves our responsibility as vocations animators, and thereby achieve a greater unity of action and testimony to hospitality between all those concerned with vocations.
Being celebrated in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, this meeting has been an invitation to us, to experience the Merciful Christ and to pass on this experience to others, as the centrepiece of our charism, with the conviction if all the Brothers and Co-workers adopt a positive attitude we will be able to gain a glimpse of a new and vocational springtime.
The whole Hospitaller Family is responsible for living and passing onto others what we feel in the depths of our hearts. The time has also come for us to jointly drive forward our Vocations Promotion/Pastoral Care and Continuing Formation work, seeing them as two complementary activities which must not be separated. This means that we must take to heart the documents of our Order, and study them in depth, and promote continueing formation to accompany every individual process.
On January 20, we closed the Hospitaller Vocation Year, but that by no means signifies that our work is done. We feel that God is calling us to adjust our Vocations Promotion/ Pastoral Care and Formation activities to work together on a regional basis, to build up a bank of shared resources that will facilitate greater enrichment for all of us and ensure that every Province will have its own comprehensive and flexible Vocations Promotion Plan, that can subsequently be evaluated.
To update today’s Initial Formation in the Order we have to pool our efforts and work towards unifying our Formation Centres. For this purpose, we should have formation programmes that are geared to the current features of our charism, attend to the training of our Formators, focus more attention on the personalised accompaniment of Brothers in Formation and Formators, and return more often to draw on our spiritual heritage enriched by the latest Church document, “The Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church”.
“Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!” (EG 86). With these words, we wish to motivate one another to give continuity to our charism and revitalise it, without losing the essence of the first Love, re-acquiring for ourselves the enthusiasm of John of God, who experienced God’s mercy in his own life and put it into practice in his contacts with others … “They were so poor and in such distress that it broke my heart”. (1 DS)