The Coronavirus inspires us to be more creative, more patient and more flexible than ever, writes Fr Alvaro Martinez of the General Council, as he explains how the Society’s formation programmes have been affected by the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis.
Manila and Seoul started their formation programmes in August, Manila with 13 seminarians from different countries, and Seoul with nine.
In the Manila formation house, classes are online, and the formators are making a great effort to facilitate this learning process. In Seoul, there are regular classes at the diocesan seminary.
On the other hand, both formation programmes are facing restrictions on pastoral assignments. Even though these difficulties are real, their formators offer other possibilities to reflect and grow during this integral part of our formation as missionaries.
The General Council has also asked other regions and mission units, like the Union of Myanmar and Oceania to run extraordinary local programmes due to Coronavirus. As always, they were extremely generous in responding to this request.
In Fiji, we have four seminarians; some of them are studying in the Pacific Regional Seminary, others participating from home, and a deacon finishing his theology and is scheduled to be ordained priest at the end of the year.
In Myanmar, one seminarian is doing some studies and the necessary preparation to join the community in Manila.
This year, the General Council, in consultation with the leaders and formation staff of our regions and mission units, decided to postpone other programmes, like First Mission Assignment (FMA) and Spiritual Year.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank our seminarians, who made these hard decisions maturely. They continue with their academic studies and hope to move to their next stage of initial formation in the new year.
I want to mention that the two FMA programmes in South America and Oceania are following their anticipated schedules, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Finally, each year in the formation houses is unique. Indeed, this year is extraordinarily so; because of that, our initial formation programmes have developed many new skills to respond creatively.
These new skills need to be kept and further developed. I am sure our seminarians will use these exceptional abilities in their pastoral of assignments, and the formators will use these talents with newcomers.