Reflections of a Retiring Formator

Feb 28, 2024

As he comes to the end of his term overseeing the formation of Columban seminarians, Fr Frank Hoare explains how being in this community with students from Fiji and Kiribati helped his spirituality.

It’s the closest I will ever get to feeling like a father! As I approach the end of seven years as a Columban formator in Suva I look back with affection on the students with whom I have lived. I take pride in their growth in maturity and their successes. They were mostly from Fiji, but a few came from Kiribati. At one time we had seven students. Now only one senior student remains until he finishes here at Easter.

It was a thrill when a student came to insight about himself in personal accompaniment. It was great to see someone growing in confidence in presenting a vocation talk or in giving a homily. It was good to see how younger students learned from and were helped by older students. But I was also pleasantly surprised when a younger student challenged an older student on the basis of a Christian or Pacifican value.

Many students were introverted but an occasional extrovert livened meal conversations. Pacificans have a tradition of not chatting at meals. Drinking kava is the time for that. Eating is serious business to be given one’s full attention. But living and working in an international Society calls for some adaptations. COVID, too, brought stress and tested adaptability.

The students enjoyed their varied pastoral work – working with juvenile offenders, visiting the elderly, evaluating gospel-sharing prayer groups, programs with youth, observing Sunday services of different Christian denominations, census taking of families in informal settlements, and sacramental instruction. They also enjoyed attending youth interfaith dialogue sessions. I encouraged them to constructively critique each other at reviews.

Being in a formation community helped my spirituality. I experienced saying the divine office in common as more prayerful than alone. Being courageously challenged for my mistakes (not easy for Pacificans) gave me the opportunity to understand and apologize. It taught me humility and dependence on God’s help and the need for spiritual direction.

Fr Frank Hoare

One memorable incident. We jointly organized a march for climate justice with 3rd level lay students on the Saturday in the middle of COP26 in November 2021. The police heard that a well-known youth activist would participate. They stopped the march and didn’t allow it to proceed to the public park where our Archbishop was waiting to speak. Instead, we went to the nearby seminary and held our rally there. We got much more TV, print and social media exposure than if the march had been allowed.

I will miss the youthful enthusiasm of our seminarians in Fiji in future. Vocation promotion will be that much harder. They will miss the opportunity to settle into the early discipline of formation in a Pacific setting. But it is a necessary adjustment. I am happy, however, to have had the experience of serving as a formator here in Fiji. So, empty nest syndrome now!

If you would like to help support the training of our seminarians, you can donate online. Please see:  Alternatively you can send a cheque payable to ‘Columban Missionaries’ to the Far East Office, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co Meath C15 AY2Y

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