"Formation" is the word used to describe the study and training necessary to pursue a vocation. Since we live in an ever-changing world, we have come to realize that formation is a lifelong pursuit. We therefore speak of the period of preparation for profession and/or ordination as "initial formation;" "ongoing" or "continuing formation" is the updating and renewing of our understanding and pursuit of our vocation.
The actual program for formation varies from country to country, responding to the realities of the culture. Every program, however, will include formal studies, human development, spiritual practice, ministry training and community living. Of necessity, a program of formation will take into account the teachings of the Church, both universal and local.
There is also a component that is unique to La Salette, where one is expected to become familiar with the history of the Congregation, the story of the Apparition, Marian studies and the theology and praxis of reconciliation (cf. "Charism"). Also, because our Congregation is international in scope, there are expectations and/or opportunities that promote that awareness, both in initial and ongoing formation. For example, before Perpetual Profession, all the members requesting that step are expected to gather for a month's preparation together. Ongoing formation opportunities offered by the Congregation include those offered at the Shrine on the Holy Mountain (France) as well as those hosted by various provinces throughout the Congregation.
We acknowledge the profound truth that ultimately God is in control of whatever formation takes place. This is truly an exercise in faith where all involved attempt to discern the Holy Spirit at work. What is God saying? How do we recognize his voice? How do we respond? The task of those in the ministry of formation is to keep these questions before those participating. This is truly imitates what the Blessed Mother did for all God's people at La Salette, calling us to be aware and respond to God's voice. She assured us that this was the work of conversion, and that conversion was the way to fullness of life. This is what we work for in our own experience of formation. (JGB)
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