BROTHERS’ FORMATION PROGRAMME
Congo Province (CNG)
“The goal of all formation and education in our Society
is growth by the power of the Holy Spirit into unity with the Incarnate
Word of the Father and into a missionary community comprising members from
many countries and cultures… In this way we become capable to carrying out
the missionary task of our Society…“ Const. 501
This applies to all of us, clerics and brothers. But it is
also true that the life of Brothers today is numerically the most
important form of consecration and the most varied in its charismatic
expression, with greater diversity of apostolic and social services in
favour of humanity. To enable him to do these, today's brother needs a
good formation, intellectual and human. For this reason, it is recommended
to every candidate called to this vocation, to have the required
capacities (physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual) in order to
fulfil these needs.
It is, of course, very difficult to establish a general
programme for all Brothers, considering the diversity of professions they
have and also the level of studies of each of them. Some join the Society
with a specific profession, while others still have to make a valid
This programme should not be compulsory to all candidates
for brotherhood, but it draws the main lines of formation of a Brother in
D.R. Congo. The Brothers’ programme director is asked to study each case
individually, to really orient the candidates according to their desires,
their capacities, their talents, etc. He must take into account the
studies they had made before.
The Brothers’ programme director is the first responsible
for this programme. His role among other things will be:
to make sure that the Brothers’ formation programme is
applied in the Province.
to evaluate annually the Brothers’ formation programme and
to propose changes if necessary.
to intervene in the event that the Brothers’ formation
programme is not followed.
to help every Brother to discern his vocation in the SVD,
and to make a good choice of his profession.
to propose to the provincial and his council the
possibilities of the Brother's nomination during the temporary vows
to coordinate the Brothers’ periodical meetings if
The Brother's involvement in the apostolate is more
direct, people-oriented, and calls him to assume more the role of a
professional. Therefore, the candidate for brotherhood must be competent
in his work. However, the accent must not only be placed on his excellence
in his profession, but much more on a “total and integral” formation.
Thus, after his formation, the Brother should be:
A social and honest man with great maturity
An exemplary man in his religious and missionary life
A man of prayer
An intelligent man, capable to prove himself worthy of his
A man ready to help
A responsible man
A true missionary of the Society of the Divine Word.
III. STAGES OF FORMATION
1. Pastoral of vocations
The pastoral of vocations is assumed by a vocation team,
led by a vocation director. This team is made of our confreres in charge
of our four vocation centers (Ngondi, Kinshasa, Kikwit and Bandundu),
including of course the principal vocation director. The later coordinates
the activities between the four centers and answers the application
letters of the aspirant candidates. It is recommended to have at least one
Brother in final vows in the team in order to share his religious life
experiences to the candidates. This is what is being done until now.
During this time, the vocation director and his
collaborators should be regularly in contact with the candidates (by
correspondence or personal contact), visit the families of the candidates,
organize recollections (bimonthly), accompany them spiritually, give them
some intellectual tests (dictation, summary of a biblical text…), etc.
We require to the youth aspiring to join us to have:
Brotherly and healthy relations with the youth of his age,
A sacramental life that leads him regularly to communion
A particular love for the Word of God, spiritual basis of
the religious and missionary life,
An intensive life of prayer,
A transparent and pure life
An apostolic commitment into the Christian community where
he lives or studies. Without any real commitment in the parish or in his
basic community, the candidate cannot be taken into consideration. For
this reason, the candidate must be known by his Christian
At least a State diploma.
2. Session of discernment
After having followed the candidates closely, the
responsible of our four vocation centers make a selection of candidates.
They must respond to all required conditions to be admitted to the session
This session is organized in Kinshasa for one week. It
consists of giving a series of appreciation tests to the candidates and to
evaluate with them their vocation history before the session.
This discernment week is divided into five days:
Recollection day: a time of reflection with two
conferences on the SVD, its charisma and identity, and the vocation
history in the life of Peter.
Vocation day: with two themes "vocation
according to my understanding" and "the history of my vocation"
Day of the Word: where one speaks especially on the
SVD, a community founded on the Word of God.
Mission day: dedicated to questions concerning the
Commitment and Brothers day: dedicated to the
Brother's vocation (Brothers in the SVD and a Brother's life
experience) and other lectures on the religious commitment.
From the discernment of the vocation, we insist that the
candidate who finishes his high school should not be beyond 21 years old.
The criteria of recruitment are the same for the
candidates for brotherhood and for priesthood.
The candidates who have passed the session of discernment
are admitted to the Propedeutic. Up till now, all candidates (Brothers and
Clerics) live together. This is a stage of spiritual deepening and of
vocation discernment, which pursues the following objectives:
To discern and to mature in one’s vocation
To cover up deficiencies in previous years in formation at
the spiritual, human and intellectual level.
Normally, the Propedeutic lasts one year. But it can be
extended to two years for those who have a lower intellectual level. At
present, formation in the propedeutic is taking place in the same compound
with the Novitiate in Bandundu.
The Propedeutic Programme:
The program can be summarized in three words: INTEGRATION
(community life) – SPIRITUALITY and STUDY. The stage of Propedeutic
emphasizes mostly on the academic life.
During this time, the propedeutes take the following
SVD spirituality (1 hour/week)
Liturgy (1 hour/week)
Introduction to Bible (1 hour/week)
The Gospels (1 hour/week)
Preparation for Sundays (1 hour/week)
French / exercises (3 hours/week)
French / phonetics (1 hour/week)
Vocabulary and essays (2 hours/week)
Latin (2 hours/week)
English (3 hours/week)
intellectual and human formation:
Communal psychology (1 hour/week)
Geography and history (1 hour/week)
Introduction to Philosophy (20 hours/year)
Education to life (10 hours/year)
Scientific studies and researches (10 hours/year)
At the beginning
of the year:
Introduction to the spiritual accompaniment
Initiation to the use of the breviary
During the year:
Introduction to philosophy (January - April)
Education to life
Scientific studies and research
At the end of every month, the propedeutic director
receives a report of each candidate from the teachers on the progress of
3.3. PROFESSIONAL TRAINING
After the Propedeutic, the candidates for brotherhood
continue their professional training, while their colleagues (candidates
for priesthood) go for philosophy. We give them the possibility to deepen
what they had already learned from high school or from the university.
For those who have lower intellectual levels, we offer
them other alternative such as taking practical courses in appropriate
formation centers (electronic, mechanical, data processing, etc). These
courses can take two to three years. For the most gifted, they have the
possibility to go for further studies or for a convenient practicum.
Normally, it is during this time that the candidates for
brotherhood decide once for all, of the kind of profession they would like
to commit themselves for their missionary and religious life.
For the time being, they share the same community with
their colleagues of philosophy, but they have their own schedule,
depending on their programme of studies.
"The novitiate serves to mature and clarify a vocation.
It provides a basic introduction to the following of Christ as outlined in
the life and spirituality of the Society and in our constitutions; thus it
leads one to follow him in an ever deeper way. Through a living union with
the Divine Word and through life in community, a novice should come to
understand himself more clearly and know our Society better so that he may
make a mature and responsible decision about his vocation." Const. 512
Brother candidates do their novitiate with the clerical
candidates in Bandundu. The Novitiate lasts one year. During this time,
the novices learn to appreciate themselves, to love Christ, the Church and
the SVD, which they are called to live. It is merely a "canonical" year,
dedicated to different spiritual exercises and teachings on the SVD.
The following subjects are taught during this time: the
introduction to the Bible, the constitutions, music, the introduction to
spirituality, the history of the church (this course is organized by the
novices themselves in groups, a kind of seminar), life and the family of
Arnold Janssen and biblical Greek.
A part from these subjects, the novices follow some
workshops on missionary spirituality and communication.
It is necessary to note that during the novitiate period,
the manual work takes a very important place. Brother candidates can also
practice their profession from time to time.
After the Novitiate, Brother candidates, like all others,
makes their first vows. This is done after a certain assessment and
appreciation of the Novice Master and his collaborators, taking into
account the requirements of the Society.
3.5. TEMPORARY VOWS
“The years in temporary vows assist the further
development of the spiritual life. They serve to dispose confreres to
respond better to the claim God has on them through the evangelical
counsels and to help them see more clearly the fields of work open to them
in the Society. During this time each confrere should grow in the
assurance that he will find human fulfilment in his vocation as a
religious missionary. Thus self-reliance and balance, the capacity for
community life and work, lively faith and readiness for mission should
continue to grow during these years.” Const. 513
Since the recruitment of candidates until the Novitiate,
going through the basic professional training, Brother candidates follow
the same programme like the Clerical candidates, with a slight difference
at the level of professional training. They are, therefore, entirely under
the direction of the responsible of these entities, although the Brothers’
program director may intervene from time to time.
At this stage, the work of the Brothers’ programme
director becomes more determinant. His role will be to coordinate all
activities of Brothers in temporary vows (see director's
During this period, the Brother in temporary vows must
normally exercise his profession fully, in a given community that is not
necessarily a formation community (He is also given the opportunity to
deepen his studies in his field if necessary). He participates to all
community activities and therefore, he becomes an effective member of that
However, the community should not forget that the Brother
in temporary vows is still in formation. Thus, the Brothers’ programme
director has to make sure that this young Brother is well trained. The
community and the superior of this community are responsible for this
Brother's formation as well. The Brothers’ director in accord with the
superior of the community will designate a confrere in the community to
accompany the young Brother in everything that concerns his formation.
Besides the supervisor, the Brother may also have a spiritual director of
1. Community expectations and responsibilities
We, like our founder, must be men of prayer, filled with
faith and hope, constantly seeking closer union with God. This is the
source of our apostolic zeal.Const.122
We live the celibate life in community. This means that we
strive to form a true brotherhood where every confrere can feel at home,
form deep friendship and find fulfilment in his work and in the
development of his talents. Const.204
The heart of our shared life is the Eucharist. Our oneness
in Christ grows particularly through its celebration where we are
strengthened by listening to the word of God and where the one bread we
break is a communion with the Body of Christ. Const.302
Each confrere should be eager to work in harmony with
others in the activities entrusted to the Society. Const.304
Meals taken together are a sign of friendship and love for
the community; they promote a sense of community. Likewise, common
recreation and friendly get-together are of great value in fostering
b. The community’s superior
The community’s superior has all these rights and duties
as outlined in the Constitutions and directory. (See Const. 636 and
He determines school (if the brother in temporary vows
must follow other studies), and other activities outside of those of his
community (parish activities, for instance) in which the young Brother is
He will make sure that the Brother in temporary vows has
regularly his pocket money and that he uses other funds of the community
The superior has the right to expect an account from the
Brother in formation regarding all activities in which he is concerned.
2. The Brother formandi’s obligations and
We foster a sense of personal initiative and
responsibility in carrying out our missionary task. Const.119,1
Daily participation in Mass. Const. 402
We devote a suitable amount of time each day to reading
the scriptures and studying spiritual and theological questions. Const.
In our daily examination of conscience we reflect on our
lives and our following of Christ, keeping alive within us the will to
repent. Const. 410,1
Confreres will strive to live a simple way of life and so
become a challenge to the mentality of a consumer society. Const. 211
The apostolic scope and community character of our poverty
demands the conscientious use and administration of all temporal goods
given to us. Const. 212
In the sacrament of reconciliation, we experience the
merciful love of the Father through Christ who grants us forgiveness and
peace. Frequent and regular meeting with Christ in this sacrament helps us
grow in love and become more credible witnesses of his word. Const. 411
All confreres should entrust themselves to regular
spiritual direction. Const. 403,1
3. Supervisor’s responsibilities
Where a confrere in perpetual vows has agreed to function
as on-site supervisor of the Brother in the community, his supervision
entails above all else:
A willingness to listen,
A readiness to encourage,
An ability to spot weaknesses and failings to help correct
Occasional visits classes or other activities where the
Brother is involved,
A general readiness to help foster the individual’s growth
and development by prompt advice, by a concern for his needs and
difficulties, and by foreseeing and forestalling whatever may be negative,
To help the brother to deepen the understanding of his
To help him to develop his appreciation of the SVD and his
commitment in the Society activities…
4. Responsibilities of the Brothers’ programme director
To meet the Brother yearly before the renewal of vows in
order to make an evaluation together with him.
To meet the Brother quarterly in order to be aware of his
To conduct the annual evaluation of the Brother.
To elaborate the annual retreat for the Brother.
To draw a programme of theological study (doctrinal cycle)
together with the Brother.
To provide guidance and evaluation of his activities aside
from his profession.
To assist in the planning and evaluation for the
preparation for perpetual vows.
To provide a budget for his respective activities.
Ordinary expenses are provided by the local community.
The Brother must renew his vows every year. Before the
renewal, his direct superior (the superior of the community or the
director of Brothers) will introduce him to the provincial council for
admission. He should take into account all the aspects of the Brother's
life before recommending him for the renewal of vows.
“At every stage of formation, brothers dedicate part of
their time to supervised social and apostolic ministry. The possibility of
crosscultural experiences and temporary mission assignments is highly
encouraged during their formation.” Const. 515,3
The Brother may also choose to have a missionary
experience (OTP = Overseas Training Programme) in another country. By its
nature, the OTP should be a free option made by the candidate. This will
be approved by the Brothers’ programme director.
The goal of OTP is to give our young confreres in
formation an opportunity to have a concrete experience of our missionary
life out of their socio-cultural context of origin and to live the
international aspect of our community.
It is a period during which the applicant receives the
opportunity to live concretely the charisma of our community, to confirm,
to strengthen and to assess his missionary convictions in a very precise
The objectives of OTP would be:
To expose the Brother to a concrete life and works in our
own communities and missions, either in the home country or in another
To strengthen and to mature the missionary vocation;
To develop the Brother’s talents and to stimulate his
fulfilment in his religious and missionary vocation;
To encourage the relations between the provinces/regions,
to cultivate and to promote our charisma of internationality in this
To appreciate a new culture, to acquire emotional balance
by getting acquainted to the realities of the country in which the Brother
Before going to OTP, we insist that the Brother must:
Be in temporary vows for at least two years
Be stable in his vocation
Have an appropriate level of emotional and spiritual
Be in good health
Have sufficient professional skills or knowledge to
contribute to the missionary efforts of the host province/region.
The Brother who desires to do the OTP must express it to
his director. The director will orient him on the choice of the country
and on how to make contacts.
The Brother has to adjust himself to the programme of the
receiving country and will keep in touch with the Brothers’ programme
director of Congo.
The ministry of the Brothers during the OTP should be:
A contribution to the missionary work of the host
An opportunity for the Brother to apply his profession,
An ongoing experience of his role in the mission work of
An exposure to new professional realities in another
That’s why before going to OTP, the Brother should have
mastered his profession. It is recommended that he be given sufficiently
the possibility to practice it during his ministry as OTP.
The length of the OTP must not exceed three years.
3.7. DOCTRINAL FORMATION CYCLE /THEOLOGICAL INPUT
We give the opportunity to our young Brothers to follow
some courses with theological basis and other different topics, to help
them acquire solid theological and spiritual knowledge and also to open
their horizons on the realities of the society on the political and social
At the Oblate theologate, where our scholastics do their
theology, there is a doctrinal formation cycle. Normally this cycle lasts
two years. Due to the length of this programme, we opted to take only the
first year for our young Brothers. The following courses are dispensed
during this year:
Theodicy (34 hours), Sociology (22 hours), Law, Justice and Social
Mutations (22 hours), Ecclesiology (22 hours), Christology (34 hours),
Familial Morals (22 hours), Congolese Liturgy (22 hours), Document of the
CENC (22 hours), History of Mission in Congo (22 hours), African Theology
Experimental psychology (22 hours), Political Evolution in Congo (22
hours), Missionary Spirituality (22 hours), Theology of Sacraments (44
hours), Pastoral, Catechesis and Homiletics (22 hours), Great Religions of
the world (22 hours), Management and accounting (22 hours), Seminars (22
By opting for only one year of this doctrinal formation
cycle, we want simply to insist on the Brother's initial profession.
During two years of intensive studies on other domains, the Brother runs
the risk to lose his reflexes on his own profession.
The doctrinal formation programme should be done right
before the preparation to the perpetual vows. The Brothers’ programme
director, the supervisor of the Brother and the superior of the community
where he lives, each in his responsibilities will keep a watch on the
accomplishment of this cycle.
3.8. PERPETUAL VOWS AND FIRST APPOINTMENT
Like others, the Brother in temporary vows will conform
himself to our constitutions regarding his admission to perpetual vows and
his first appointment.
The immediate preparation for perpetual vows takes place
under special spiritual direction. Conscious regularity in meditation and
prayer, scripture reading and participation in the Eucharist must now
confirm confreres in their response to the Lord’s call. In this way they
are helped to make a final decision to dedicate themselves for life to the
Divine Word in our Society and thus cooperate in his ministry of
salvation. Const. 514
Confreres spend the time of preparation for perpetual vows
in a house of the Society where thorough training and preparation are
assured. Preparation for perpetual vows lasts six to twelve months.
The superior general, with due regard to the regulations
of universal law and with the consent of his council, admits members to
perpetual vows. Cont. 514,2
Whoever joins our Society must be ready to go wherever the
superior sends him in order to fulfil our missionary mandate even if this
entails leaving his own country, mother tongue and cultural milieu.
Confreres ordinarily receive their first assignments on
admission to perpetual vows. They make known to the superiors both the
country and the kind of work for which they feel themselves best suited.
In making the assignments the superior general takes into account their
health, inclinations and capabilities. Const. 116,1
Because of the character of our Society, confreres are
appointed to various provinces according to the principle of relative
internationality. Const. 116,2
For the admission to perpetual vows, the following aspects
should be taken into account:
IV. ONGOING FORMATION / FURTHER STUDIES / SPECIALIZATION
Changes in the world and in the Church, in the science and
theology, as well as development in the different phases of one’s life,
demand of each confrere and community continual study, development in
one’s field and lifelong maturing. Const. 520
This kind of formation is very important for a Brother's
survival and even for all confreres. It is necessary that the Brother is
up to date on the fast change of technology. Thus, he will take advantage
of seminars, readings, workshops, specialization courses and other means
to learn a few more on his profession.
Kinshasa, February 20, 04