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Saturday, 10 May 2014 00:00

Pope’s Thoughts on Formation Apply to Maryknoll Affiliates

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John Moritz - Northeast Florida Chapter

“Formation is a work of Art, not a police action.”

Recently I read an account by Antonio Spadaro, SJ, of a conversation between Pope Francis and the superiors of men’s religious communities during their meeting in Rome, November 27-29, 2013. Much of their conversation about formation, charism, and mission within religious communities applies to our Affiliate communities.


  1. “Formation has four pillars: spiritual, intellectual, communal and apostolic.“ I almost jumped out of my chair when I read this. It was as though the pope was reading our playbook. Actually, I find it quite humbling to know that we are a part of the great wholeness reflected in this statement by the pope. I can’t help but see the broad smile of Fr. Jim Madden, MM!
  2. ”These four pillars are not sequential but must be integrated.” I sometimes forget that the pillars are not separate and distinct but are one in purpose. They all provide support together. Perhaps it is this integration that makes it difficult to define Maryknoll spirituality.
  3. “Formation is not only directed at personal growth but toward the final goal, the people of God.” If our formation does not lead us outward as well as inward, then we have missed the point.

Most people joining the Affiliates have a history of acting and doing “Maryknoll-type things,” e.g., prophetic witness. However, our Affiliate community can offer them a broader vision and a place to feel at home. In Bolivia, all the local Maryknoll community meets monthly to pray and share their lives in mission. The fathers and brothers, the sisters, and lay missioners each have their individual mission activities and lives, but they come together as community. In a similar way, as Affiliates we have our individual lives and mission efforts, but periodically we come together as community to share and to support one another.

“The frontiers of mission: marginalization, culture and education...”

  1. “…While geographic frontiers remain, these symbolic frontiers that are not predetermined but dynamic, determine the charism of the community…” The charism of the founders is expressed uniquely in each place and time. I think what the pope is getting at is that the charism does not change, but its expression varies.
  2. “The realities of exclusion remain the most important priorities.” I find this a precise statement of and a strong affirmation of who we are and what we do. Symbolic boundaries occur in all our lives regardless of where we live. We can go beyond them in solidarity with all regardless of our individual location.

“The charism of the community is not a bottle of distilled water.”

I love this imagery. The frontiers, which determine our giftedness or charism, are dynamic. It is easy to get into a historical mindset that the way we used to do it is the “best way to do it.” Am I distilled water? Pope Francis has a vision for us that is anything but distilled, saccharine, or pristine. It’s great to be a part of the community of the dirty feet.

  1. “Daily culture is richer and more conflicted than in the past… Enculturation today calls for new attitudes.” Enculturation is not merely taking on the folkloric adaptations of culture but entering into the mindset of the people. In my work with refugee resettlement, I recognize just how different we Americans are, not just in the way we live, but in the way we think, in how we express ourselves, and in the value judgments we make in our lives.
  2. “We need to promote maturity and Christian freedom in the People of God.” As we Affiliates move into the third wave of mission, we take our place not ahead or behind our other Maryknoll family members, but together we live out our Gospel call.

Thanks, Papa Francisco for a fresh voice of support and direction.

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