The first stage upon entering is called the Postulancy. It has as its objective to prepare the postulant (or seminarian) for entry to the Novitiate (which is the next stage in formation). It offers the possibility of growing as a man and a Christian, clarifying your own vocational motivations in an environment of freedom and responsibility. This pre-supposes a certain flexibility of structures and programs according to one’s educational level upon entering, and a personalized formative accompaniment which respects the times, rhythms, and growth of each candidate. The principle objective is to permit the postulant a free and responsible choice of entering or not entering the Comboni Novitiate.
It is a time of getting to know the Comboni way of life that includes community prayer and ministry. Candidates for the priesthood will finish their philosophy studies at this time and will finish a bachelor’s degree if they do not already have one. Brother candidates will finish a professional degree or certificate if they do not have one already.
Missionary awareness and interest, the sense of solidarity and the desire to share the life and lot of the poor, are values that must be encouraged and deepened during the Postulancy. Accepting the missionary vocation as a gratuitous gift of God who calls, the postulant chooses to remain with Christ in order to be transformed by Him and sent to bring Good News to the poor.
This is an 18-month period that has as its fundamental aim your prayer life and is the same for both priest and brother candidates. The Novitiate leads to the attainment of a clear consecrated identity to God the Father for missionary service. There is no formal study done at this time. It is divided into three sections:
1. The first part is an experience of intense prayer - we call this the desert period, understood as a dimension of life that includes an environment that facilitates the encounter with God and the encounter with oneself, in recollection and solitude. It has prayer as your main activity, which includes time for reading and reflection, there is time given to some apostolic work but this is not the focus. St. Daniel Comboni believed that the missionary must be an “active contemplative.” Prayer is our strength; there is a time for adoration and a time for active work. Specific contents are also presented for personal reflection and together in community, for example; the Word of God, the founder - St. Daniel Comboni and the Rule of Life, documents of the Church (especially regarding mission).
2. The other two moments are periods of apostolic activity and of community experience - usually placed together to form one period. These periods could take place in another country for a mission experience. The objectives include; greater vocational identification, the interiorization of values such as community and personal prayer, community life, consecrated life and missionary service, the ability to integrate contemplation with action, the ability to work in a team and to depart in the service of the most poor (in one’s own country and in a different culture), the ability to live in simplicity and austerity and at times a certain discomfort.
3. The Novitiate ends with making your first temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. These are then renewed annually as you continue to the Scholasticate (for the priesthood) or to a Brother’s International Center - both of which are communities of young religious of different nationalities, united by the same missionary consecration and guided by a team of formation directors.
At this point of your discernment, you enter more deeply into the religious life as a vowed religious - renewing your vows each year. This is a 4-5 year period marked by theology studies.
We have 8 theologates (communities of theology students) at different Catholic universities in different countries and languages. The main activity is your study with some type of apostolic activity as part of the program. The scholasticate ends with making final vows and ordination to the deaconate (the deaconate will last a minimum of 6 months). Normally you will return to your home country while you are still a deacon, in preparation for your ordination to the priesthood.
The MCCJ ask that we study theology in a language different from our first language (your mother tongue). It is always a help for the missionary to learn a language well. This is an opportunity to do that. Theologates are often an introduction to living in an international context since students that make up the community are coming from different countries. It is a rich experience of faith sharing!
After your ordination, you will be given your first assignment in the mission. The Comboni General Council in Rome asks that you make three choices of where you would like to go and they will work with that. It is the work of the General Council to oversee where these newly ordained go - this is why three choices are asked. If many are asking to go to the same place as a first choice, decisions need to be made regarding the needs of mission sites and you may be given your second or third choice. There are missionaries of course, who simply ask to go where there is the greatest need!
The Brother’s International Center:
This period normally lasts for two years. There are two brother’s centers to choose from, one in Nairobi, Kenya and the other in Bogota, Colombia.
The fundamental objectives that characterize the centers are; the growth in fidelity to the Lord and the consecrated missionary life, a strong sacramental/liturgical experience, the preparation for missionary service by means of study/and or professional work, the concrete experience of community life, the deepened experience of internationality and pastoral initiation through apostolic activity.
The first duty is contemplation and union with God in prayer, living contemplation as the ability to walk in the presence of the Lord, to recognize him present in the religious and Christian community, in the events of history and as a commitment to work for justice and fraternity.
The brothers attend courses organized by the local schools and the center’s programs of theological, missionary and professional formation are continued. Work helps the brothers to re-think their formation in missionary terms, adapting it to the real possibilities of the environment and learning new ways to become agents of human promotion with the project of development of the local church.
The relationship between work and study may have different rhythms and is determined by each center on the basis of concrete situations and in agreement with the brother.
Community life of the brother’s centers permits each one to grow in self-sacrificing love, indispensable for his continual human and Christian growth, for his fidelity and vocational perseverance, for the fruitfulness and efficacy of his service to the mission.