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Jean-Paul HOCH

Second-cycle Formation Communities


To Superiors of circumscriptions and those in charge of second-cycle formation communities

Dear Confreres,

During their session of autumn 2006, the General Council gave first appointments to 64 confreres who were finishing their initial formation (cf. Newsflash 166, September 1st, 2006). As in past years at this time, we would like to give you some supplementary information and a few reflections and recommendations regarding first appointments.


The table below gives a breakdown of the 64 first appointments made in 1966 regarding “continent of origin” and “ continent of appointment”.










America & the Caribbean



Indian Ocean, Asia, Oceania







This simple table tells us that:

- Africa is the continent of origin where most of the confreres on first appointment come from and where the Congregation continues to send the largest number of young confreres;

-The other continents continue to benefit from the sharing of personnel from other circumscriptions, especially those in Africa;

-The General Council is following the policy of strengthening the spiritan presence in the Americas, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, Asia and Oceania. It also ensures that the circumscriptions considered to be priorities which are not normally requested by young confreres receive the necessary personnel. Likewise, the Council is trying to ensure that circumscriptions which are relatively self-sufficient regarding personnel  receive confreres who originate in other circumscriptions.  

Improvement in procedures

The advice we gave in our previous circular was largely followed by the circumscriptions and this enabled the General Council to speed up its consultations regarding first appointments and make them more effective. Our thanks go to everybody concerned and we hope that the timetable and the rules of procedure will continue to be observed in the future.

  • Let us remind you briefly about the schedule and the procedure:

-         All the circumscriptions concerned send their requests for personnel and the files of the confreres seeking a first appointment to their correspondent  on the Council before September 15th;

-         The files requesting first appointment should contain;

·          A letter of request from the confrere;

·          The information concerning this confrere as requested on the form in the most recent edition of the Guide for Administrative relations with the Generalate (appendix 5.11 “The Candidate for first appointment”).

-         The superiors of the circumscriptions of origin must send a completed list for all the confreres (without exception) approaching the end of their initial formation. The names of those who will immediately proceed to further specialised formation must also be included, giving details of the nature and the place of the studies to be undertaken.

-         It is the responsibility of superiors of circumscriptions, with the help of their councils, to assist the young confreres to make a good discernment. This could include suggesting choices for their first appointment that did not appear on their original list; if this is the case, the superiors must dialogue with them, explain the reasons for their suggestions and assure themselves that the young confreres have accepted these new suggestions.

-         The General Council makes an explicit request to the superiors of circumscriptions not to pre-empt the decisions concerning first appointments – for example, by saying to the young confrere before the decision of the General Council has been made, “You will be going to this place or that place, you will be doing this or that”.

Dialogue with the Superior of the receiving Circumscription

The last General Chapter asked that the Superior of the receiving circumscription should be formally involved in the dialogue which precedes a first appointment (SRL 158.1): this decision has been  fully implemented by the General Council. But due to different interpretations of SRL 158.1, this new procedure has run into some difficulties. For example, must the major Superior of the receiving circumscription consult his council before giving his opinion? To consult the whole council could take some time, and it could also involve some qualms of conscience about revealing information of a very personal nature. The General Council does not feel that it needs to  legislate on this question; it has full confidence in the wisdom and prudence of the superiors concerned. You could also re-read what is said in the circular of 2005 regarding the dialogue with the receiving superior.

Importance of the discussion with the formators

The General Council gives much weight to the opinion of the formators, seeing that they are the best placed to know the qualities and limitations of the candidates. So the formators should not limit themselves to giving a few kind generalities regarding the confrere; they are expected to give opinions that will help to achieve a sound discernment.

The case of young confreres who do not seem to be ready for a first appointment ad extra

When the council of a circumscription, having listened to the formators, feels that a particular confrere is not yet ready for a first appointment ad extra (lack of maturity, problems in community, problems concerning religious life), they will avoid giving an appointment ad extra to this confrere in the mistaken belief that a change of country and culture will help him to resolve his problems more quickly. In general, experience has shown that the reverse is true: the problems get worse and, after some time, the first appointment has to be changed and the confrere sent back to his circumscription of origin.

First appointments and forward planning of personnel for initial formation

When a circumscription identifies a particular confrere as a potential formator or teacher, is it advisable to inform him in advance in the context of the length of his appointment and missionary experience, or is it better to remain silent and allow him to depart for this appointment without knowing that he might be required to return to his circumscription of origin within a few years? The advice of the General Council is as follows:

-         We must make a careful distinction between a future formator and a future teacher. For somebody who has the potential to be a good teacher, it is possible, or even desirable, that he begins he begins his specialised studies as soon as the initial formation is completed.

-         As regards a future formator, it is important that he first has a concrete missionary experience to show if indeed he has the required talents for the task. It will also allow him to have a personal experience of the life for which he will be training the young confreres who will be confided to him.

-         In general, it is often this contact with the concrete reality which brings out the latent talents of confreres and confirms their particular preferences.

-         To conclude, the General Council advises great care in orientating young confreres for the future; the aim is that these young men should arrive at their circumscriptions of first appointment with a determination to concentrate all their energy and enthusiasm on the missionary task ahead.

The need for initiative

Superiors of circumscriptions, who depend so much on the support of others to receive and retain needed spiritan personnel, should take steps to publicise their circumscriptions. As the Latin adage puts it, “Ignoti nulla cupido” (nobody desires what they do not know)! For example, when on holiday, they or their confreres could visit the formation communities and talk about the life and the needs of their circumscriptions. Attending the chapters of circumscriptions of origin is another opportunity for making themselves known. News circulars are also useful. Personnel are rather like money – they do not fall from heaven! Also, wherever possible, steps should be taken to start or intensify vocations work and the formation of future Spiritans from the circumscription itself.

Changing first appointments

In the course of 2006, the General Council changed the first appointments of 8 confreres. This represented 12.5% of the total number of 64. The General Council has been studying the changes of first appointments between 1992 and 2005: within these dates, 703 first appointments were made and 82 of them had to be changed before the completion of six years, i.e. 11.66%. It got no worse in 2006, but this phenomenon remains a cause for concern. Amongst the reasons for these changes of first appointment, we can distinguish “objective reasons” (problems of health, impossibility of obtaining visas, recall by the province of origin…) and “subjective reasons” (culture shock, difficulties with community life, unacceptable behaviour…). Of the 82 changes mentioned above, 57 were for “subjective “ and 25 for “objective” reasons. The General Council is continuing with this study and soon hopes to be able to draw some useful conclusions for the future.


The general statistics of the Congregation show that on January 1st, 2007, there were 2,914 Spiritans in all; this included 534 young professed members in temporary vows undergoing initial formation. If we add postulants, students in first cycle and novices, the total of young people preparing for spiritan life is around 900. We all realise that this is both a tremendous blessing and a heavy responsibility. The future profile of the Congregation will depend mainly on the way in which we form these young people today and pass on our own missionary enthusiasm. For all our circumscriptions, vocations work and initial formation are, and will remain, primary responsibilities. So we a grateful to all those confreres who agree to devote themselves to these tasks and the many people who help us through their prayers and generosity to prepare the spiritan missionary of tomorrow. 

Mike Onwuemelie,

General Assistant in charge of appointments

Jean-Paul Hoch,

Superior General




Missionary Priorities


Some precisions regarding the election of a Superior of a Circumscription or a Superior of a Region

To Superiors of circumscriptions and those in charge of second-cycle formation communities

To all confreres to whom the Superior General, with the consent of his Council, has given a first appointment

Superiors of Circumscriptions Directors of Houses of Formation

Some Precisions Regarding the Election of a Superior of a Circumscription and a Superior of a Region


Preparation for the next Enlarged General Council





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