Frank Hoare MSSC writes about his experience of Columban Formation.
“I discovered a deeper meaning in the Our Father when I became a father myself,” said the Anglican vicar to me. I had just invited him to attend my first Mass after ordination. I believe he was just sharing something of his spiritual experience with me but it reminded me that as a Catholic priest I would never be a father.
Since my ordination I have been a missionary in Fiji. I have worked in parishes, taught in the seminary, evangelized among the ethnic Indian people and organized lay leadership courses. I am very grateful for my experiences and my life.
A Hindu man who used to often join our little prayer group once surprised me years ago when he said, “It is right that we call you ‘Father.’ You left your country, you gave up a good job and a family, and you came here to show us the way to God. You are indeed a father to us.”
I have been in charge of the Formation Program in Fiji for our seminarians from the Pacific for the past three years. Not all our students are here in Fiji. Some are doing studies in the Philippines and some are in a mission country gaining overseas experience and training.
Formators encourage seminarians to do their best in their study of philosophy and theology. We try to help our students to know themselves and their motivation more deeply. We guide their prayer and worship so that they come closer to God. We organize pastoral placements and help them to reflect on their experience and discover the skills to help people spiritually.
I actually feel that I am like a father to these young men – supporting, correcting and caring for them. We have guidelines for living together. But I have to trust them and give them freedom to make choices and decisions and then help them to reflect and learn from the outcomes.
I have made some mistakes and apologized for them. I have enjoyed the banter at table. I have admired the good qualities I have seen in these young men and I have great hopes that they will make good missionary priests in the future.
I think I can say the Our Father, understanding something of its meaning too.
Frank Hoare supports the Columban Formation programme in Suva, Fiji.