Formation in the Philippines

by Guest Contributor
COLUMBAN HOUSE OF STUDIES IN MANILA, PHILIPPINES The Columban Formation Program in Manila is a multi-cultural and an international community. It consists of students from Fiji, Philippines, China, Myanmar, South Korea and Kiribati. Currently there are 20 students in total. There are seven Filipinos, seven from Myanmar, two from South Korea, three from Fiji and one from Kiribati. There are two students from Myanmar studying English for one year, five students are studying philosophy consisting of four Filipinos and one Kiribati. There are three Filipinos studying theology. All philosophy and theology students are currently studying at the Loyola School of Theology (LST) at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. The school is run by the Jesuit’s Province of the Philippines. In the spiritual year program, there are six students which consist of three from Myanmar, one from Fiji and two from South Korea. There are also four students who are in their First Missionary Assignment (FMA) at present, two students from Myanmar are in Fiji and two students from Fiji are in Peru. The formation staff consists of four Columban priests, one each from Ireland, South Korea, Tonga and the Philippines. The four staff members had supported Columban missions in Pakistan, Fiji, Taiwan and China before their current assignment in formation ministry at the International Columban Formation Program in Manila. School year 2018-2019 The duration of the formation program in Manila is about ten years. For those who come from China, South Korea and Myanmar, they are given six months to a year to study English depending on their level of English proficiency. There are two years for philosophy studies at the Loyola School of Theology in whom the students will get a certificate after completing the pre-theology studies program. After the completion of philosophy, the students will advance to the spiritual year program for ten months. This formation phase focuses mainly on deepening the spiritual life of the students with the ‘Ignatian Thirty Days Spiritual Exercises’, an important highlight of the program. This is supplemented with inter-novitiate programs focusing on human developments and on Columban histories and spiritualities. The next phase for the students is to apply for the Bachelor of Theology (STB) program at Loyola School of Theology. This is an ecclesiastical degree given to students who successfully completed the four years theology program. After completing the first two years of theology studies, the students are then assigned by the Columban General Council to go on First Missionary Assignment (FMA) to a Columban mission outside the Philippines. This phase of formation focuses on learning the language and culture of the country where the student is assigned, including the pastoral ministry that he will be assigned to by the Regional or Mission Unit leadership. When this phase is completed, the student will return to Manila to complete the last two years of his theological studies and to graduate. The final phase of the Columban Initial Formation program focuses on the student applying for permanent membership of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, deaconate ordination and finally ordination to priesthood. VOCATION MINISTRY IN THE PHILIPPINES The vocation team in the Philippines consists of one Filipino Columban priest and three lay vocation animators, with one working in Luzon with the priest while the other two are down in Mindanao. Their target audience for vocation recruitment is the young professionals. Their vocation efforts include promotional fliers, use of Facebook, specifically for vocation promotion, school and parish visitations and vocation videos from current students in the formation program. Usually, the interested candidates are invited to attend our ‘Come and See’ program and if they want to further their search and interest with the Columbans then they will be invited into the actual accompaniment program for a year. The candidates are given tasks to do during the accompaniment program and encouraged to share them with the vocation ministry team. The program also includes various workshops and seminars on relevant topics designed to deepen the candidates understanding of themselves and about the Columban missionary work and ministries in the Philippines. Once they complete the year accompaniment, they are then recommended by the vocation team to undertake psychological and medical tests and must sit an entrance exam to Loyola School of Theology. Lastly, they are presented before a panel of Columbans personnel in the final screening test. When they successfully complete all of the above requirements, the Regional Director of the Philippines makes his final decision whether to admit the candidates to the Columban formation program or not.