Formation is the training and accompaniment process which candidates undertake on their journey to becoming a professed Franciscan Friar in the Order of Friars Minor.
There are a number of stages from Inquiry through to the Initial Formation process up to Solemn Profession and to Ordination if it is being sought. Although each journey is unique, formation generally takes about five to seven years.
During this time the candidate will wish to know more about St Francis, the Franciscans, and himself. If, after a time, he feels called to join the fraternity, he will move on to a more structured period of vocational discernment.
With the guidance of a Vocation Director and other friars, the candidate will be helped to deepen his spiritual life within the Franciscan tradition. This time involves a series of formal interviews and assessments designed to assess readiness and suitability for the Franciscan way of life. Normally, the Order expects to know the candidate for at least twelve months.
Once he is accepted into the program, the candidate begins Postulancy, a “come and see” time of living, praying and sharing the Franciscan way of life where the candidate and the Franciscans come know each other better. This stage normally takes between 10 to 12 months to complete.
The Novitiate marks the formal entry into the Order. Central to this year is a prayer focused study of the evangelical counsels (vows) of poverty, chastity and obedience. In addition, study of the Rule and Life of the Friars Minor is undertaken. If, at the end of the year the novice and his formators discern that the novice is ready to profess vows, the novice asks permission from the Provincial Minister to make temporary profession of vows.
Moving into a formation community, the newly professed friar in ititial formation begins a three to six year term as a temporary professed brother, renewing his vows annually. He is given opportunities to develop theological, pastoral and spiritual skills needed for life and ministry as a friar. This may involve seminary studies, pastoral work and practical ministry or other educational qualifications according to his ability and intended ministry.
This is the ceremony at which the friar makes a public, final commitment to God through a life lived in poverty, chastity and obedience in the footsteps of St Francis who, in turn, had sought to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
If a friar in initial formation wishes to become a priest, there are additional studies and pastoral ministry placements. Normally, the decision to become a friar-priest is made prior to joining the Order or during the early stages of the formation period.
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