Vocation Promotion & Formation

Importance and Urgency

The importance and urgency of action to develop and implement a program of formation for LEADERSHIP and GOVERNANCE is attested to by the high priority given to this matter by the members of the province; and the personal and professional experience of the members of the ‘Formation Commission’. The ‘Formation Commission’ firmly believes that a well-developed program of formation for leadership and governance is not only essential for the successful formation of the Jesuits i.e. our province men toward a healthy religious and Jesuit lifestyle, but is critical for the future of the apostolic mission and Jesuit identity in the Sri Lankan Province. It is considered and strongly-held opinion of the ‘Formation Commission’ that the future and all planning efforts are at great risk without significant action to address this need.

The Context of Formation and Religious Ministry

The Jesuits are being prepared to minister as ‘contemplatives’ in the world of today. This presents a series of challenges to those responsible for formation, and for those in formation. We list here some features, aspects and problems of the world today which must be taken into account in the preparation of Jesuits who are to be effective, faithful ministers of the Gospel.

• The image of the ‘religious’ today: Many are asking questions about the quality of the Jesuits, and hence also about the quality of their formation. What has gone wrong in the formation? Indeed while it has always been a challenge to form quality Jesuits, never is that more true than today.

• The media bombard us with sex and violence: Promiscuous sex, divorce, the breakdown of the family, infidelity would almost seem to be normal and the rule, if one goes by the television screen. Celibacy is not given high regard. Surely these views impact upon the youth of today.

• The rate of change in the world continues to increase, so that the Jesuits must be able to cope with change and development, with fast moving, shifting, and highly technological cultures.

• The Catholic laity is more highly educated than ever, and this education now begins to include religious or theological education in Christian faith. The religious are no longer the only expert on religious matters, and the laity rightfully expresses their views on topics of religion and mission.

• Pope Francis speaks frequently of the ‘culture of death’ and ‘culture of violence’ that is in battle with a culture of life and wins out over a culture of dialogue. The Jesuits must be able to enter into constructive dialogue with individuals and groups.

• In the country i.e. Sri Lanka, corruption - at all levels - is more the rule than the exception. This sometimes even finds its way into the church. Transparency, honesty, and accountability, never easy to achieve, must become the hallmark of the church.

• Fundamentalist tendencies in religions seem to be growing rather than diminishing in Sri Lanka. Religious conflict replaces understanding and dialogue. Yet the Catholic Church stands and must stand on the principle of dialogue and the search for common understanding.

• Mass poverty: In the light of the Gospel, in the light of the Second Vatican Council, the Church cannot stand by idly where many are hungry, unemployed, homeless, refugees or lack of education and health care facilities. • The strong winds of change call for moves to true democracy to replace authoritarian, military, self-imposed and self-perpetuating rulers. The desire for democracy also affects how the Society of Jesus in Sri Lanka Province operates. The laity rightfully calls for a stronger voice in how the Church is organized and guided.

Present Structure of Formation in the Province

The members of the Jesuit Province of Sri Lanka see the formation as very important part in the life of a Jesuit. Formation is growth and formation is for life. It is for this reason formative stages are to be viewed as a progressive journey of TRANSFORMATION of the whole person and it demands personal attention, methods and skills which are able to respond to the concrete human, cultural and spiritual situations. It means building up religious who are strong enough to face the challengers of life in society and work for the needy.

We are well aware that many of us are losing our zeal in align with the worldliness that has caught into our lives. Today the church needs leaders who are really deep into the spirit. Church needs healers, reconcilers rooted in Gospel values, living in faith in today‘s reality to make the life of Christ more visible tangible in the realities of today.

The greatest reform, therefore, is the radical living of the Gospel. The Church will become more human – making Jesus alive today. The church a community of humanity (healing reconciling, building) upholding the dignity of every human person. Therefore, a ‘Justice’ oriented apostolic mission is the need of our time. Mission orients us, motivates us and unites us and is the reference point of all our decisions and actions. The sign of hope is that - we believe in the resurrection of Jesus and it is a challenge to participate more fully in the death and resurrection of Jesus to live the Eucharistic life. We are called to witness to the merciful love of God through our lives and bridging communion wherever we are as Jesuits.

It is, therefore, time for us Jesuits in the Sri Lankan Province to rethink our own Formation to the universalizing God‘s mission through the Church; and to search for new paths through which we can live out our solidarity with the most deprived for new society: a new ministry for a renovated church that can face unexpected situations and unbearable changes. This demands we give importance to spiritual growth rather than mere developmental of skills. What the province need is a dynamics formation structure. Problem in letting go of structures, fear of the unknown, difficulties in crossing the boundaries are some of the obstacles we face. Therefore, we need to remind ourselves our simple beginning, in order to come back to its original. If the Society’s i.e. Jesuit culture is lived in all honesty no doubt it will support spiritual development.

Now to make this a reality:

> Enable the Jesuits to witness to a life of contemplation in action. Guide them to deepen their call to consecrated life, to the demands of the gospel, and to be faithful to the charism of the Society of Jesus, spirit and mission of the Society of Jesus.
> It is Society‘s duty to convince those who are in formation that the congregation is the place where they can live their faith-justice option for the poor and the marginalized.
> Create awareness on issues that demands justice: Issues of poverty/ Gender equality/ Ecology / Media.
> In all the choices and decisions we must have the poor as our central focus.

Therefore, the Society must make sure:

> That those who are in formation are able to learn to listen to the realities of the world, the cry of the poor and to reach out to them with love and compassion.
> As such, they will be accompanied in their involvements through personal contacts and correspondence and provide information that will encourage them.
> Assistance will be provided in the choice of studies, professional/theological and cultural formation necessary for responding to the needs and challenges of contemporary society by way of courses, conferences, counseling and workshops.
> Recruitment and vocation promotion is an urgent and serious task that we set priority: form a strong recruitment team.

Our Program for the Formation of Jesuits for Leadership and Governance

The five unique pillars of formation are to be integrated in the life of each candidate. Those pillars include:

1. Intellectual Formation: intended to enable the Jesuits, through a long esteemed adherence in the Church to the marriage of faith and reason, to be a teacher of truth; he is to reveal Jesus to others, the real face of God, in the ministry of the word and to give an account for their hope in Jesus, and to appreciate the genuine richness of authentic Church Tradition

2. Pastoral Formation: whose aim is to see that the Jesuits ministerial activity, in imitation of Jesus, is carried out with grace and charity, i.e. the Jesuits‘ call is to discern, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, peoples‘ real needs, and to meet them, as he is able, in a most suitable manner.

3. Spiritual Formation: the proper spiritual life presumes meditation before and, after pastoral activity; it presumes a full prayer life drawing upon the rich spiritual tradition and forms of prayer in the Church, primarily of course, the Eucharist, and it assumes a personal encounter with the Trinity, from whom all graces flow.

4. Human Formation: this insists on no small modicum of human sensitivity on the part of the Jesuits. In other words, the Jesuits must be able to compassionately respond to the hopes and expectations, the burdens, sufferings and joys of his flock. The icon (window) through which he must look to see how this is done most effectively is the most genuine expression of what it means to be human, Jesus, the one whom the Jesuits are to imitate in all he says and does.

5. Faith-justice and Social-cultural formation: which has a sort of ―priority‖ among the pillars of formation— able to live a life of service to the community - able to read the signs of the times, able to live and love the missionary dimension of the Church

Purpose and Goal

Because all the Jesuits will exercise formal and informal authority by virtue of apostolic vows and by virtue of role, the Jesuits seek to prepare mature, balanced and mission-based men to exercise this authority. By ―authority‖ we mean here the conferral of power in exchange for service to an institution or individuals.


Unlike a business model of matching personal leadership aspirations with organizational needs, this model seeks to enhance the availability of the Jesuits for mission: for being sent and being sent effectively. Therefore, both the program and the outcomes are grounded in these key values:

1) Our Society‘s founder and Legacy
2) Being men of the Church
3) Servant Leadership
4) Diversity and Inclusivity
5) Prayer and Discernment
6) Life-Long Formation
7) Openness to New Challenges & Horizons
8) Beyond one‘s comfort zone

Men Being Formed

The men in formation come from a great diversity of backgrounds, a wide spectrum of experience and training, and a broad range of ages. Because of this, a one-size-fits-all formation program would be neither desirable nor effective. The men will start in different places, progress at different paces, and learn in different ways. Such variety, however, does not mean that there cannot be pre-requisites and standards for formation in leadership and governance; indeed, a successful program hinges on such pre-requisites and standards. But for our Jesuits, success will come through a diversity of paths.

Leadership competencies may take the form of virtues (e.g., generosity), dispositions (e.g. openness) or skills (e.g., leading prayer). While we can form people in virtues, build on their dispositions and teach them skills, we can only do so if the person is pre-disposed to be formed and trained in these, and demonstrates the capacity to undertake such formation and training. A successful formation program will assume neither that it is working with a blank slate nor that it can effect remediation for those lacking in core pre-dispositions and capacities. Rather, it will ensure from the very start that those being formed possess the necessary prerequisites for successful formation.

Assuming these pre-requisites then, we can understand growth in competencies as progressive stages leading to mastery. This mastery includes broadening one‘s facility with various competencies for a variety of settings depending upon the locus of the learning activities. For example, skills in personal self-expression might be broadened to include faith-sharing skills in community life, skills in apostolic life, and visioning skills in organizational leadership. Mastery, then, is not just about vertical progression; it is also about horizontal expansion of individual skills to include community and apostolic life manifestations. Such expansion need not always be sequential; there can be simultaneous growth in the individual, communal and apostolic dimensions of many competencies.

Even so, no single person will possess the capacity for mastery of all desired leadership competencies in every setting. However, that should not preclude formation to at least a level of minimal competency in those areas where a person‘s individual gifts, personality and opportunities make mastery unlikely. Further, there are some competencies that are so critical to our religious identity and mission that mastery of them ought to be considered benchmark standards at specified transitions in the formation process. While the ‘Formation Commission’ does not define which competencies fit into this benchmark category, it does believe that agreement on and enforcement of benchmarks will be necessary for the success of the formation program.

The ‘Formation Commission’ has identified formation in these areas of leadership competencies as important for all the Jesuits:

• Commitment to Life-long Personal Growth through Discernment
• Understanding of the Core Concepts and Dynamics of Leadership and Authority
• Ecclesial Skills
• Communication Skills
• Social Skills
• Relationship Skills
• Management Skills
• Disciplined Personal Habit
• Skills in Self-Care

Formation Process

1. Assessment of each candidate at the time of application and acceptance in regard to his pre-disposition to and capacity for formation in leadership and governance according to the program outlined here. II. A formal introduction to leadership and the exercise of authority as well as the Society of Jesus’ expectations for formation in this area during novitiate (2nd year) that would culminate in a formal assessment of leadership skills and identification of areas for growth and development for each person.
2. Development by each person of an individual leadership formation program and portfolio as part of the process of approval for vows; the portfolio will travel with the person through final vows and be updated regularly.
3. Personal and intentional initiative by each man to complete his program through an ongoing ―action plan‖ that takes advantage of a variety of opportunities found in programs, ministerial activities and personal experiences. This ―action plan‖ is updated periodically.
4. Supervision to provide support, direction, updating and accountability in an ongoing way (at the local level by superiors and directors of works) and at key transitions (by the director of formation).
5. Annual self-evaluation, followed by conversation with one‘s local superior and supervisor.
6. Formal mentoring at every stage.
7. Assessment that includes a variety of evaluative tools, decisions at key transition points and clear inter- and intra-stage coordination and communication.


The ‘Formation Commission’ envisions four basic kinds of program opportunities for this formation:

1. Common Programs for All: These would be programs that virtually all Jesuits who are in formation would complete successfully, usually at fixed times (or before advancing to a next Stage in formation). Examples of this might be the three-credit course in leadership theory offered in one location.
2. Programs Created by the Marketplace: Because of the demand created by younger Jesuits, social centers or individuals would likely create programs to meet these demands that the Jesuits might choose to participate in. Examples might include workshop in board membership or a summer workshop in social animation and management.
3. Outside Programs: Jesuits would take advantage of any number of established outside programs to meet formation needs. Examples might include workshops and immersion programs.
4. Individualized Programs: In each of his assignments, a Jesuit would intentionally seek out and negotiate opportunities and formal mentoring to pursue formation in leadership and governance.

The Key is Accountability

Accountability involves, but is not limited to, evaluations and decisions about each Jesuit at key formation stages and transitions. Accountability includes:

- Accountability to Self
- Accountability to immediate supervisors or program directors
- Accountability to peers
- Accountability to religious superiors
- Accountability to the director of formation

Progress in formation for leadership and governance will be formally assessed and evaluated as follows:

- At the time of application: to assess pre-dispositions and capacities;
- Toward the end of novitiate: to develop the Individual Leadership Formation Program and Portfolio and create a first action plan;
- At key transitions: to facilitate decisions (i.e., about moving forward; staying put; remediation; or consideration of another vocation) and to update the action plan. In addition, there will be an ongoing informal dialogue and annual formal review with one‘s local superior and professional supervisor.

Tools for Assessment and Evaluation will include:

- An instrument for annual self-assessment.
- Information (which would include explicit questions about formation for leadership and governance and formal feedback on these).
- An instrument for periodic 360 degree evaluation.

The Proposed Formation Program

Our Formation Houses

- St. Xavier’s Candidate House, Akkarapanaha, Negombo – Candidate House
- St. Michael’s Residence, Batticaloa – Candidate House
- Jesuit Pre-Novitiate, Trincomalee
- Jesuit Noviciate, Kurunegala
- Jesuit Juniorate, Daham Sihila, Dalugama, Kelaniya
- Jesuit Scholasticate for Theological Studies (Online Learning), Vavuniya
- Jesuit Tertianship, Arrupe House, Lewella, Kandy

Prepared by Roy Fernando SJ on behalf of the Formation Commission Team