Over the past two years of unprecedented challenges, the Order has continued many of its key works, including the critical one of formation of our candidates. For two years, the Formation Committee found ways to present information and allow for discussion and building community via Zoom. Necessity can be the perfect impetus for a creative plan of action, and that was what unfolded in 2020 and 2021 for our candidates. Formation Committee members continued in their roles as additional mentors to the candidates, with an added focus ensuring that sponsors truly understood their key role in the process.
In 2022, Formation was held on March 11 and 12, with a total of 35 candidates from 17 regions during an in-person Formation Weekend. The John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC was a welcoming space for the sessions. The beautiful spaces alongside the church and chapel were adorned with unique mosaics created by the Rev. Marko Rupnik, the same artist who designed the Rose Chapel in Lourdes. The beauty within the shrine enriched the spiritual dimension of the gathering. It provided a wonderful backdrop to come together as a spiritual community.
The venue for this particular formation class could not be outdone in terms of blessings as many candidates alongside knights and dames participated in a plenary indulgence opportunity, which accompanies those who visit the chapel inside the National Shrine. It is truly a spiritually moving experience.
The formation program, regardless of whether it is in person or via Zoom, is designed to help candidates focus on discerning their call by better understanding both the spiritual and the works dimensions of the Order. As part of this year’s in-person program, participants joined to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and participate in Mass. During the information sessions, presentations ranged from in-depth discussions of the history of the Order to its current works. The program also covered governance of the Order at the international, national, and regional levels These presentations were designed to help candidates understand the scope of the Order beyond their region as an international organization, and also to allow unique bonding experiences with candidates and sponsors.
Some of the sessions were presented in an interview or storytelling style, and there was also a panel discussion to close out our blustery, snow-filled day in March. There will be two additional meetings over the next few months to build on the weekend and help candidates understand the next steps as they continue to discern their call.
What is felt in the heart by intention can sometimes be heard in the words of others. The unofficial polling done by the Chicago Region confirms the success of the Order’s commitment to the formation of its members. All preferred the in-person formation weekend. Also, their answers were uncannily similar in regard to what was most memorable for them: the presentations surrounding the actual prayer of the Order, the history of the Order by Dr. Henry Hull, alongside the distinct prayer life of the Order in communion.
March 11 may have marked the beginning of formation for the class of 2023, but it’s a process that lasts a lifetime for all who make the solemn promise, to tend to “our lords, the poor and the sick.”