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Bishop: ‘Be configured to Christ’

Bishop: ‘Be configured to Christ’

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, chairman of the CBCP’s Commission on Seminaries, delivers his talk during the International Theological Forum held at the Ateneo de Manila University, March 15, 2018. PHOTO COURTESY OF EUGENE PARAYAOAN

By Roel Joe Abonal

March 16, 2018

MANILA, Philippines

To be “configured to Christ” is the aim of priestly and religious formation for it ushers in a renewed clergy and renewed country, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, chairman of the CBCP’s Commission on Seminaries, said this configuration to Christ means asking not what they stand to gain, but what they can give for Him and for others.

“A renewed clergy is needed for a renewed church and a renewed church is vital for a renewed country. Formation is so crucial,” he said during the International Theological Forum in Leong Hall of the Ateneo de Manila University on Thursday.

But the question, he said, is how to accompany those undergoing formation so they become fully configured to Christ.

He said that in the light of the “New Ratio”, an updated instrument for the formation of priests issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, configuration to Christ does not end in seminary formation.

According to him, formation continues even when one is ordained or already in the ministry.

The New Ratio, he furthered, has divided priestly formation into initial formation stage which is the seminary formation and the ongoing formation stage when one is already a priest.

Lamenting that the ongoing formation has been “equated” for occasional updating, he emphasized that configuration to Christ is “continuous.”

“A priest is in a work in progress,” Alminaza said.

He noted that most priests are sent for further studies to become theologians, philosophers and canon lawyers but “not many are trained to become spiritual directors and counselors.”

The prelate acknowledged that there are shifts in focus in doing ministry nowadays.

“Our ministry is accompaniment. [Then], we must have an experience of how it is to be accompanied,” said Alminaza.

For Eva Galvey, co-founder of the Emmaus Center for Psycho-Spiritual Formation, it is important that seminaries and formation houses must foster a safe environment where formands are encouraged to be “real.”

She said that since candidates want to be ordained, they seem to show an “ideal self” while hiding their “woundedness.”

“It is very important that at the beginning you are allowed to reveal your real self. It is in the acknowledgement of your woundedness that redemption, healing takes place,” the veteran spiritual director said.

With 36 years of experience in accompanying seminarians and religious, Galvey emphasized that prayer is very crucial in formation.

“I think configuration to Christ happens in prayer,” she said.

She also noted that configuration to Christ is having a personal relationship with Him and this is achieved through prayer.

“We do not become like Christ by just believing that Christ is merciful. Configuration is a result of personal intimacy. When we constantly engage with that person, you begin to put on the heart and mind of that person,” she said.

The International Theological Forum is a two-day event organized by the Jesuit-run Loyola School of Theology since 2015. This year’s theme is “Formation for Ministry in 21st Century Asian Contexts” on the occasion of the CBCP Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Life.

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