OCDS Questions and Answers

To ask a question please send an email to any of the OCDS Provincial Council members of the California-Arizona Province of St. Joseph. They are listed on our website in the contacts http://www.ocds.info/.

May 30, 2010

Initial Inquiry to Carmel

Q – How are communities to handle persons who are making an initial inquiry to Carmel? Are they considered Aspirants? What do we call them? How do we handle their entry into a formation period? Doesn’t it seem that a good screening process in the beginning would alleviate some problems down the road?

A – People who are asking about the Secular Order life can be called inquirers. Each community or group has its own way of getting to know inquirers and of introducing them to meetings. Our new vocation brochure is an excellent tool for answering inquirers’ questions. But personal contact is always best. It is always preferable to get to know an inquirer before inviting her/him to attend a meeting. Otherwise, it might be difficult to tell the person that you do not feel she/he has a calling to your community/group. Ideally, inquirers should be able to attend monthly meetings, except for the formation classes. That is how they really get to know us, and that is how we really get to know them. Ideally, it is not good to make an inquirer wait too many months before formal classes would begin for a group of inquirers. We can lose good inquirers if we make them wait too long for classes to begin for them.

Procedures Manual

Q – We hear that the Provincial Council is working on a procedures manual. Please elaborate on this. What will it address? When will it be done?

A – It is taking us a long time to work on this procedures manual because we want it to be succinct. We want it to be a practical help to the Province, and not a burden. This Procedures Manual would not be a Legislative Document, but rather a reference. These are the topics probably to be covered in our Procedures Manual: categories of membership (active, infirm, extended, inactive); leave of absence; excused absence; establishing an OCDS bank account; secretarial duties; the OCDS religious title; retreat planning; sample monthly meetings; index to Constitutions; index to Provincial Statutes.

Encouraging Long-Time Members

Q – For those long-time members who have displayed a reluctance in trying to learn the new Constitutions and cooperate during the Ongoing Formation class, what approach should be taken in order to encourage them to be involved and participate?

A – These are years of transition between the old Rule of Life and our 2003 Constitutions. Keep emphasizing to long-time members the importance of docility, teachability, and growth at every stage of the spiritual life. The Pharisees thought they knew it all and did not need to change. We too can unconsciously slip into that way of thinking.

Central Office Dues

Q – When do we send our dues to the Central Office? February or June?

A – Dues should be sent to the Central Office early in the year.

Non-Carmelite Topics for Ongoing Formation

Q – What are your thoughts on the Definitives in their Ongoing Formation class choosing a topic that is not Carmelite and not a Church document, but is a Bible study available in parishes, i.e., one of the “Little Rock” studies?

A – In the Ongoing Formation class, there is flexibility for members to choose a discussion topic that supports their Carmelite formation. However, not too much time should be spent on a topic that is extraneous to Carmelite spirituality and our Formation Guidelines. What is best is that the Definitives agree on a topic that they did not cover adequately the first time around. As we prepare for the 500th Centenary of the Birth of St. Teresa, the Definitives in quite a number of communities have decided to discuss the different works of St. Teresa which they could not cover adequately in their initial formation classes.

Attendance at Council Meetings

Q – If the Formation Director is married to a councilor and the councilor feels it is not necessary to be at council meetings, is that not acceptable? Is a husband/wife dynamic in a council not a good idea?

A – There are cases in our Province where a husband and wife (or other close relatives) are members of the council. They themselves need to realize what a delicate, prudent balance they must keep in order not to monopolize the council—and community. In the same way, the other councilors must speak the truth in love in order to keep a husband and wife from dominating the council—and community. Each councilor should attend council meetings. It is not acceptable that one spouse on a council not attend council meetings. A clique in a council is not a sign of a healthy council. Fr. Aloysius has written forcefully on this. In our Formation Guidelines, see his talk, “The Beatitudes as Integral Part of the Promise,” p. 66

Responsibilities of the Spiritual Assistant

Q – What are the responsibilities of the Spiritual Assistant in a community?

A – The Spiritual Assistant’s responsibilities are outlined very clearly in the OCDS Constitutions (#43-44) and in the “Provincial Statutes” (Sec. XVII)

Speak the Truth in Love

Q – Our Formation Director overwhelms the members with much religious information not relevant to the subject we are discussing. How can we voice our concerns without hurting her emotionally?

A – In a healthy council or group, members must speak the truth in love. When any member—Formation Director, President, or anyone else—is overwhelming the members, this must be firmly brought to her/his attention. Each council member plays an important part to bring balance and direction to the council. In our Formation Guidelines, see Fr. Aloysius’ talk, “The Beatitudes as Integral Part of the Promise,” p. 66

Opening a Bank Account

Q – Will Thomas tell us about tips on opening a bank account?

A – It is much easier to open a non-interest bearing checking account. Our Procedures Manual will deal with this subject.

Relationship with our Bishops - part II

Q – Can the bishop tell you what apostolate you should have?

A – Not per se, since we are under the Friars.

Fr. Deeney said, during his conference at the Congress in New Orleans in 2002: “Remember, the Church tells the Order what the Order is – the Order doesn’t tell the Church what the Order is! The Order is part of the Church and when the Church comes along with different legislation, different documents, different understandings, then we have to respond to what the Church says about us and sometimes that means big change. When Pope Paul VI was Cardinal Montini, Archbishop of Milan, he asked the General of the Order, Fr. Anastasius, later Cardinal Ballestrero of Turin, if Carmelites would take parishes in his diocese and Fr. Anastasius, speaking on behalf of the Order said: ‘No! Carmelites do not take parishes.’ But when Cardinal Montini became Pope Paul VI he said to Cardinal Ballestrero: ‘You’re going to take parishes’,.Cardinal Ballestrero replied: ‘Yes, your Holiness!’ And today, the Order has 223 parishes in the world! The Order responds to the Church, hears what the Church has to say and then accepts – that’s who we are, that’s what we do, that’s how we live.”

Relationship with our Bishops - part I

Q – What relationship do we have with our bishop?

A – Canon law states that religious orders must obey the bishop in each diocese. For a group to be canonically established, you must have the permission of the bishop.

We are under the jurisdiction of the Carmelite Friars, not the bishop – but we must obey our bishops under canon law. They must agree to have the Carmelite presence in their dioceses.

Scapulars - part II

Q – When do we wear our large scapulars?

A – See page 61, Sec. V:4 “The large scapular may be worn externally on Solemnities or Feasts of the Discalced Carmelite Order and at Carmelite meetings and events.” The Council decides regarding each community.

Scapulars - part I

Q – Should our Brown scapulars be plain or is it ok if they are decorated?

A – see http://www.icspublications.org/bookstore/others/b_others13.html

and http://carmelitanacollection.com/catechesis.html

We generally try to keep it simple and plain. The size matters too, so we do not have a scapular the size of the friars. The maximum size is 9” x 7”. You do not need to get rid of any scapular you already have, especially the one in which you were clothed. Eventually you will need to replace it when it gets worn, and when you do, get one that is plain and simple.


Q – What support can we give our Spiritual Assistants regarding the vows?

A – He should see our Legislative Documents. See page 89 in the Ritual, “Instruction of the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelites.” Also see page 93A-1, “Vows in the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites,” by Fr. Michael Buckley, OCD.”

Recommended Book

Q – Could you please tell us the name of the book you referred to earlier that has bios of several of our Carmelite Saints?

A – Carmelite Spirituality in the Teresian Tradition, by Paul-Marie of the Cross, OCD (ICS Publications) http://www.icspublications.org/bookstore/others/b_others02.html

Replacing a Council Member

Q – How do you replace a council member mid-term?

A – You do not have an election, because the Council itself decides; after, of course, consulting with the person being considered. (See Constitutions #47d.)

Historical Foundation of the Order

Q – Where can you find resources necessary to teach the historical foundation of the order?

A – Thomas Moore’s CD was sent with the master copy of our Legislative Documents to each community. It is the beginning of a book he has compiled. It has a lot of valuable information. He will send you a copy and your only payment must be to make a donation to the House of Studies in Mt Angel, Oregon, or to the Provincial office in Redlands.

There have been numerous articles in the Carmelite Digest. You can contact them for back issues.

A couple of other good sources are:

Journey to Carith- http://www.icspublications.org/bookstore/others/b_others10.html

Teresian Carmel: Pages of History http://www.ocd.pcn.net/histo_1.htm

Apostolate - part II

Q – What are your communities doing?

A – Our action/apostolate comes out of our contemplative prayer if we are in tune with and listening to the Holy Spirit, and if we have in our mind that we really want to follow God’s will.

Be available to your parish for anything that has to do with prayer. There are all kinds of people seeking information or instruction in prayer. Run courses in prayer – it is simple!

You could be a Communion minister, an RCIA catechist, or even lead a prayer group, etc.

The 2009 OCDS Baltimore Congress suggested daily prayer for individual priests.

An Indonesian OCDS put together manuals or books printed with our Rule/Constitutions, etc. The Friars in Baltimore asked why don’t Seculars assist more with spiritual literature.

You could tape the spiritual discussion from your meeting and then send it to those who have missed the meetings (for a legitimate reason, not as an ongoing practice).

In San Francisco, the Cristo Rey community’s Mary Stutin puts out a monthly calendar with photos and information on the Friars in the province to encourage others to pray for priests and for vocations.

Although it may not be active, you can send money to support the Carmelites: – the House of Prayer in Oakville, the House of Studies in Mt Angel, our Mission in Uganda, etc.

Those who are techno savvy may develop materials to help those who struggle with hearing or sight (or language).

Apostolate - part I

Q – What is meant by an apostolate of an individual and/or community?

A – This is something with which everyone is struggling. The apostolate of a community or group is something it has decided they are going to do as a result of their prayer.

One example: I belong to a small community in Idaho – our community Apostolate is a Carmelite retreat held in the even years. We reserve a certain number of seats for a silent retreat and welcome anyone who wants to attend. If they have insufficient funds, we offer scholarships so they may attend. It began originally hoping to receive vocations through it, but we have been doing it for six to seven times or so and, in that time period, have only received one vocation.

The individual apostolate can vary greatly. It also ought to be something that results from that individual’s prayer. As contemplative pray-ers, it does not mean we always sit in the corner and pray for the church or for priests or that type of prayer. Some people cling to the notion that that is their apostolate. If people are truly praying contemplatively, God will sooner or later jerk them out into the market place to do something; maybe something pro-life, or maybe something small, but God works with every individual where they are and who they are. One community has around seventeen professed members. One professed member is very strong in the pro-life movement and originally came to the community with an agenda of making all members pro-lifers, trying to get everyone else on board, but each person is different and must pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is telling him or her.

Extending Formation

Q – When is a good time to extend formation versus saying no?

A – This came up when the Provincial Statutes were being developed. There are two periods; each period can be extended for one year. It can be extended by the Council if it is in the best interest of the candidate. It is not the Formation Director’s idea, but the Council together has the authority to do it. There is no way to build a hard and fast rule for all the circumstances that may arise. The Council will know each candidate and what is his/her best interest. Sometimes candidates do not always know what is in their best interest.

What if they already had an extension and nothing really has changed? The Statutes do not state anything about a second extension. If they cannot complete formation in this period it is highly unlikely they have a true vocation or that they will ever complete it. Thomas said it is his experience that it very seldom pans out. They should say at that time, “This is all there is, if you can’t finish it, then it is not likely that you have a vocation.”

There is the case where someone suffers from an illness. Maybe now is not the time for them, but maybe at a later date. There is also the case of a young mother who is unable to give herself completely, but feels the call deep in her heart. Maybe these people are indeed called, but just not yet! In between time, they can live Carmelite spirituality and when they do come to the community – wow – what a gem!

That kind of situation should not be confused with a situation where the person who is in formation is gravely ill. There is an option to accelerate the process for that person to make the promise.

When we apply our legislative documents, it is always to be done with love! When they were written, we couldn’t know each situation. When you apply them, you can always do it with love!

Because you give an extension, it does not mean a leave of absence. The person must be connected and the community should be praying for them! The connection should still be there.

Leading Groups

Q – If you are leading a group, do you need also to be a student in ongoing formation?

A – Each community is different with different circumstances and factors, such as its meeting place, the facilities, number of members, and other considerations. They must decide what the best approach is for them. Maybe the people leading classes need to be rotated so they also get a chance to be in ongoing formation classes. Maybe you devise an ongoing formation process that allows their participation outside the actual session time. It is good for those in initial formation to get instruction from many different community members in order to get to know them.

Those involved as catechists in initial formation are also engaged in ongoing formation.

May 29, 2010

Our Time Together

Q – Is it true that 1/3 of our time is content and 2/3 community building?

A – No – this is false. It doesn’t say this anywhere in our Formation Guidelines, which are our formation program by requirement of the Provincial Statutes.

Each community is different, sometimes we get the idea that all Teresian communities should be the same, but they are not. Each has its own individual flavor and individual charisms, but all communities are centered around the Teresian charism. A Teresian Community is a community where all members are working together, praying together, loving each other in following the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what a Teresian community consists of.

Whatever you set your time to be, it will shift and adjust to times and seasons, topics, individuals, etc. So be flexible.

The Formation Guidelines say ongoing formation is fundamental to the vocation. Throughout everything the Formation Task Force wrote, it seems to be clear that it was assumed there would be a particular time during the meeting when this on-going formation would take place. See Provincial Statutes, Section XIII, 3 where it states that you may need to extend your time since there is so much to be done in order to encapsulate it all.

When you teach, you really need to learn your subject. You are formed while you are doing it.

Help for a Blind Member

Q – One community has a blind person in formation and wonders what is available to help them.

A – I would like to offer the idea that here is a ready-made apostolate for members of that community. Would it be possible to record books and articles on tape? It will benefit this member and, who knows, countless others who may be in a similar situation. (An OCDS Community in St. Louis does Pod Casts).

The Constitutions and Statutes are new, and many of the Definitively Professed members were professed years ago, and have never read them, so we need to give them a chance in their class to read and learn about them. You really need to do something for them, so they are not left behind.

We cannot read our legislative documents enough, we can’t pray them enough, and we can’t live them enough. We are looking for support, so certainly something should be done. One of the councilors could take on this responsibility.

In fact, everyone must be responsible for his or her own formation, since we have so little time together.

Source of Resources

Q – Many of you wrote wanting a library of resources.

A – Developing formation tools is something those in ongoing formation can do to help the formators. Allowing your definitively professed members to help in this way benefits both them and those in formation receiving the help.

As was stated previously, as a sample we have included Mary Tucker’s Formation Study Questions and Outlines on the website in the Formation section that you can refer to.

Ongoing Formation in the Guidelines

Q – Some have claimed there is nothing in the Formation Guidelines for Ongoing Formation.

A – Please see the Ongoing Formation section pages 22-26 recommended resources page 36-37 and bibliography pages 175-178.

Nominating Committee

Q – Would these changes then obligate the nominating committee to put forth a nominated slate of officers that reflects the desires of the community rather than substituting their own independent judgment about who they think would make a good slate of candidates for the community?

A – See Provincial Statutes Section XIX:1

“Leaders should be selected for the welfare of the Community. Members of nominating committees must never influence or direct a prearranged outcome for Community elections. The nominating committee is charged with producing the best possible slate of candidates.”

The nominating committee does not have anything to do with the Formation Director. The Formation Director is always elected or chosen or appointed by the four newly elected officers. He/she does not require postulation. Postulation is the process you need to go through to serve a third term in office. Generally you serve two terms and rotate off, but sometime there is a necessity for someone to serve a third term. They begin by going to the Provincial Delegate. See Provincial Statutes Section XVIII: 2 g. (it does not apply to councilors).

Groups are under the Provincial Delegate and do not have elections. Your officers are appointed by the Provincial Delegate. Some may have quasi-councils, unofficial Councils, sometimes with three to five people as they are moving closer to canonical establishment.

The nominating committee asks each of the members they think would be a good leader, and then the nominating committee takes these names and meets together and comes up with a slate that represents the canvassing they have done. They must look at attendance, leadership qualities, and how these members are helpful in the community.

Some of the criteria the nominating committee should use in deliberations after canvassing the community was articulated. Then it was asked, could we ask the Provincial Council for an additional statute for considerations and guidance for the nominating committee? It would be appreciated.

Fr Donald said he plans to send a letter to the Presidents that will spell this out more clearly a few months before the next election.

Problem Personalities

Q – Communities can be fragile. What if you have a Definitively Professed member who has caused trouble in the past; they have been destructive to the community, but only the Council knows about it since they have kept things confidential. However, this person is popular among community which wants him or her in leadership? What do you do about it?

A – The Council must be strong and have a nice quiet talk with this person. Ask the person not to accept the nomination because of the problem that has already been discussed.

This brings up the 2nd change in our Provincial Statutes that we must request from the General Definitory in Rome. It is in Sec. XIX: Guidelines for Nominating Committees (page 67). There have been clear guidelines for the nominating committee and elections, such as no nominations from the floor. The nominating committee in the past has not always interviewed all members who are eligible to vote, perhaps only a segment of voting members, or only among themselves. The nominees for president and councilor, therefore, do not reflect the desire of the whole community which now doesn’t really have a say in the nominations. We are proposing to add the words, “All members who are eligible to vote must be canvassed by the nominating committee and ought to serve if they are called upon.”

If you have a Dominating Personality

Q – If you have a dominating personality and everyone agrees with you, how do you get input?

A – You can outline what you are going to talk about and what the decision is that needs to be made and then do not offer your opinion. Pass it around and get a discussion going among the others.

Inactive Members - part II

Q – What if an inactive member just starts showing up at meetings?

A – The Council must meet with him or her and make a decision as to when they can come back. During the first year back, this member does not vote or actively participate in the business meeting.

If you have someone disruptive or not formed properly, you must protect your community. It is very important because our vocation is very precious.

Inactive Members - part I

Q – What if someone who is an inactive member wants to come back but the community does not want him or her back?

A – They remain inactive. The community does not have to take them back; you are not bound to them anymore. The same applies when someone wants to transfer into the community; you are not obligated to take them, even if they are definitively professed in another community.

Lack of Attendance

Q – What do Councils do about those Definitively Professed members who don’t come to meetings anymore?

A – You know, every community has this same struggle regarding people who feel they have graduated and no longer need to attend.

There are two changes in our Provincial Statutes that we must request from the General Definitory in Rome. The first is in paragraph #6 in Section XIII (page 64). It reads:

“If a member has been absent for a year with no communication, the local Council should consider sending a first letter encouraging the member to return to the regular monthly meeting. If there is no response after eight weeks, a second letter should be sent informing the member that, if there is no response within eight weeks, procedures will be initiated to dismiss him/her from the Order with release from his/her promise or vows after consulting with the Provincial Delegate [cf. Const. #47e]. After this time has elapsed, the Council will send a formal letter of dismissal.”

We can’t dismiss someone from the Order. It is contrary to canon law, unless there are grave circumstances with faith or morals. So the change will be to change the wording to “dismiss him/her from the community.”

You still need to write the letters, but the final one should charitably, but effectively say something such as, “you are no longer a member of our community. We have no further obligations to you and you have no further obligation to us. Should you wish to return at some later date, please contact the Council and the Provincial Delegate.” They are removed from the roster, with no communication from the community or Central office. They are inactive members. The Council decides if it should receive him or her back.

People who are now in formation need to learn and understand from the very beginning that they are members of the Order so this is not a problem in the future. It is usually a problem with those who were never really formed in our Legislative Documents.

If someone ever heard that attendance is not required, whoever said it was making a sarcastic statement. Attendance is not optional. In the same Section XIII paragraph #4 (page 64) it states:

“Because Community life is central to the Teresian Carmelite charism, attendance at the monthly meetings is required. Lack of regular attendance without excuse or notification is a negative indication of a vocation. For this reason, the Council may have to consider taking action under Constitutions #47a and #47e.”

Attendance at meetings is one of the 6 M’s of Fr. Deeney’s. They are: 1- Meditation 2- Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and if possible Night Prayer 3- Mass 4- Mary 5- Meetings 6- Mission.

This will always be a struggle because we live at a time when people are not strong in their commitments. We need to keep reinforcing that this is a vocation; it is a commitment they must keep as long as they are able.

Spiritual Assistants

Q – We have a new Spiritual Assistant. What can we do to help him?

A – Give him the Legislative Documents first so that he understands what we are about.

Some Spiritual Assistants who do not know anything about Carmelites have started in the Aspirant program and gone through the whole Formation Program just the same as anyone else.

Enough Time

Q – As Formation Director, I am struggling with having enough time for everything. What should be chosen?

A – The first thing you need to do is make sure you are not working alone. The Council should be helping you, if not in teaching, at least in researching or doing whatever you need them to do to assist you. Then start with the basics, the necessities, and branch out from there.

Vehicles of Communication

Q – Are we allowed to have our own websites or use Facebook as vehicles to communicate with one another, as long as we don’t rely on them exclusively?

A – We are only restricted by our own common sense. As previously stated, there are things to watch out for and be careful about. We are encouraged to use all means available to do what we can to share the Good News. Pope Benedict said in May 2009 that we should make use of new technologies of communication so as to utilize them in a positive way and to realize the great potential of these means to build up bonds of friendship and solidarity that can contribute to a better world.

A few of the Friars of our Province are on Facebook. Our Superior General, Fr. Saverio CannistrĂ , at the closing of the General Chapter in Fatima, gave all the Teresian Carmelites in the world the pleasure of seeing and hearing him address us on the internet in a video on You Tube.

Communication is a two-way street. You send a message, but the other side must be able to receive it and understand it. You can’t just broadcast and expect it to be communicated. When putting something on the internet, everyone has access to it. The problem comes in receiving it and understanding it as it was intended. Someone might send a message in words that make sense to him or her, but the receiver doesn’t understand it the way it was meant. If there is not a two-way communication going on, you won’t find out that it was not understood. The internet system does not allow for that. You will just find out what is there, but it is easy for it to be misunderstood or even misrepresented.

Better Informed - Better Communication

We need to be informed and have better communication and do what we can with technology to help one another.

Community newsletters are the best way to keep people informed, not only of the agenda but also of events within and outside the community.

If you feel uninformed, out of the loop, and in need of communication where it seems to be lacking, the best way to remedy that is to increase your own level of contribution to your community and the Order. Frequently, the person responsible for communication is so overburdened with other work they are doing for the Order, they are simply not able to do it for you.

In order to have the level of communication that we all want for the Province and the Order to thrive, we all need to be very, very engaged in our communities locally and willing to be of service at every level. Then the people responsible for communication will not be quite so overburdened.

The wonders of the Internet are important, but there are still many people who do not have it and it is very important that we do not leave them behind or neglect them. It is a continual challenge. We cannot forget them because we need to keep reaching out to everyone.

There are a variety of internet sites and forums such as Cincarm (Catholic Information Network). However, there is a danger involved – it is loaded with misinformation. When dealing with the internet you need to be alert because you might be looking at something that is not correct.

On the Provincial Council website, we are trying to be certain that what appears on our site will be good, solid information, not misinformation. Whatever is on it is run by the Council and then given the ok to post.

Someone suggested having two people responsible for informing the community about news and events and communicating and sharing prayer requests, etc. One person is involved with the internet and the other person with the telephone. This has worked very well with her community as long as people pass the information along and do not end up just chattering.

Living this Life

Q – How do we live this life in the given period of time that we have?

A – For some the answer is, you can’t. All of us are here because God called us to this vocation. Most of us don’t understand why, and maybe in this life we won’t figure out why. But when you hear those candidates in initial formation expressing their hesitation about the time element, they need to know that anyone who is called to this vocation is going to find the time. A common problem is that we are busy doing all kinds of things that perhaps others say are important, but we need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what is truly important.

Creative Formation

Q – What does creative (pertaining to formation and time) mean?

A – One person said she usually reads a chapter ahead in order to make the questions for the next class. In doing this, she looks for things that her particular group needs to learn and benefit from. With the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the questions can draw things out and help them grow.

Being creative is an individual thing that comes from your prayer life. If you are a Carmelite and have a prayer life, that is where your creativity will come from.

From the very first day the Formation Task Force talked about how we did not want to make the Formation Guidelines complicated. We wanted to make them as simple as possible because time is a big factor in our lives. You could look at the program each year and take the most basic thing that is required and then do it. You can then add from there. Creativity will come from the basics. Remember KISS, keep it simple sweetie.

Getting Young People Involved

Q – How do we get young people involved?

A – They don’t have to live our Carmelite Rule the way it is. They are looking for aspects of who we are, you could structure these elements in prayer groups, etc. in your parish youth organizations.

Sharing without Overwhelming

Q – How do we share the riches of Carmel without overwhelming them? It used to be too easy, and now we are trying to find the balance?

A – It is said you can do anything for 15 minutes. Start with that as a goal. On the practical level, they could carry their study with them to read and use as Lectio Divina during the day. When studying our Constitutions and Statutes, you could ask the members to break them down into pieces so that each person could be the expert in a certain section and share with the other members. Or you can break our Legislative documents up into daily bites according to the calendar; within one month you will have covered both documents.


Q – What is the variety and number of questions given for assignments?

A – It depends on you as formator, each one works differently. Some people write between three to five questions designed to make people think about something, rather than find a ready answer. If they are reading the material, it will be obvious by the questions they ask. You can look more for their questions than their answers. You can’t give them what they need if you don’t know what their questions are. They should be encouraged to ask questions.

We need to be reasonable, we are lay people, so we can’t burden people with a lot of homework. We need to keep the questions simple. It’s just so we know they are actually reading what they are supposed to; it is not to make them discouraged and feel overburdened.

A few communities are so strict about homework that, if some members have not done their homework, they won’t come to the meeting. We want to encourage people. In our day and age, people read less, especially as we age and it becomes more difficult. Let this never be a reason not to attend the meeting.

Also please be sure that everyone is given a copy of the questions, not just a couple of people in the group. It is very difficult to have a discussion unless everyone is equipped. Those who do not have them end up staring out into space.

Sample opened-ended questions which are in the Formation Guidelines (page 109) were based on the 6 elements from Fr. Deeney’s article (see page 43 Discerning a Vocation, which is also in his recently published book.)

One person commented that they have two teachers for each class of formation so they can team teach. It is very helpful when a backup is needed, rather than pulling someone in cold.

You have to be in touch with the individual people to know what questions to ask. A very good question is how does it relate to your life, rather than have them quoting back from the book. Be sure that everyone has an opportunity to speak. If they have already spoken, they should wait until everyone else has had a chance to share before they speak again.

There is a group that has everyone draw a number and that is the paragraph (or page) in the reading that they will lead in the discussion. Since they don’t know the numbers ahead of time, they must study everything in order to be prepared to lead a part of it. In this way, they all have an opportunity to help each other out. Some people like to send their questions back by email, so you may want to consider emailing them, as well as handing them out.

Question about Questions

Q – Are the questions we are discussing in the Formation Classes handed in every month or discussed in the group?

A – The answer is both!

Standardized Questions

Q – Is there a worry over the questions being used in the studies not being standardized? Will the candidates have the same formation in the end?

A – Absolutely not! The Holy Spirit works differently in each and every one of us - end of problem!

Sample Questions

Q – Can we get copies of other communities’ questions?

A – You can interact with one another as you see fit, but as a sample we have included Mary Tucker’s “Formation Study Questions and Outlines” on the website in the Formation section.

Writing your own questions is part of your formation. When formulating the questions, you learn the most. We are giving you some as examples to help, but it is not in everyone’s best interest to pass around and exchange questions to the studies, rather than producing them yourselves.

It has been noted that the questions each person writes change according to the different people involved, those leading and those in the group. The Holy Spirit is in it. As you progress in your spirituality, things change; what you read and what you understand grow and develop. Therefore, questions you may have written before are much different from those you would write today.

Story of a Soul and Way of Perfection (ICS Publications) both have study editions that can be useful.

Writing Questions

Q – Are we all writing questions in our communities as we cover our different subject matter?

A – Yes, each community and group formulates its own questions. The Formation Guidelines have examples such as open-ended questions that you can refer to for help.

Questions and Answers from Formation Meeting

The following 44 posts are questions from the Formation Directors Meeting at El Carmelo Retreat House, in Redlands. The answers to these questions were given by members of the OCDS Provincial Council: Chris Hart, Thomas Moore, Doreen Glynn Pawski, Ann Seargeant, Cindy Sliger, and Fr. Donald Kinney.