The students of the Missionaries of are young men who responding to the invitation of Jesus Christ “follow me” are being formed to serve the people of God where ever they shall be sent. In responding to their individual vocations, they seek to live out their call through the way of life of the Missionaries of Africa. They are from India, Philippines, Mexico, Germany, United States of America, Burkina Faso, Togo, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and other African countries. These students spend over 10 years in formation. The formation program of the students is divided into four main phases: Philosophy (First Phase), Novitiate (Second Phase), Stage (Third Phase), and Theology (Fourth Phase).
Before the students begin formally their formation, they first have to spend at least 6 months in one of the many preparatory houses of the Missionaries of Africa. During this time, the students get acquainted with the way of life, spirituality, and history of the Missionaries of Africa, hence widening their understanding of the kind of life they aspire to live.
Once, they have completed these preparatory months, those who still desire to become Missionaries of Africa apply to become members. When their application is accepted, they then proceed to one of the first phase philosophy houses of the congregation, where they spend 3 years studying philosophy and deepening their desire to become future missionaries.
After philosophy, the students then proceed to one of the novitiate formation houses of the Missionaries of Africa. During novitiate, students deepen their relationship with God through the daily meditations, Eucharistic celebrations, recollections, retreats and sessions on Ignatian Spirituality. While undergoing this formation, students spend their Sundays doing pastoral works, which entail visiting the sick in their homes and in hospitals, prisoner’s, orphanages and accompanying other Christians in Basic Christian Communities.
After deepening their relationship with God, these students then proceed to do 2 years of stage (pastoral work), which involves living in a Missionary of Africa community, working with the other members of that community in the kind of pastorals they are involved in and learning the culture and language of the people. These two years helps students to experience the kind of life they will be committing themselves into, at the end of their initial formation.
After two years of living as missionaries in a particular countries and communities, the students return to the classroom to deepen their knowledge of God through the study of theology and also prepare themselves professionally, so that they can serve the people they shall be sent to, when they finish their formation. This fourth phase of initial formation is the period when students finally take their Oaths, becoming full members of the Society of Missionaries of Africa. After the Oath, those who want to be priests are ordained as deacons and later as priest after serving for at least 6 months. Once a person finishes his initial formation, he is then appointed to one of the provinces of the Missionaries of Africa to serve the people of God.
During these years of initial formation, a student’s formators can advise the student to reorient himself towards another congregation or another way of life. Besides, a student might discover that this is not the life he wants to live and hence decide not to continue his formation with the Missionaries of Africa.
The formation period of the students may seem long, however, considering the fact that these young men will be serving the people of God in different circumstances and environment, they must receive holistic human, spiritual, intellectual and psychological formation. They must be well trained so that they can serve anywhere they are sent.
Written by: Cletus Atindana.