Civil / Canon Law Issues in Vocation and Formation

Those who do vocation and formation ministry in our communities are challenged to be at the forefront of our community story. They are deeply imbued with the life and charism of our communities and they set out to engage younger generations of men and women. They invite them to our communities and for those that accept, they help them to become truly our brothers and sisters.
The groups of men and women encountered in this ministry are much more diverse than the communities that invite them. They come from varying ages, ethnicity, social, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, with various professional and academic credentials, and from diverse economic situations.
This presents a challenge to vocation and formation directors as they seek to sort through the various issues raised when men and women apply to our formation programs. And many of these issues continue to be of concern right through the states of formation.
For this reason it is important to touch on a broad range of issues when developing a relationship with candidates. It is also important to be able to give them clear guidance on how certain issues will be handled as they move through formation.

Immigration must be considered because the candidate will have a timeline for their immigration. Communities should have a policy on acceptance of non-citizens, and should be prepared to determine how the immigration and formation timelines will interface.
Student debt has received considerable attention. Again a community policy can be helpful in guiding inquirers. That policy should help to ensure candidates and communities are free to discern without the debt overly influencing the process.
Family ties, including parents, children and former spouses may impede a person's freedom to enter a community. Care must be taken in determining civil and canonical obligations, as well as the personal needs of the inquirer and family members.
Assets must also be considered. The gospel mandate is: Go, sell all and give to the poor, then come follow me. For older candidates, the process of divesting and settling the estate may be complex and must be done with due consideration to where they are in the formation process.
Pensions of older candidates should be discussed. The pension was earned for one's elder years, and a community may rightly ask that this be contributed to the community that is taking on responsibility for that eldercare.
For each of these issues and others, the matter should be considered when screening a candidate for entrance, and it may also be necessary to continue to address the issue as the person moves through the formation plan. It is impossible to have a policy on every possible issue, but it is helpful to candidates when we can be clear and consistent regarding how these and other issues will be addressed.

For more information on this topic, May's webcast will discuss screening candidates and addressing issues of civil and canon law through the formation process. In addition, April 19, 2016, I will be giving a full-day workshop for the Chicago Region of NRVC on this same topic. For a brochure on that workshop, click here. For all these programs, I will be using the Screening and Discernment Instrument for Religious Life: A Workbook.

Covenant Project Workshops will be offered online in April and September this year. These workshops are designed to assist communities in realistic planning for their future. For more information:
Canon Law Wiki - Notes, Commentary, Discussion, Papers & Bibliography. This popular canon law resource recently moved to a new location.

Please let me know if I can be of assistance to you or your organization.

Amy Hereford

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