The Formators and Vocational Animators of the Holy Land Custody met for a Congress in Rome and Assisi, between 27 November and 4 December 2005. The Congress was coordinated and organized by Fr. Bruno Varriano, Vocations Animator for the Custody in Italy. The aim of the Congress was that of being an occasion for a meeting of all the Masters of Formation of the houses of Jerusalem, Ain Karem, Harissa and Washington, and of the Vocations Animators of Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Italy, USA and Argentina, where the Holy Land Custody operates. Fr. Claudio Bottini, Dean of the Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology in Jerusalem, was also invited and took an active part in the proceedings.
The first part of the Meeting was held in Rome, at the Pontifical University Antonianum. The theme chosen was: “The psychological aspects of vocational accompanyment”. The lectures were given by Professor Dr. Mario Becciu, Director of the Centre for Preventive Psychology in Rome. During the three days in Rome, the Franciscan friars received hospitality at the Delegation of the Holy Land, and were kindly and warmly welcomed by Fr. Giovanni Battistelli, Delegate for the Holy Land Custos in Italy, and by the other friars residents in the same community. The participants celebrated various liturgies, particularly the opening Mass at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and another Mass at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.
The second phase of the Congress was held in Assisi, at the “Domus Pacis”, where the participants had their lodging. The theme regarded “The methodological and Franciscan aspects of vocational accompanyment”. The lectures were given by Fr. Francesco Piloni, Guardian of the House of Welcome of the Seraphic OFM Province and Director of the Centre for Youth Orientation (SOG). In Assisi the participants lived moments of intense formation and prayer, particularly during Mass celebrated by Fr. Massimo Reschiglian, Minister Provincial of Assisi, at the Basilica of Saint Clare. They also concelebrated in a special Mass celebrated by Fr. Jose’ Rodriguez Carballo, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, at the sanctuary of San Damiano. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, was also present, and celebrated Mass at the Porziuncola chapel. On Sunday 4 December he also celebrated the concluding Mass in the lower Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.
During his homily, the Minister General spoke about the vital centres of vocational progress of our candidates, namely the mind (intellectual formation), the heart (affective-volitive aspect), the hands (productive aspect), and the feet (itinerant-evangelizing aspect). He insisted upon the quality of formation and the need that the formators themselves feel responsible for their own formation and professional training.
The Congress was also a unique occasion as an experience of fraternity. The participants were warmly welcomed for supper at the Novitiate house in San Damiano, and for lunch at the Porziuncola friary. They all agreed regarding the importance of these meetings for a reciprocal sense of belonging and also as a unique instrument of formation for those who have the responsibility to be Masters of Formation or Vocations Animators.
During the final meeting of verification with the Father Custos, the participants decided to renew this experience on an annual basis, and to plan it well ahead in order to reach more qualified objectives in their particular field of apostolate.