“The Asian Holy Cross Formators’ Meeting 2023” took place at Holy Cross Pastoral and Retreat Center, Bhadun, Pubail, Gazipur, Bangladesh from Feb 23 – 27, 2023. The theme for this year’s meeting was “Holy Cross Formation and Transformation in the Asian Context.” There were a total of 51 Holy Cross Priests, Brothers from 6 provinces, and Sisters from the Area of Asia for the gathering. There were four priests from the Province of North East India, seven priests from the South India Province, three Brothers from St. Andre Province of India, three priests from the Province of Tamil Nadu, eleven Brothers from St. Joseph Province, ten Sisters from India and Bangladesh, and eleven priests from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Province. In addition, there were Fr. Emmanuel Kallarckal, CSC; the First Assistant and Vicar General and Chair of Mission and Ministries of the Congregation, Rome; Bro. Bertrand Nee Wayoe, CSC; Fourth General Assistant and Chair of Vocations and Formation of the Congregation, Rome. The occasion had its opening with the arrival of the participants and distinguished guests at 04:00 pm at the Holy Cross Pastoral and Retreat Center, Bhadun, Bangladesh. There was a common Vespers at 06:00 pm followed by ice breaking program and social so that the participants might get to know each other on the first day itself.
After the breakfast, Lauds and the Holy Mass (Presided by Fr. George Kamal Rozario CSC; the Provincial, Sacred Heart of Jesus Province, Bangladesh), the Asian Holy Cross Formators Meeting 2023 had its gala opening on Feb 24, 2023 at 08:45 am. The day started with the lighting of candles, prayer and a prayer dance by Sr. Runu Mrong, CSC and Sr. Rani Gumej, CSC. The guests, especially the First Assistant and Vicar General Fr. Emmauel Kallarackal, CSC; Fourth General Assistant Bro. Bertrand Nee Wayoe, CSC; from the Generalate, the Provincials, the representatives and distinguished guests were welcomed and honored with bouquet of flowers and uttario. Sr. Violet Rodrigues, CSC; Area Coordinator, Area of Asia delivered the welcoming speech. Besides, there were speeches by Fr. George Kamal Rozario, CSC; Bro. Sebastian James, CSC; Fr. Theophilus Sohtun, CSC; Fr. Roque D’Costa, CSC; Fr. Arokia Sahayaraj, CSC; bringing greetings and blessings from on behalf of the General Superior, Bro. Bertrand Nee Wayoe, CSC and Fr. Emmanuel Kallarackal, CSC expressed their hopes and expectations from the gathering in their speeches.
After the opening ceremony, at 09:30 am Fr. Theophilus Sohtun, CSC representative, the Province of North East, India delivered the keynote speech on the theme, “Holy Cross Formation and Transformation in the Asian Context.” In his speech he pointed out the demographic contexts as well as multi-cultural and multi-religious aspects of Bangladesh and India, and how these aspects form the minds of our candidates in Holy Cross Formation Houses. He emphasized that being the land of multi-culture and multi-religion, there needs to be authentic care for the vocation in our formation houses. He also pointed out that formation and transformation is a life-long process where human effort needs to cooperate with God’s ever abiding Grace.
After the lunch break and siesta, Fr. Joby Sebastian, CSC addressed the group with regard to “Formation Program: Effective assessments Process in Post Novitiate, Novitiate, Pre-novitiate and Vocation Program.” He emphasized on the pillars of formation and assessments in Indian context in line with the Guidelines from the Generalate for Holy Cross Formation. The second day of the meeting ended with the Stations of the Cross at 06:30 and followed by supper.
Fr. Roque D’Costa, CSC; the Provincial, South India Province, India, presided over the Mass on the third day of the meeting at 08:00 am on February 25, 2023. The sessions of the day started with Sr. Violet Rodrigues, CSC presentation on “Holy Cross Formation: Past, Present, and Future.” In her presentation, she pointed out the realities of formation houses and formation program prior to Vatican Councils I & II. She also emphasized on the necessity to act according to the signs of the time. The second session of the day was presented by Fr. Mariaraj Iruthayam, CSC on “Formation Program: Effective Assessments Process in Post-Novitiate, Novitiate, Pre-novitiate, and Vocation Program.” He highly emphasized on Holy Cross identity as religious and the importance of accompaniment in the formation houses. The third session of the day was presented by Bro. Ripon Gomes, CSC on “What are the Characteristics of Holy Cross Formation” He highlighted the Spirituality and the Charism of the Congregation focusing on the founder’s zeal for mission and familial spirit. He also pointed out that our formation needs to be inclusive. The fourth session of the day started after lunch and siesta break at 03:00 pm with Fr. James Cruze, CSC’s presentation on, “Challenges of Religious Formators in Today’s Local and Internal Context.” Fr. Cruze highlighted the trends and challenges of modern world as well as the necessity of the formators to live an exemplary life as religious in the Congregation of Holy Cross. He also mentioned about providing sufficient training for the formators before assigning them to the formation ministry. The Final session of the day was presented by Bro. Baskar Arokia Samy, CSC on “Formation Program: How to make an effective intercultural Formation Houses.” Bro. Baskar highlighted the importance of understanding cultural formation and background of the candidates in the formation houses. He also highlighted on the importance of creating a Holy Cross culture, Holy Cross-ness and across the global formation houses. The day ended with a short cultural program representing all the cultures present at the meeting after the dinner.
The 4th day of the meeting began with Lauds at 08:00 am on February 26, 2023. Bro. Bertrand Nee Wayoe, CSC presented a speech based on his listening to the sessions presented in the meeting. He also emphasized on the importance of unity and internationality of the Congregation of Holy Cross. The moderators gave an overview of the past days’ sessions and informed the groups about the discussion questions, procedures for note taking and guidelines for the presentation of the small group discussed materials to the larger group. Participants were divided into four different groups and discussed on the issues of formation, vocation, spirituality, charism, and international aspects of Holy Cross. Later all the small groups gathered in the large group and presented the fruits and findings of their group discussion to the larger group.
The closing ceremony of the Asian Holy Cross Formators’ Meeting 2023 had its official closing at 03:30 pm on February 26, 2023. There were feedbacks and vote of thanks from Provincials, Area Coordinator, Representatives; and from Bro. Bertrand Nee Wayoe, CSC and Fr. Emmanuel Kallarackal, CSC. There was a group photo session before the Mass. The closing Mass began at 05:15 pm. Fr. Emmanuel Kallarackal, CSC offered the closing Mass. The day ended with social and dinner.
The Asian Holy Cross Formators’ Meeting ended with an excursion program to Holy Cross Ministry sites in Barishal Diocese on February 27, 2023. The Participants had the opportunity to visit Holy Cross Pastoral Center at Barishal, the Novitiate, The Bishop’s House, the Local Parish, and the School run by Holy Cross Brothers. Later the participants came back to Dhaka by Launch Journey overnight on February 28, 2023.