INTELLECTUAL FORMATION EXPERIENCE OF CHINA PROVINCE
Richard Preuss, CM[*]
Early Stages of Formation in the China Province
Formation in terms of Intellectual Formation is quite unique in the Chinese Province, because from the beginning of the Chinese Province’s attempts to attract Vocations both in Taiwan and China have been unclear to say the least.
In Taiwan, candidates were sent both to the United Sates (New Orleans & Perryville) or to the Philippines. In both cases, the candidates had difficulties personally and with the Chinese Province and left. Since the Chinese Province had neither a seminary nor a formation program, the choices were limited for the Candidates.
Reaching out to Mainland China Vocation Possibilities
In China (2003), we (O’Donnell & Preuss) begin by visiting Chinese priests (young and old) in three Chinese cities. Met in hotels in Beijing, Tianjin, and Nanchang. As we had meals with them and talked with them in our hotel rooms during the day and night, we were able to share our struggles and their struggles as priests. It was early discovered that the majority of these priests talked about two things they lacked as priests working in China (1)Community life (2)Spirituality Foundation.
In the third stage, our Chinese Province begin our Formation Program with Chinese Mainland candidates that we knew very little. Others (usually Sisters) introduced to us young men who the Sisters thought might be interested in becoming Vincentian. Going merely on the words of these Sisters (or others who introduced these young men), we accepted them and then decided it best to send them somewhere else in Asia where Vincentian Formation Programs would help them discern and decide whether or not they were qualified to enter the Vincentians of the Chinese Province.
In March of 2004, Fr. John Wang and Richard Preuss went to the Philippines to talk – at that time – with the then Provincial of Filipino CMs (Fr. Manimtim,CM). It was agreed that he and the Filipino Province welcomed CM candidates from Mainland Chinese – provided there would be someone from the Chinese Province to accompany them. At first, Fr. John Wang, CM, couldn’t find anyone to accompany any future Chinese candidates to the Philippines. Finally – at the suggestion of Richard Preuss himself – the Chinese Province agreed to send Richard to the Philippines to accompany possible Chinese Mainland candidates. After going to China himself to meet for the first time and arrange for the Visas and Plane tickets of 3 Chinese candidates, all 4 arrived in the Philippines in late August of 2004
Intellectual Formation Limited
From the very beginning, accompanying the 3 Chinese seminarians in the Philippines was difficult in all respects – human formation, social formation, spiritual formation, & psychological formation. Needless to say, the Intellectual Formation of these 3 candidates had to wait for them to be able to learn English well enough to be able to take classes in English. Even this was a struggle because they themselves were dealing with cultural shock, spiritual shock (spirituality and long history of the Church in the Philippines) and a false thinking that there was nothing new they could learn in the Philippines context. Their prejudiced toward the Filipino situation and vice versa made it almost impossible to plan their further studies in the Philippines.
You add to this that there was very little cooperation from the Chinese Province for the Formator accompanying the 3 Chinese that the situation was almost hopeless from the beginning.
However, despite the odds against the so called plan of the Formation Program of the Chinese Province, there was good that came out of it.
Of these first three seminarians from China, two were ordained priests in their own parish in China and then they returned to the Philippines. One of the two took his perpetual vows as a Vincentian in the presence of the Superior General — Greg was ordained a Deacon in Taiwan. The one who didn’t enter the CMs is presently studying at UST in the Philippines and will finish his studies there in just over two years. The one who entered the Vincentians and was ordained Deacon and later priest is now studying at St. John’s University in New York. The 3rd of first three seminarians was asked to leave because of personal problems. He returned to China for a short stay and immediately returned to the Philippines and went to another part of the Philippines and joined a Chinese Religious Order (founded by Vincent Lebbe, CM).
There were two other Chinese Mainland seminarians who also were sent to the Philippines for their formation. One of them (Thomas Gao) will finish his Novitiate Year in Angono in May. Then he will continue his studies at our School of Theology in the Philippines. The other (Paul Ying) is in his 2nd year of Philosophy at Adamson University. The Chinese Province must soon decide whether to accept him as a Vincentian seminarian or to make other arrangements of him.
For the Future
Needless to say, before a Program of studies for our Chinese candidates can be worked out, the Chinese Province needs to do some serious discernment of our Formation plans for the future in both Taiwan and the China. At present, the only one doing Formation in the Chinese Province is FR. PAWEL. One of his novices that recently finished the Novitiate is continuing his study of Law. There are other possible Vincentian candidates but Fr. Kusno – our Provincial – is presently in the process of evaluating these candidates keeping in the mind the unique situation in China.
[*] Fr. Richard Preuss CM works in a parish as well as formation and belongs to the China Province.