The 1st Cycle normally takes place in the region or continent of origin of the students. The normal duration of this period is three years although it may be two years in some instances. This cycle introduces the students to the whole area of academic formation. It takes place at a recognised academic institute. The students begin a study of philosophy and the human sciences in order to develop a reflective, questioning and critical mind and an understanding of the nature of the human person as the basis for living a more sincere, authentic faith and life. The purpose of these studies is fundamentally practical: to understand more profoundly the world of today so as to both communicate and act more effectively with others in that world. Emphasis is also placed on personal formation. This is based on a model of integrated growth, leading to a mature, healthy relationship with the self. Personal accompaniment is also an important aspect of this stage in the formation programme. It is a regular structured opportunity for dialogue between the student and a designated formator. Students also share at a personal level in formation/growth groups. Skills training is also provided at this stage for those who feel the need to better prepare themselves for the mission world. Students also engage in some pastoral activities at a local level. Spiritual formation is geared towards a wholesome spirituality that is missionary and Christ-centred within the context of the community of faith that is sensitive to God’s presence in the world.
Missionary Experience Programme
After their 1st Cycle of Formation, students are placed in one of the Society’s missionary priority areas to deepen and enhance their studies and formation through the encounter with a people, a culture and a social reality that are new to them. This usually lasts two years. The goal of this period is to develop further the identity and competence of the students as future Mill Hill Missionaries. This programme is primarily an education-formation programme rather than a mission assignment. The first three months of this programme is taken up with language studies. The students are also introduced to the history and culture of the local people and also the economic, political and social realities that shape their lives. During the next two months the students become better acquainted with the life and work of the local Church, including the part played by Mill Hill Missionaries, and with the social and cultural context in which the Church proclaims the Gospel message. A structured programme of work and formation is worked out with their supervisors and the students begin a year of supervised programme of pastoral-missionary activities and reflection which promotes the development of their personal, spiritual, vocational and ministerial identity and competence in a mission context.
Following their missionary experience, students are invited to become Temporary members of the Society. Before any student is admitted to Temporary Membership, the rector, formation staff and all concerned are consulted as to his suitability, including the members of the community to which he belongs (C29). The decision concerning admission is made by the Regional or Society Representative with the consent of his Council in consultation with the General Council. If the decision is positive, the candidate will be invited to join the fellowship of the Society by taking the temporary missionary oath. The duration of Temporary Membership is normally three years which is extendable annually at the discretion of the General Superior, his Council and all other relevant and competent authorities up to a maximum of another three years. After this period, the Temporary Member will either be accepted or refused admission to the Society as a Perpetual Member. A Temporary member can be dispensed from the Temporary Oath at any time for a just reason. A Temporary Member is free to leave the Society after completing the term of his temporary oath, or, for a just reason, may be excluded from taking the Perpetual Oath.