Anyone who feels attracted to become a Brother of St John of God is first invited to undertake a process of ‘accompaniment’, during which he will gradually become familiar with the values and attitudes that define a Brother, and gradually identifies with those same values and attitudes. How this process takes place and develops essentially depends on the candidate’s personal situation and the guidelines followed by the Order. These guidelines are published in the document entitled, “Formation Programme for the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God”, and have to be adapted to suit the conditions of the candidates wherever they may be, and their socio-religious and cultural background, age, and so forth.
The Beginning of the Process
When a man feels the desire to become a Brother of Saint John of God he will usually contact a local or Provincial Vocations Animator. The latter’s role is to provide information on the nature of the Brother’s vocation in the Church, and to help him to relate his own qualities and talents to the values and demands of the life and mission of the Brother of Saint John of God. This will normally take place in the course of a series of personal interviews, visiting communities of Brothers in his local area and co-working in the services provided in one of the Order’s social or health care facilities.
Vocational Accompaniment Programme
If he then decides to embark on the Brother’s vocational process following this initial experience, he moves on to take a ‘vocational accompaniment programme’.
These programmes are organised on a Provincial scale, run by the Vocations Animator, and are designed to help the young man to thoroughly familiarise himself with the vocation of the Brother of Saint John of God.
Vocational accompaniment programmes always take into account the needs of the individual concerned: they are tailored to ensure that they are suitable in terms of his age, academic background and personal status. This will include holding regular interviews with the accompanying Brother, and meeting other candidates, deepening the Christian life and reading the documents of the Church and the Order, regularly sharing in the life of a community of Brothers and performing some apostolic commitment at the service of the poor.
The purpose of this vocational accompaniment programme is to help him to discern his vocation. Discernment can lead the candidate to apply to undergo a period of formation as a Brother of Saint John of God.
The Brother of Saint John of God Formation Process
Here he learns about the different stages in the formation of a Brother of St John of God. In each stage, the Hospitaller Brother will not only continue to configure himself to the vocation to which he has been called, but will also prepare himself to live it to the full. Throughout this formation period he will be accompanied by the Brothers responsible for formation, who will help him, drawing on his own experiences and his educational background, to discern the call to Hospitality.
The Postulancy is the first stage through which he will pass. In it, he will experience drawing close to the Order in which he will be able to discern his Hospitaller vocation through a real-life experience of service in a social or health care facility. He will also undergo this experience as a member of a community, to enable him to discover the richness of a fraternal community and prayer life.
The next stage is the Novitiate. This is a two-year stage, designed to enable the candidate to lay the foundations of the vocation and spirituality of the Brothers of Saint John of God. Throughout this time, he can confirm that his vocation is to the Hospitaller Order, and see whether the Order accepts that he has been given that vocation. In this phase, listening to God in prayer is very important, and he will continue to grow in the knowledge and love of the Order which he has decided to enter. The novitiate ends when the candidate has confirmed the certitude of his vocation, and if the Order considers him suitable it will authorise him to make the simple vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and hospitality.
The Scholasticate. After making simple vows, the Brother enters this stage, called the Scholasticate, for six years, during which he will attend courses to study health care, social services or theology, to prepare himself to perform his mission of service within the Order. After these six years in the Scholasticate stage, when the Brother feels that this is his path and the Order agrees as a result of the formation process he has been through, he can proceed to make his Solemn Profession, committing himself for his whole life to practise the four vows as a Brother of Saint John of God, for ever.
Once he is a Solemn Professed Brother, we can say that he is ready and willing to be sent to work wherever the Order considers it appropriate to appoint him to perform the service of Hospitality.
Continuing Formation. The Brother of Saint John of God can never cease undergoing formation if he wishes to remain properly prepared and formed. Even though the Initial Formation of the Brother of Saint John of God ends with his final Profession, he must ensure that he is kept up-to-date at all times.