Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Bangkok, Cardinal Meechai, used to say that “the ordination of a Jesuit is like an elephant giving birth.” It is because they take quite a long time in their formation. I would say he is right, that the Jesuit’s formation takes a longer time, which is 11 to 12 years in our Thai region. There is no other reason than to take time to get a more profound experience of God and so prepare to serve the Church better. This is my second year in doing my theological study in Spain. And in this second year I have had an intensive program on Jesuit priesthood.
Normally it used to be called “Tiempo Arrupe” or in other formation places it is called “Arrupe Month.” Almost all Jesuit priests have this formation experience. Of course, all the stages in the Jesuit formation do prepare for ordination. To those who are in their theological study, this is given a special care. And the main theme of this program is emphasis on Jesuit priesthood identity.
The Society of Jesus does take a serious care of its member to prepare them well. A Jesuit priest is not a secular or diocesan priest but a religious priest. Jesuits have a different charism in comparison to other religious priests. The mission of the Jesuits is ample, specific, and challengeable; therefore, the Jesuit priest candidate must prepare very well in all aspects. The General Congregation 32 paid attention to the matter of this special preparation before ordination. The scholastic is facilitated to help him be able to reflect on his priestly vocation and have freedom fully on his choice. Hence, the spiritual father and the formator will help them to review some relevant documents and help the scholastics to have a better understanding on various aspects: vocational motivation, spiritual life, emotional maturity, celibacy, man for the Church, and Jesuit religious life. Moreover, the Society has given the UAPs (the four universal apostolic references) for next ten years (2019-2029), and one of them is about spirituality; and fortunately, the Jesuit Thailand region is well respected in the Thai Catholic Church for spiritual guidance and references, religious formation, and Christian faith and accompaniment, etc. Therefore, the Jesuit region is encouraging and preparing its members to be able to serve and help people regarding to these UAPs.
Well, in my case this year we are13 scholastics in Spain; and two of them, Francis and I, are from our Jesuit Thai region. The program is taking place in the Jesuit spiritual center, Salamanca. Finally, we are asking you to continue to support and pray for us in order to prepare ourselves well to respond to God´s call as a priest and a servant of the evangelization.
Sch. Sakda Saenbanchoedsuk, SJ