Spain has the only international center for formation of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in the world. Megan Houbeck, from Michigan, has been the director of this community in Spain for the past three years. Glory Darbellay, a Canadian who is currently a Territorial Councilor for the Consecrated Women in the North American Territory, will take over this mission this summer.
- The majority of the young women who formally enter this path come out more convinced of their call to holiness.
- The principal purpose of formation is allowing Christ to establish his Kingdom in our own hearts.
- One of the changes to the formation of Consecrated Women has been the study of a civil or ecclesiastical degree in Theology, in order to respond to the needs of the New Evangelization in a secularized world.
In this interview, Megan explains what the formation of the consecrated women consists of. “It is a continual journey of transformation in Christ and preparation as apostles according to the identity and mission of Regnum Christi.” She also comments on other important aspects of this process, such as the importance of being accompanied. “In every stage it is necessary to ensure a personal and communal formation, like Jesus Christ did. The young woman will always have a formator who walks closely with her, but without being invasive, always leaving her free, just like in spiritual direction and the sacraments.”
What does the formation of Consecrated Women currently consist of? What are the stages that structure the formation process?
The formation of a Consecrated Woman is a continual journey of transformation in Christ and preparation as an apostle according to the identity and mission of Regnum Christi. It is an interior modeling that embraces the whole person and touches on all aspects of life. This goal is something that surpasses any methods or formative stages, because it is a work of God alone. But we do seek to collaborate with Him by applying certain means throughout our journey of formation.
Young women who come with questions about the consecrated life in Regnum Christi begin to receive formation and formal accompaniment that help them in their vocational discernment. Then, for those who continue to feel a possible call to the consecrated life in Regnum Christi, there is a 7-week program called the “Summer Discernment Course.” If they continue onward, they enter the candidacy program, which lasts two years without making any vows. At the end of candidacy, when they have recognized sufficient signs of a call from God, they make temporal vows for three years and continue their formation – they either begin their theological studies in the center of formation in Madrid, or they start an intensive apostolic experience in a community of apostolate.
And after that?
After those three years, if they have continued to receive confirmation of their call to consecration, they renew their temporary vows for another three years and begin the experience that they did not have during the first period of temporary vows, either apostolic life in a community or theological studies in Madrid. After those six years of temporary vows, they make final vows. The majority finish their theological studies after making their vows, and the on-going formation continues.
What are the essential elements of each stage?
The initial formation has two elements in all of its stages. On the one hand, it offers formation as an apostle of the Kingdom, and on the other, vocational confirmation. During their vocational accompaniment the young woman seeks to listen to God with more clarity through her spiritual life, self-knowledge, and a deeper knowledge of the consecrated life in Regnum Christi.
The Summer Discernment Course is a time to reflect on the path that has brought them to that moment, seeing if there are sufficient signs of a possible call from God to the consecrated life. The Candidacy is an intense period of encounter with the Lord, in which they center their lives on Him and discover themselves in him, as well as an experience of community life.
In the first period of temporary vows they begin to live what they have promised to the Lord and the Church in their consecration. They begin to experience in first person what it implies and what they need in order to be able to keep responding to the Lord. Normally this coincides with the period of theological studies at the center of formation. The second period of temporary vows allows them to continue living their consecration over a longer period of time. They will have passed through all the aspects that our consecrated life includes, from study to apostolate to community life in that period of time. And in the second period of temporary vows they continue this experience over a sustained period of time: in this stage they will have lived all of the aspects that our consecrated life implies, in studying, in apostolic activity, and in community life. The consecrated woman has found a path of maturation in love as an apostle of Christ.
With their final vows they finish their journeys of vocational confirmation, but formation continues throughout their whole lives.
What is the principal purpose of the formation of the Consecrated Women? Why is formation so important?
The principal purpose of formation is to allow Christ to establish his Kingdom in our own hearts, in order to give ourselves to him, so that, through us, he can make that same Kingdom present in others and in the world. When we see how God carries out that work in a young woman during her first years of formation, it also becomes clear if he wishes her to carry out that work within consecrated life. All of this ends up being a Pascal experience, that is, a dying with Christ in order to rise with him. Formation is important because it allows women to bring to life all their desires to love.
Your formation has not always been the same. Over time, the formation of Consecrated women has gradually changed into the form it takes today. What was the formation process like in the beginning compared to now? What are the principal changes?
The formation of the Consecrated Women has gradually evolved, from the consecration of the first young women in 1969 to today, and I suppose that it will continue evolving in the future. From the beginning there was a great desire to love the Lord and give oneself to the mission. There has always been an awareness of the need to prepare oneself for the mission. There have been various forms of doing that. Some of the changes that have arisen came from cultural and ecclesial changes that happened over time. Others have been due to a growing understanding of human anthropology and the need to have a formation that relies more on personal freedom than on normative structures.
One of the principal changes has been lengthening the time of temporary vows before making final vows. This was done when we saw the need for a greater interior freedom in the one who makes that promise forever. Another change was including the study of a civil or ecclesiastical degree in Theology to respond to the needs of the New Evangelization in a secularized world.
Accompaniment is present in each stage of formation, but in what ways? What is accompaniment like in each of the phases?
In every stage it is necessary to ensure a personal and communal formation, like Jesus Christ did. The young woman will always have a formator who walks closely with her, but without being invasive, always allowing her her personal freedom, just like in spiritual direction and the sacraments. It is also important to ensure that she is accompanied by the community in different ways.
During the vocational accompaniment it helps that she has contact with other young women who are going through a similar journey of searching for holiness and their vocational path. It is also very beneficial to have contact with a community of Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi and the Regnum Christi family in general. If God is calling her to a vocation of consecration, it is for the good of the Church, so she cannot discern that call isolated from the community of faith. For many young women, this experience is better had by living for a time in a community of Consecrated Women.
During Candidacy, in addition to personal accompaniment, she has the accompaniment of her community, made up of other candidates and some Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi. They receive the sacramental accompaniment of the Legionaries of Christ and contact with the RC family and the local Church. Some receive psychological accompaniment in order to continue growing humanly.
During the period of temporary vows, in addition to what was said earlier, they have the accompaniment of their teams of apostolate and university professors.
How do they combine formation with other activities or apostolates?
We consider everything that a person lives to be a part of their formation; it goes beyond formal studies. While they study theology, each Consecrated Woman has an assigned apostolate that is compatible with the time they have available. Everyone balances that time as well as they can. It is a challenge, since the heart wishes to help wherever it sees the need! They have to make decisions according to their responsibilities and allow themselves to be formed by the Lord in daily life. It is a journey that involves making mistakes and experiencing the consequences, and starting again. The program of formation includes moments of weekly community prayer, monthly or bimonthly formation themes, and some courses during vacation times. Personal accompaniment is always present in this period.