The International Formation Center (CIF) is a work of the Congregation of the Mission established by the Superior General with his council to offer programs of ongoing Vincentian formation for members of the Congregation of the Mission. It is developed primarily for members of the Congregation of the Mission, but members of other groups sharing in the Vincentian charism are welcome. CIF has its home at the Maison-Mère of the Congregation of the Mission in Paris, where Saint Vincent spent his life in the service of the Gospel and the poor and where the body of Vincent is enshrined in the main chapel.
The International Formation Center offers an integral program of ongoing Vincentian formation to the members of the Congregation of the Mission. Its aim is to help them realize the goal of following Jesus Christ the Evangelizer of the poor (Constitutions #1).
Its location in Paris enables participants to experience the historical, religious and cultural context of Saint Vincent's life and work, and to understand the factors which shaped the history and spirit of the Congregation of the Mission. Visits to “Vincentian Paris” and “Vincentian France” – the places connected with Saint Vincent's life and mission – create an experience of getting back to our Vincentian roots.
Getting to know the world of Monsieur Vincent and the history of the Congregation is balanced by the challenge of understanding and exploring the meaning of our Constitutions and Statues for today in a largely diverse cultural, economic, political and religious contexts.
The program provides a setting for the personal renewal of each confrere and the formation of an international community. The Eucharist, prayer, personal sharing, celebrations and living together foster a spirit of fraternal communion.
The idea of continuing formation for the Congregation began in the time of Saint Vincent himself. At the first Assembly held during his lifetime, in October 1642, we read the following paragraph:
- Next, the Assembly decided two things: (1) that henceforth there would be a second probation, which would take place at Saint-Lazare or wherever else the Superior General would indicate; that it would take place only six or seven years after the seminary, for an interval of one year, without, nevertheless, limiting the power of the Superior General, who can always either delay the six or seven years, or shorten the said year of probation, as he deems advisable for the good of the individual and the need of the Company. (XIII, 295)
Although this was his clear wish and the wish of the Assembly, the time was not ripe for such a program. The Assembly of 1668 spoke to the question, but the members had to admit that the time was still not ripe. The Assembly of 1711, however, agreed that the time was then. Consequently, Father Jean Bonnet, Superior General 1711-1735, decided with his council to begin the program on 15 August 1712, at Saint Charles, the former minor seminary on the Saint Lazare property. Ten confreres participated during nine weeks, and at the end, Bonnet reported, they were “very happy and edified,” as were the confreres at Saint Lazare. This “seminary of renewal,” or “seminary of recollection” as it was called, lasted for a few years, but difficult financial problems in France caused its suspension. It seems not to have been revived, although it was often called for even up to 1786.
It would take many generations and crises before the General Assembly of 1992 decreed that such a program should begin again. Many times in the previous years, particularly during General Assemblies, the need for ongoing formation had been mentioned. The topic, in general terms, forms part of the Constitutions and Statutes; as art.81: The formation of our members should be continued and renewed all through life. (Also Statute 42.) The result was that Father Maloney stated, at his election: “We will not discuss the question of a Formation Center any more, we will establish one.” CIF
On Sept 2005 fr Hugh, director of CIF, wrote a letter of information to every Visitator of the CM.
SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL CENTRE INTERNATIONAL DE FORMATION 95, rue de Sèvres 75006 Paris, France
27 September 2005
To: the Visitors of the Congregation Re: CIF schedule 2006-2007 and Future Plans
May the grace of the Lord be with us always!
With this letter I am sending you CIF’s schedule for the next two years (2006-2007). A long-range multi-year schedule will be published before Christmas.
The Superior General invited me to a meeting of the General Council to present a report on CIF’s history, actual situation and future plans. I attended the tempo forte meeting on 15 June 2005, speaking in Juan Julian Diaz Catalan’s name and my own. The discussion was fruitful and Father Greg’s follow-up letter suggested paths for future development. He left the implementation of his and the Council’s suggestions to us at CIF, of course, in consultation with all concerned parties.
1. Ongoing formation sessions will be once a year. The first 11 sessions of CIF averaged 24 participants per session, the last 9 have averaged 14. The trend is clear. At the same time, there are 941 confreres (born between 1953 and 1972) who are eligible to participate in CIF. This is a large number, but, after analysis by language and province of origin, it turned out that the available pool is quite a bit smaller, perhaps 500-600. Still that is quite a few. We concluded that one session of Ongoing Formation a year will satisfy the need and also make it possible to have slightly larger groups, ideally (from the point of view of financial viability) about 18-20. This is not a large change. There were two sessions a year in the first 6 years. Then there were three sessions every two years after 2000, when the Vincentian Heritage program for confreres over fifty was introduced. Now there will have one session each year. We have decided it will be in the fall of each year. The next two sessions are:
CIF XXI 10 September – 8 December 2006 (Spanish, Portuguese, English) CIF XXII 9 September – 7 December 2007 (French, English, Italian)
We are also prepared to add, in any of these sessions, a translator for another language, if there are five or six participants speaking that language. This has been the practice of CIF right along.
2. Vincentian Heritage will also be once a year, in the spring. Each spring, after Easter, we will have a month-long Vincentian Heritage session for confreres over 50. However, in 2006 we will have two sessions in the spring, because both have been announced for some time now.
Vincentian Heritage IX 12 March – 7 April 2006 French and Italian Vincentian Heritage X 30 April – 26 May 2006 Spanish and Portuguese
Vincentian Heritage XI 15 April – 11 May 2007 English speaking confreres.
3. Session on Community and Apostolic Leadership. Father Greg and the Council urged us to use creatively the time that becomes available through this new alignment, that is, to respond to the formational needs of the provinces. One need that has been identified by many is the need to encourage and develop leadership in our local communities. It is commonplace to hear that local superiors are hard to find and qualified confreres are reluctant or unwilling to assume the responsibility. The challenge of being a good superior in new and contemporary settings is worth addressing. We would like to put it in the larger context of leadership - community, spiritual, apostolic and Vincentian leadership at the local level.
Our first effort at this will be in the summer of 2006. It will be from mid-June to mid-July 2006. We will finalize the dates after consulting with you. We intend to seek your help in planning and carrying out these four weeks. What are the issues to be addressed? What guidance do you have for us? I will send a separate questionnaire to you in the next two weeks.
4. Mini-CIF. Some of the confreres who are eligible for CIF cannot come because of educational commitments during the academic year or other pastor demands. We have been thinking of a mini-CIF in the summer of 2007 of four weeks with a seminar approach. Unlike the present format in which “experts” do the heavy work of analyzing and synthesizing, a seminar approach would rely heavily on the activity of the participants. Of course, there will be experts to guide the process. At the same time a shortened CIF will try to achieve the formational goals of the longer program in a shorter time, because it is the mission of CIF to focus on Vincentian formation and not only on information.
5. Connecting with SIEV as well as CLAPVI, COVIAM and APVC. Father Greg and the Council want CIF and SIEV to work together as opportunities arise. CIF was represented at the meeting of SIEV 21-22 September 2005 in Rome.
CIF has also been asked to establish a relationship with CLAPVI, COVIAM and APVC with a view to collaborating in formation, especially in the service of those for whom it is difficult to come to CIF. In this way we might have opportunities to take CIF on the road.
6. Communications and the Internet. There were suggestions about the use of the website as well as developing Vincentian resources online and getting the word about CIF out to each confrere through a brochure. We will deal with this area in a future letter to the Visitors and confreres.
Thank you very much for your support of the program by sending confreres and for your contributions to the Scholarship Fund, which is already making a difference.
Your brothers in Saint Vincent,
Hugh O’Donnell CM
Juan Julian Diaz Catalan, CM
2006-2007 CIF 3 Month Sessions
CIF XXI - 10 September – 8 December 2006 (Spanish, Portuguese, English)
CIF XXII - 9 September – 7 December 2007 (French, English, Italian)
2006-2007 Heritage 1 Month Sessions
Vincentian Heritage IX - 12 March – 7 April 2006 French and Italian
Vincentian Heritage X - 30 April – 26 May 2006 Spanish and Portuguese
Vincentian Heritage XI - 15 April – 11 May 2007 English speaking confreres.
Information en Francais
Informes en Espagnol
Traveling to CIF
Information on how to reach the Mother House of The Congregation of the Mission
In order to reach the Mother House at 95 rue du Sévres, take the Subway Metro Train Line 10 Station VANEAU (the House is in front of the exit of the Metro).
It could also be reached through the station of Sévres - Babylone (Lines 10-12.)
From the Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport, take the RER (Line B). Get off at the Saint Michelle-Cluny Station and take Subway Metro Train Line 10 bound for Boulogne. Then, get off at the VANEAU Station.
From the Orly Airport, take RER Line C (Navetta Bus, plus the train.) Get off at the AUSTERLITZ Station and take Subway Metro Train Line 10 bound for Boulogne. Get off at the VANEAU Station.