FROM AN OLD ROMAN – Auto-Formation
Settling in to Prop were busy and challenging days as we came to terms with a missionary Church, rather than an Anglo-Celtic Church. Apart from a few traditional members, all students came from the missionary territories, of which Australia was one in 1957.
Mgr Cenci’s formation system was based on “auto-formation” and “respect for all”. He figured, and rightly so, that most of us will be isolated on the missions and left to our own devices. Whether we sink or swim will depend on the Grace of God and our own efforts.
As a result, this saintly man preached and lived “auto-formazione” every day and needed no harsh rules to run his seminary. For example, students had wine with their meals and were allowed to smoke in certain places. How they did this was decided on the spot by “auto-formation”. After the initial glitches, students got the idea.
Each student was given all his clothes, all his books as well as having his fees paid by the Congregation. Everyone was treated equally, down to a stylish cassock designed in 1633, which included knee breeches and long black stockings!
Students were divided into 11 “camaratas”, groups of about 25 of mixed nationalities, each with his own room. Each camarata was separate from the other with its own common room, bathrooms and supervised by its own Prefect, usually a senior student.
The language of the college was Italian; native languages were only allowed on Thursdays and Sundays. So if you wanted the salt during dinner, you had to learn how to ask for it (or go without!).
And so, we entered a lifestyle that was different and challenged us to be other Christs in his mysteries and to “Go, teach all nations”.