The Formation Experience

by Molly Davies and Gerard Pfannenstiel

Formation is a fascinating process.  If you are brand new to Ignatian spirituality and a more regular and regimented prayer life, as many of us are, the process is constantly revealing.  If you are old hat on these items, but new to faith sharing and building a spiritual connection with a community, you can still find yourself wide-eyed.  We started in different places when we joined the formation group.  Gerard was not new to these ideas but brand new to doing any of this as a vulnerable member of a community.  Molly was a formator in Ignatian spirituality for another community, trying to manage the shift between driving the bus and being a passenger. Additionally, we’d only been married one year when we started which introduced a new uncertainty and host of folks into an already tumultuous (though wondrous) period.

For the first six months, we were constantly questioning the process.  We immediately bonded with many in our group, and saw that our formators were prepared and experienced as well as open and flexible.  That did not stop us from giving as much or more of our attention to outward details instead of confronting the inward process of incorporating prayer and love for our community into daily life.  We are really blessed to have made such strong relationships with many in  our group, making sharing about resistance and growing in our willingness to be vulnerable possible and inspiriting.  During the first year (as the promised and formation communities meet separately) we often wondered who the people in the OTHER group were…what did they do and talk about?  We decided to attend the annual IA gathering last summer, and came to realize that thinking in those terms was just another distraction from our own openness and membership in the community.

This journey away from a focus on the outward details and towards a posture of generosity and gratitude has shaped our young marriage.  The second year of formation has reinforced our relationships with community members and our desire to attend actively to our spiritual growth in this community.  It provides both inspiration and accountability; we have ministries we must nurture and are surrounded by people with ministries they nurture and share with us.  Vocation is a human reality, but awareness and nurturing must be present for us to grow closer to God and others through our vocations.  We are expecting our first baby in June, the third baby born into our formation community, and we feel tremendous grace and gratitude to be a part of IA as new parents.