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       MYM Vice-province, 5 August 2022 -- Prepared over a lengthy periodby the SDB Formation sector (RMG) the first batch of the 25 SDB Accompaniment School 'graduates' returned to their home provinces after 5 weeks in Don Bosco's places in Piedmont (Italy). An international team of 6 resource persons guided by Br Raymond Callo (FIN) launched the School of Accompaniment first in English (April-May) and the Italian-Spanish-Portuguese batch will soon follow (August-September 2022). We are happy to share the interview with one of 4 SDBs from our EAO region, who participated in this historic formation experience. After the course, Fr John Saw was installed as the new Novice director in his Vice-province of Mary Help of Christians in Myanmar, and has begun to share his 'Valdocco-Becchi' experience with his 5 novices.

       What was your expectation before the course?

       My expectation before attending this school was very simple. I knew that Spiritual accompaniment is very important for a person who wants to grow in holiness and who wants to grow in their spiritual life. I myself experienced satisfaction, pleasure and hope for the future of my spiritual journey such as reorientation of myself to experiencing God in a deeper way after being accompanied by my spiritual director. At the same time it is hard to accompany other people due to insufficient knowledge about spiritual accompaniment. I felt that being accompanied by my spiritual director is not enough, I also need to enrich myself with this knowledge in order to constantly grow in my spiritual journey and help the young people effectively in dealing with their spiritual matters. I know and feel that many young people need this kind of accompaniment during their searching for the true meaning of life and discernment for their occupations especially during their moment of doubt or crisis in their faith. I may be patient enough to listen to them in order to do this ministry but I need to enrich my knowledge about accompanying others accordingly. That is why I expected this school of spiritual accompaniment would be a big help for me and for the young people who are under our care.

       Your main 'take away' after the weeks in Valdocco and Colle Don Bosco?

       Actually there were many things that I could learn from this accompaniment school. There are many takeaways. I came to know what the accompaniment is and the importance of accompaniment. Listening is the basic and fundamental requirement in the accompaniment process. I also came to know that the helper cannot promise so much but one thing that the helper can do is to be a companion who will go along in his or her journey and be ready whenever he needs him. At the same time I am aware that the helper does not always solve the problem or take the pain away. Practice that I experienced during the course helped me a lot to improve myself. There is one thing that I would like to point out here is the Sacramental presence of our elderly confreres inspired me a lot.

       What are the insights from this 'school'?

       I have also gained new insights on Spiritual Direction and came to know the qualities to be a Spiritual Guide and how to do it in meeting with my Spiritual Director. I also came to know how Don Bosco had trust in his Spiritual Directors and how he surrendered himself to his Spiritual Director completely. I could clearly see how Don Bosco was accompanied by his spiritual guide throughout his entire life and how he accompanied his boys in unique ways.

       What about your joys and challenges in accompaniment?

       Yes, accompanying other people is not that easy. It is a heavy task. But I could find happiness and meaning in the ministry of accompaniment. Having special focus on the sharing of the other people is quite difficult for me initially but later it became easy for me to catch up with the conversation. Eagerness to give suggestions is always a big temptation for me. I am always happy whenever I can fully give my attention and focus on the sharing of the others and raise the questions on the relationship between God and him. Here I came to know that knowing how to transmit God is an essential thing too. I am also training myself to have the same experience of living consciously in the presence of God so that I will be able to give others the same value that I am experiencing.

       How will you follow this Accompaniment school experience in MYM viceprovince?

       Looking at the situation of the province I feel and wish that all the confreres get the same opportunity to attend this spiritual accompaniment school. I wish them to get the same opportunity because the experience that we got from the school of spiritual accompaniment can change our views of looking at the role of Spiritual director and spiritual matters. Fr. Provincial also asks us to share our experiences to all the confreres and he is arranging to send someone to this school. We do not have any similar school like that here in Myanmar yet. Thank you so much for having a school of spiritual accompaniment.

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