It has been almost two months since I reached Spain attending the course for the formators at the School for the Heart of Mary. I started this workshop programme in Vic together with other twenty four companions and then moved to Barbastro and now we are in Colmenar Viejo. When I look back to my two months of stay in the land of our founder where our congregation was born and grown, I feel so blessed and fortunate to make this journey with Claret knowing him more and more about his charism and missionary thrust that moved the congregation from Vic to different continents today. It was also an opportunity to know the charismatic and formative foundations of our identity from the traditions of the congregations and from the general plan of formation. I began the first week of my stay in Vic with a self-confrontation asking “Why am I here?” It was a realization for me that i am here neither because I am asked to go for it nor came to see a new place but rather to renew my own self which would help me to be a Claretian formator who can give a high quality formation, (as Jesús M. Palacios cmf always reminds us,) to the formandi in their vocational discernment and growth. Apart from the intellectual learning it was also an occasion to visit the Claretian places nearby Vic and Barcelona where Claret was born, spiritually grown and did his missionary work. I write this experiences of attending the school for the heart of Mary in three phases, phase one (Vic and Barcelona), phase two (Barbastro), and phase three (Madrid).
I began my journey with Claret on18th April 2017 in Vic recalling the old memories that I had about this place from the Autobiography and other little readings. Soon I realized my knowledge about Vic and the importance of this place in the life of Claret is very little. I began my journey of learning and experiencing together with my other companions more intensively. Sharing of Personal experiences of elderly formators and the given intellectual input together with it gave more meaning and relevance to my initial stay in Vic. The city of Vic is located in the heart of the Osona region, in the principality of Catalonia, some 70 km away from Barcelona and not far from the beautiful Pyrenees mountains.
Claret who was born in Sallent in December 23, 1807, comes for the first time on September 29, 1829 to this historical city. He enters Vic by the Remei bridge and through Sant Pere street. He comes to begin his ecclesiastical studies that will last six years. He resides in Vic from January 1841 marking the start of his missionary life through the villages of Catalonia and the Canary Islands. Its here on July 16, 1849, in a simple cell of the former diocesan seminary, the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the immaculate Heart of Mary was founded by Fr. Claret along with his five companions. Bishop Luciano Casadevall gave them some permanent housing in the old and abandoned convent of La Merced, where they lived with the Founder until his departure to Santiago de Cuba. It is in the Cathedral of Vic he is consecrated the bishop of Santiago de Cuba on October 6, 1850. So being in this place of such importance helped me to trace back our history and heritage which motivated many of the elderly missionaries to work for Christ in the style of our founder Father Claret.
I also visited the birth place of our founder, the Village of Sallent. Claret says in the autobiography “I was born in the village of Sallent, deanery of Manresa, diocese of Vic, province of Barcelona. (Aut. no. 3). The village of Salient is situated in the very center of the territory of the Pla de Bages and drenched with the waters of the river Llobregat. It belongs to the province of Barcelona and the jurisdiction of Manresa. Claret writes, “The bridge, river, waterfall and house indicate Sallent, my native place; my father is from this part of the river and my mother from the other side, and thus they are symbolized: John Claret as the sun and Josephine Clara as the moon.” (Letter of 25 July 1850). The present bridge, partially rebuilt and renovated, is the one Anthony Mary Claret walked over when he was a small boy, young textile worker, seminarian, benefice-holder, parish administrator, missionary of Catalonia, and Archbishop of Cuba. Looking at this historical bridge, it was worthwhile to stop and contemplate the good old days of industrial boom in this village.