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This is an interview with Luis Arce, a brother from the Servants of the Word.

Luis, you just moved to Ann Arbor. how many years had you been in Costa Rica before moving to Michigan this summer?

Close to four years.

Why the move and how do you feel about it?

Haha, good question! There are a few ways to answer that—one could be “obedience”. We are making some moves in our brotherhood and we needed somebody to serve in Michigan in the International Formation house, so they invited me to do that. And I am happy to do it. Many people ask me how I feel about leaving my home country; of course such a move comes with mixed feelings. It was good to be close to my home community and my family, so I am going to miss them. On the other hand, I have lived in Michigan before and have good friends here. It is a new challenge for me and I am looking forward to what God is going to do. It is challenging and exciting.

Now, you are going to be leading the International Formation Household. Could you tell our readers a little bit about what the goal of the formation house is?

Sure. When a man wants to join our brotherhood, he goes through a process of training and formation. He starts in his own region—Latin Americans start in Mexico, Asians in the Philippines, etc.—but after two years everybody is going to live in Michigan for two years, in what is known as the International Formation Household. Those two years are very important in our process because there is less intensity in outreach mission; it is more like an extended retreat time. There is more time to pray and study; we have several courses in Scripture and theology, not full time but part time. Also, some of our major discernment happens, where we use the Ignatian spiritual exercises as a tool. It is also a time to learn more about the ways of our brotherhood, with trainees serving in finances, maintenance, administration and other areas of our life that are important. These two years are crucial for our discernment process, since during it the actual discernment to make a commitment and become a Servant of the Word is done. You start the formation house as an affiliate in training and you leave it as a committed brother—not a lifelong commitment but a full commitment to be a brother for a year at least. 

What is your role in this formation program?

Right now, there is a very good set up. We are working as a team, so even though I am leading the house and I am responsible for our house calendar, activities and our house life, I am not on my own but there are other lifelong brothers working with me. Nico Angleys has led the formation house before and will mentor and coach me. Brian Laba has been living and serving in the formation house for a few years. Malaquías García from Mexico has been in the house for a year and is now qualified to train younger brothers. The four of us are the formation team and we are going to be helping the brothers in formation have a good experience. My role is to organize and facilitate the team and the house, but for sure it is not a role on my own. Also, a lot of my responsibilities are with men that are in formation, helping them in their process, walking alongside them as they take a more serious look at our life and decide what is next for them in the next few years.

And who is living with you apart from these three brothers?

It is a big house with twelve brothers. The five lifelong brothers are Nico Angleys, Brian Laba, Malaquías García, Will Cannon—who is mostly doing outreach work in Ann Arbor—and myself. From the seven brothers in our formation program, four of them are in their second year: Daniel Dunkl from Austria, Nate Stoll from the U.S., Ryan Morales from the Philippines, and David Huitrón from Mexico. Three brothers have moved in for their first year: Gustavo Endara from Ecuador, Marco Madrigal from Costa Rica, and Jag Dagelet from the Philippines. It is a good house, with varied backgrounds across different countries, cultures, and languages.

What are you most looking forward to in terms of your new assignment?

I honestly really enjoy working with young men who are looking into our life, learning and growing, making decisions and maturing. The formation house has a certain environment that is very good in order to grow in prayer, being closer to the Lord, and that has a retreat feel to it. When I lived there before, it was personally and spiritually very fruitful for me. I am also looking forward to learning new things since I am going to do more teaching and more pastoral work internal to our brotherhood. Finally, I am looking forward to the environment and seeing God act in the lives of these men.

Apart from your family, what are you going to miss most about Costa Rica?

Two things that come straight to mind—I hope nobody is offended—are coffee and mountains. Even your daily coffee is really good in Costa Rica, and in the U.S. it is not quite as good. In Costa Rica there are mountains everywhere, but Michigan is very flat. Also, the people, the environment, and the culture are different, and I will miss that. And then, I am not particularly looking forward to six months of cold weather per year. These are a few simple things.

And finally, what are three things to pray for?

For me personally, I would appreciate prayer for this new role that I am assuming, so I am able to listen to God and respond to him as I grow into doing his work. Secondly, for the brothers who are going through formation: these are very important years, so pray that God will speak to them and that they will be able to make good decisions. Finally, that we can have a good household life, where we can together grow in our relationship with God and with one another, where we can encourage, love and serve one another, and live a good Servant of the Word life. 

Martin Steinbereithner
Dr. Martin Steinbereithner is Viennese, currently residing in Chelsea, Michigan (USA). He is the director of Communications and Development for the Servants of the Word. Previously he worked for twenty years in campus ministry in North America, Lebanon and England and for over the last ten years with Christian communities in the Middle East, Poland, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France, the UK and Africa. Martin holds a doctorate in organizational behavior and non-profit management. He is a research associate of the Nonprofit Research Group at the Vienna University of Business and Economics and consults with various faith-based non-profit organizations. Check out his podcast channels: Words That Change You and Dâbâr
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