August 28, 2017 — Thirty-six Jesuit novices in the United States, Canada and Haiti professed first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience this month. A novice spends two years at the novitiate for the first stage of Jesuit formation, culminating in first vows — a public profession of commitment to the Society of Jesus.
Five Jesuits professed first vows at Sacred Heart Chapel on the Loyola Marymount University campus in Los Angeles on August 12.
Vow Day Masses were held at Saint Thomas More Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota; Church of the Gesù in Montreal; Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, New York; Sacred Heart Chapel in Los Angeles; St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana; and the Chapel of the Missionnaires du Christ-Roi Sisters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Above, a vow cross, which novices receive during the first vows Mass.
At the Mass, each Jesuit novice makes the profession of vows individually in front of the Eucharist, just as St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and some of his first companions did. They also receive a vow cross that they will keep for the rest of their lives.
Fifteen Jesuits professed first vows on August 12 at Saint Thomas More Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Jesuit Father Mark Thibodeaux, director of the Jesuit novitiate at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, stressed the significance of first vows in a Jesuit’s formation: “It’s one of the most important moments of a man’s life. It’s where the man says he’s going to do this for the rest of his life.”
During their two years in the novitiate, the novices prepared to become vowed members of the order by learning about the Society, participating in local ministries and living in Jesuit communities. They also embarked on pilgrimages, performed community service and completed the Spiritual Exercises — a 30-day silent retreat developed by St. Ignatius.
Two Jesuit novices pronounced first vows at the Church of the Gesù in Montreal on August 20.
“Of all of the novitiate experiments, making the Spiritual Exercises stands out. The novice learns silence and deepens his relationship with Jesus Christ. In discipleship, Jesuit life finds its focus, and in Jesus, the novice realizes he is loved, redeemed and being transformed into a lover of all humankind,” said Jesuit Father Tom Pipp, director of the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Seven Jesuit novices pronounced first vows at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, New York, on August 12.
Novices also experience life as a Jesuit. “We talk about community life, but more importantly they live it,” said Fr. Thibodeaux. “We do lots of ‘lab’ work — where they’re off doing experiments and ministries in different settings, including hospitals, third world countries, soup kitchens and our Jesuit high schools.”
Five Jesuit novices pronounced first vows at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, on August 12.
By the time a novice kneels at the altar to pronounce vows, he is prepared, said Fr. Pipp. “As he speaks the final words of the vow formula to God, he does so with complete trust: ‘And as you have freely given me the desire to make offering, so also may you give me the abundant grace to fulfill it.’”
Two Jesuits pronounced first vows at the Chapel of the Missionnaires du Christ-Roi Sisters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Following the profession of first vows, Jesuits preparing to be priests usually begin three years of studies: two years of philosophy studies, combined with one year of graduate-level theology courses. Those men who took vows as a Jesuit brother will usually take several theology courses and work on an advanced degree in a field of interest.