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September 28, 2020 — Twenty-six Jesuit novices in the United States, Canada and Haiti professed first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in August. A novice spends two years at the novitiate for the first stage of Jesuit formation, culminating in the public profession of first vows in the Society of Jesus.

UCS first vows 2020Five Jesuits professed first vows at Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, on August 8: Travis Crowe, SJ; Reynaldo Belfort, SJ; Timothy Bishop, SJ; Brent Gordon, SJ; and Joseph Nolla, SJ. 

Vow Day Masses were held at the Chapel of St. Ignatius at the Jesuit Novitiate of the Three Companions in Culver City, California; Saint Thomas More Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota; the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, New York; Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Grand Coteau, Louisiana; Villa Saint Martin in Montreal; and the Chapel of the Christ the King Sisters un Tabarre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 

UWE first vows 2020Five Jesuit novices pronounced first vows at the Chapel of St. Ignatius at the Jesuit Novitiate of the Three Companions in Culver City, California, on August 8. From left: Alexander Phan, SJ; Brett Helbling, SJ; Travis Neuman, SJ; and Nicholas Russell, SJ; and Collin Price, SJ.

“There’s a lot of talk these days about essential, non-essential,” said Fr. Stephen Corder, SJ, director of novices at the Jesuit Novitiate in Culver City, California, in his homily during the Mass. “And as I was praying about it, it moved my heart how essential today is and how essential our brothers are who are professing their vows. This is a very beautiful and essential step, for them and for all of us and for the sake of the church and the world. Especially in a time like this, we need witnesses of hope who stand up and remind us of what is truly important and of what endures.”

first vow crosses Vow crosses, 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 of 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.

Haiti first vows 2020Four Jesuits professed first vows at the Chapel of the Christ the King Sisters un Tabarre, Port-au-Prince, on August 6. From left: Jean-Gardy Joseph, SJ; McArthur Faustin, SJ; Fr. Jean Denis Saint Félix, SJ (superior for Haiti); Richard Zicourt, SJ; and Olden Lamothe SJ.

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.

UMI first vowsSeven Jesuits professed first vows on August 10 at Saint Thomas More Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Back row, from left: John Stein, SJ; Kevin Karam, SJ; Philip Cooley, SJ; and Emmanuel Arenas, SJ. Front row, from left: Patrick Fisher, SJ; Justin Prom, SJ; and Alexander Hale, SJ.

Novices also experience life as a Jesuit, including living in community and ministering in different settings — from hospitals and third world countries to soup kitchens and Jesuit high schools.

William Mbilinyi, SJWilliam Mbilinyi, SJ, professed first vows on August 16 at Villa Saint Martin in Montreal.

By the time a novice kneels at the altar to pronounce vows, he is prepared and ready to speak the words of the vow formula to God, which concludes: “And as you have freely given me the desire to make offering, so also may you give me the abundant grace to fulfill it.”

Four Jesuit novices pronounced first vows at the cathedral in Syracuse, New York on August 7. From left: Andrew Milewski, SJ; Trevor Kelly, SJ; David Said, SJ; and Michael Petro, SJ.

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 take vows as a Jesuit brother will usually take several theology courses. Click here to read more about the steps of Jesuit formation at beajesuit.org.

2020 First Vows at Culver CityFirst vows Mass at the Chapel of St. Ignatius in Culver City, California

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