The novice master guides the Novices to grasp the meaning of Religious consecration to discern the Lord’s call and, in prayer, make the Novices ready to respond (see C. 55).
Recognizing the important role of the novice master in the Oblate formation, the Superior General and his councilors invited 16 novice masters from all around the world to come together for a workshop. This program was held from the 10th to the 31st of July 2018 at the Centre International Eugene de Mazenod (CIEM) in Aix-en-Provence, France. The theme of the meeting was: “Formation to Oblate Religious Life and Novitiate Experience”. Leaving their daily routine of activities and with a spirit of openness, the novice masters were able to prepare themselves to follow this precious gathering.
Some results we were able to draw from this meeting are as follows.
Time of Encounter:
This meeting gave everyone the opportunity to share their vocation story. We found out that marvelously God had called us personally as beloved men to be his co-workers and we responded joyfully, and, until now, God is still calling us as disciples to partake in his work of salvation. Like the apostles, we are disciples who have been formed around Jesus Christ, ready to be sent as apostolic men.
Also, through sharing our joys and challenges we were enriched by the experience and reflection of everyone in taking up the ministry as formators in the initiation stage. All this sharing helped us to see the courage and happiness we have in accompanying the Novices to discover their vocation.
Time to learn:
We benefited from the conference on spirituality and charism given by Frank Santucci, OMI. He shared with us the practical method of delivering the richness of the Founder’s life from the materials we could find in many resources available both in books and online. We learned how to develop some formal studies on these themes for deepening our understanding.
Thierry Anne SJ, the Jesuit novice master, also helped us to learn more about discernment and vocational accompaniment at the Novitiate. He enlightened us with many examples which often arise during the novitiate time and afterwards. We learned that the novice masters themselves need some supervision to help the Novices grow in their vocation and to help them serve well in the ministry.
Time of renewal:
Through prayer, recollection, reflection and pilgrimage to the Oblate holy land, we renewed ourselves. We were able to recall in mind the life of our Founder and everything he did in the past. We will not do the same things as he did, but through attentively reading the sign of the times, we could do something helpful for the glory of God, the service of the Church and the salvation of souls.
We also built up the sense of belonging to one large community that is the Oblate family. By keeping in contact and sharing life experiences, we support each other to live this vocation and ministry. We had a very great and touching moment when we renewed our Oblation in front of the tomb of our Founder during celebration of the Eucharist.
The Superior General reminded us of the importance of personal accompaniment and the quality of listening to each other. For the Novices the novice master can be a good father and a true elder brother who accompanies his young friends in discerning their vocations. The most important point is to experience the presence of the Lord in the silent atmosphere of the novitiate community. Through contemplation and personal accompaniment, the Novices will grow to be integrated persons. Truly the Novitiate stage is laying the foundation for the Oblate life, therefore all should cultivate the foundation with care. The short time period of living the Novitiate stage will be fruitful and meaningful if we put Jesus Christ as the center of our life and mission. In their ministry the novice masters do not work alone but rather in collaboration with their formation team.
The assistant general for formation emphasized the important ministry of presence in the community for accompanying the Novices. All the structured programs will be useful tools to manage the formation activities with the goal of developing the five elements of formation effectively and meaningfully.
The presence of the novice masters in Aix was like that of pilgrims who could touch and experience the zeal and the spirit of St. Eugene and his first companions. Hopefully, the novice masters will be able to bring this spirit into the life of the Novices.
We gratefully thank the superior general and his councilors for animating us to refresh our commitment, and to the CIEM community members who have accommodated us with a living witness and many types of support.
Finally, in our concluding Mass and ceremony, we were sent to continue our ministry zealously and joyfully.