The Jesuit Novitiate of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Grand Coteau, La., is abuzz with activity. On Friday, Aug. 11, 13 men entered the novitiate, including one for the Antilles Province, making this the largest class of novices since 2011. Combined with the eight novices who entered last year, there are 21 men living and studying in the novitiate – the largest group at this novitiate in 37 years.
Ranging in age from 21 to 47, the first-year novices are embarking on a lengthy period of formation. The first two years will be in the novitiate, where they will study Ignatian Spirituality and the history of the Society of Jesus. They will also complete a series of “experiments,” which include apostolic service in a range of Jesuit ministries, with a special emphasis on serving the poor and marginalized. These experiments often are times of challenge and growth. (See Fr. John Brown’s reflection on his experiment during tertianship, the period of formation immediately before final vows.)
Director of Novices Fr. Mark Thibodeaux said that the large size of the class presents some gratifying challenges. “Much of the novices’ formation involves one-on-one visits with the novice director, so I will spend an enormous amount of time in ‘the chair,’" he said. “I've had to pull way back on outside commitments in order to acquire more hours in my day. It’s a wonderful problem to have!”
The novices have now completed their first two weeks in the novitiate, a period known as "First Probation." Most that time was spent in conferences with the novitiate staff learning foundational Jesuit documents – what makes a Jesuit a Jesuit.
Father Thibodeaux shares a glimpse of the impact a large class can have. In the first days at novitiate, each novice has a chance to tell his life story. “It takes a long, long time to go through 21 novices this way!” Fr. Thibodeaux said. “I've scheduled over 1,000 minutes just for sharing the life stories.”
Having a full novitiate is cause for great hope and joy in the province, but no one is likely to forget that it is the quality of the vocation that is most important. And in that, there is indeed reason to celebrate.
The Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver offers Ignatian group retreats, individual spiritual direction, the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, and trains spiritual directors and guides of the Spiritual Exercises.