By Becky Sindelar
August 23, 2016 — Declaring their commitment to the Society of Jesus in front of friends and family, 32 Jesuit novices in Canada, the United States and Haiti professed first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience earlier this month.
Seven Jesuits professed first vows at Sacred Heart Chapel on the Loyola Marymount University campus in Los Angeles on August 13.
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.
Jesuit novices Adam Pittman (third from left) and Richard Mulrooney (far right) pronounced first vows at the Church of the Gesù in Montreal on August 14.
Jesuit William Manaker, who professed his vows at St. Charles College on August 13, said that he felt joy and peace “knowing this is what the Lord has been calling me to do.
“In some ways, the Lord has been moving my life in this direction since before I had any clue this was the case. So to be saying yes to that call, that movement that God has put there, is really a wonderful gift to be able to receive.” (Read William's vocation story.)
Jesuit William Manaker professing first vows at St. Charles College on August 13.
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.”
Unlike most other religious orders, the Society of Jesus’ first vows are perpetual, meaning the man is promising to spend the rest of his life living out poverty, chastity and obedience. For other religious orders, first vows are usually temporary, lasting about two to three years.
Fr. Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, director of the Jesuit novitiate in Grand Coteau, holds a vow cross at the first vow Mass.
How does the Society prepare men for this lifelong commitment? During their two years at the novitiate, Jesuit novices learn about the Ignatian and Jesuit way by studying the Constitutions of the Society and Ignatian writings and learning about the three vows, says Fr. Thibodeaux.
The novices also make the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which Manaker says are foundational for Jesuit life. “That was a wonderful and grace-filled experience.”
Four Jesuits professed first vows in the Chapel of the Missionnaires du Christ-Roi Sisters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 6.
But at least as critical, says Fr. Thibodeaux, are the experiences they have during the novitiate. “We talk about community life, but more importantly they live it. 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.”
This allows the novices a chance to try out the life and figure out how they’re going to personally integrate their life with the Jesuit lifestyle, explains Fr. Thibodeaux.
Nine Jesuits pronounced first vows at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, New York, on August 13.
Manaker says one of his highlights of the novitiate was working as a hospital chaplain for three months in Chicago. “It was a wonderful experience to be with the sick and their families and to have the opportunity to speak and pray with them and to see the face of Christ present in the people who I talked to.”
Vow Day marks the end of two years of novitiate, and the Mass itself is beautiful in its simplicity, says Fr. Thibodeaux. It’s an ordinary liturgy, but just before communion is distributed, the novice kneels in front of the priest holding the host, before professing his vows in front of everyone gathered.
Jesuit William Manaker with his family.
The vows they pronounce are from the Jesuit Constitutions, the same ones Jesuits have professed since the early days of the Society. “They make that public profession and it’s very moving,” says Fr. Godleski. “They write out their vows by hand and they read from the document at Mass, which really emphasizes that this is something they are doing freely, something they understand.”
Near the end of Mass, each Jesuit is given a vow cross, a symbol and tradition that goes back to the early days of the Society, representing the missionary work Jesuits do.
The first vow Mass at Saint Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, Minnesota, where nine Jesuits (pictured in banner) professed first vows on August 13.
With their time at the novitiate complete, these Jesuits will move on to philosophy studies in the U.S. or Canada, either as a scholastic on the path to be ordained to the priesthood or as a Jesuit brother.
Manaker looks forward to his studies at Loyola University Chicago and for the opportunity to get to know Jesuits from around the country and to “learn what it is to be a Jesuit out in the world.”
Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.