August 19, 2015 — Twenty-four Jesuit novices in Canada and the United States professed First Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience this month. The profession of vows comes after a Jesuit completes his first two years of formation in the novitiate and signifies his commitment to the Society of Jesus.
“They’re really committing themselves to live religious life within the Society of Jesus by making this profession,” says Jesuit Father Dave Godleski, delegate for formation and Jesuit life at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, who has attended numerous First Vows Masses over the years.
“It’s not a sacrament, but it’s as important as making a marriage commitment; you’re making a vow to God in front of all these people. It’s a very moving experience.”
Eight novices professed vows at Sacred Heart Chapel in Los Angeles in August; as did seven novices at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota; five novices at Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Grand Coteau, Louisiana; and four novices at Church of the Gesù in Montreal.
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.
Eight Jesuits professed First Vows August 8 at Sacred Heart Chapel at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
“The whole purpose of the novitiate is to get them ready to become vowed members of the Society of Jesus,” Fr. Godleski explains.
As part of his formation, Jesuit Mike Tedone, who professed First Vows on August 8 in Los Angeles, spent the last year teaching at Jesuit-founded St. Andrew Nativity School in Portland, Oregon, which provides low-income middle-schoolers with a Catholic education at no cost. Tedone, who got to know the Jesuits as a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, says, “I was always struck by their humanity and their love for people and most of all for Jesus.”
Seven novices professed First Vows August 8 at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Don Doll, SJ)
“We are contemplatives in action,” Tedone says. “We are men who are rooted in the love of Christ. We are loved sinners. Our prayer leads us out to be witnesses of Christ’s love in the world.”
As novices, the men also practiced living the vows. “They’ve been asked to live during the novitiate as if they have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience,” Fr. Godleski says. “So before they officially profess them, they’ve already had two years of experience trying them out.”
Four novices professed First Vows August 16 at Church of the Gesù in Montreal. (Photo by Marc Rizzetto, SJ)
At the First Vows Mass, each Jesuit novice makes the profession of vows individually in front of the Eucharist, just as St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, and some of his first companions did. The also receive a vow cross that they will keep for the rest of their lives.
“The vows themselves are relatively simple, but listening to the men make their profession and knowing what they’ve went through during the past two years at the novitiate, the experiences they’ve had — it’s very moving,” says Fr. Godleski.
“I feel very consoled to hear a man make a commitment of himself to be a member of the Society of Jesus and live out the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.”
Five novices professed First Vows August 8 at Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. (Photo by Vincent Orlando, 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 took vows as a Jesuit brother will usually take several theology courses and work on an advanced degree in a field of interest.