The Novitiate, usually, is the second important step on the way to join religious life as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart priest or brother. It takes a whole year, 12 full months spent in the Novitiate community under the guidance of the Novice-Director and his assistant. The programme is not only academic but holistic with human, spiritual and religious dimensions.
The principal purpose of the Novitiate is to be a time of initiation into the life, spirit and mission of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. This initiation should enable the novice to grow in maturity, to develop a real prayer life, to deepen his vocation as a religious and to make sure of his ability to live a consecrated life in community as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart. (MSC Constitutions 86)
The novices will be helped through prayer, study and personal direction:
- to deepen their faith in the love of God, which is symbolized in the Heart of Jesus;
- to grow in personal friendship with Christ;
- to develop a sense of commitment and of community life;
- to become more familiar with the life, history and spirit of our Founder Jule Chevalier and our Society and to strengthen their sense of belonging to the MSC community;
- to acquaint themselves with the members and works of the Province. (MSC Constitutions 87)
The Novitiate is a particular time for special or concentrated discernment.
Whilst the particular focus of the Noviciate Year is an initiation into our MSC way of life, with a corresponding emphasis on cultivation of the spiritual dimension of the personality, this can be pursued only within the overall aim and context of integrated growth of the person. Consequently, the process towards holistic growth begun in the Pre-Novitiate will be continued and deepened during the Novitiate time.
(Formation Policy Document, MSC Southern Africa, Section 6.3)
The Novitiate helps you to reach new levels of maturity in your life and faith journey, to be renewed spiritually, psychologically, emotionally in Gospel values, to accept the call and to “leave everything for the sake of Christ”, so that before your first profession at the end of the Novitiate, you could say with sincerity: “it is no longer I who live but Christ Jesus who lives in me” (S Paul to the Galatians 2:20).
The Novitiate is a most favourable time for listening to God’s voice through all the various ways God is speaking to you: the Holy Scriptures, especially the Gospels, the Celebrations (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Retreats, etc.), personal and community prayer, quiet times, silence and solitude, reflecting on the events in your life and your deepest desires about what you feel you are called to be.
And so, through regular sharing with the Novice Director, you will be able to make a clear choice to become a seriously committed MSC or to choose another way of life according to God’s will.
Feedback from Current Students
On the 14th August 2009 the 2009-2010 African MSC Novitiate opened with five candidates and their two formators from six different countries. Now the Novitiate is a little over half way through and the Novices started their 30 day silent retreat following the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola.
Peter Ng’ang’a from Kenya says,
“For me, the novitiate experience is an encounter with my self, the other and God. I am discovering my call, my vocation with each passing day. I am learning to keep silent for a longer time, do some spiritual reading. The courses and other novitiate activities teach me to work contemplatively and make work part of my prayer. The pastoral work at the nearby hospice caring for HIV/AIDS patients, sponsored by the MSC’s and other interest groups, not only exposes me to the needs of the community, but also to a respect and love of life, amidst the suffering of the terminally ill patients. I pray that I will grow to be a witness of the love of the Sacred Heart as an MSC”.
For Wahendi Rech, of Congo Brazaville says,
“Novitiate is a stage to profoundly deepen and solidify the base of intimacy with God through his word. It is a time that is making me grow in union, heart to heart with Christ in the ‘great silence’. For me the silence of the Novitiate signifies paying an attention to the presence of God”.
Solitude, for Joel Ngah from Cameroon says,
" It is far from ‘boring’ it is essential in the experience of novitiate. “It is an expression of emptiness that opens me to communication with God and my brothers. In solitude I have a feeling of God’s mark in my daily life. Nature plays an important role for me, by its bounty, beauty and diversity, ready to offer itself to the unknown! Nature talks to me of God and with His open hands. It is one of the sources of my inspiration in building a community based on respect of difference, love, justice and compassion”.
Sylvain Mbunsu from Congo DRC says,
“The richness of our times of adoration, exceptional moments of love, are some of the most beautiful discoveries for me. There, I journey into my inner most being and meet face to face with my Lord incarnate in a simple and frank language. My apostolate among the poor also helps me to meet Christ. My desire to become an MSC, a missionary and a witness of the loving heart of Jesus is being clarified and fortified”.
Jules Silvain Eloundou, Cameroon says,
“The novitiate and its environment helps me to interiorize,deepen and focus my attention on the vocation and mission that is revealed to me by the pierced Heart of Jesus. The journey into the heart is for me a beautiful discovery that gives me the audacity to confront the mystery that I am”
Fr. Karl Hofer msc, accompanies this ‘interior journey’ of my young brothers in the descent into the centre of their lives, in their secret meeting place with God, in the heart of the night illumined by the presence of God, where silence becomes adoration and profound communication. God makes himself felt. Each person’s life-project is honed through this intimate dialogue.
During March-April 2010 the students went together with Fr. Hofer msc to the Pastoral Centre of Tzaneen Diocese in the northern Limpopo Province to begin the 30 day retreat. Please do keep all of them in your prayers, especially the young men discerning their MSC vocation.