Every year on the first Saturday in September, novices from the Inter-Provincial novitiate in Birmingham make simple first vows. On Saturday 5th September René de los Reyes SJ and Steven Edmunds SJ of the British Province pronounced their vows of perpetual poverty, chastity and obedience before Irish Provincial Tom Layden SJ at St. Mary’s Church in Harborne, Birmingham. Patrick Corkery and Teo Avram, novices of the Irish Province, were there also. Vincent Castaldi (24), originally from New York, USA, will join the novitiate with them shortly.
Patrick (29) is from Cork and has a Masters in History and Politics. Teo (29) from Romania was originally part of the Othodox Christian Church before coverting to Catholicism. He holds a Masters qualification in Theology. Meanwhile Vincent (24), the youngest of the Irish group, has a Masters degree in Spirituality.
The First Vow Mass was celebrated by British Provincial Dermot Preston SJ, Irish Provincial Tom Layden SJ who gave the homily, John Verschuren SJ, Provincial of the Netherlands/Flanders Provinces, and Brendan Callaghan SJ, Novice Master for the Interprovincial Novitiate.
In this homily Tom Layden SJ remarked that each time he attends a vows ceremony: “I am drawn to a document I found very helpful when I was preparing for my own first vows. It is Decree 2 of General Congregation 32 and it asks the question, ‘What is it to be a Jesuit?’ And the answer? It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was: Ignatius who begged the Blessed Virgin to ‘place him with her Son’, and who then saw the Father himself ask Jesus, carrying his cross, to ‘take this pilgrim into his company’.”
He reflected on the nature of the pilgrim journey, and how Jesuits are called to serve the faith and promote social justice. He also spoke of how the Jesuit order would be united in solidarity and support with the novices as they read out their vows, mentioned that the journey reminded all Jesuits of their own vow day and personal vocation to the Jesuits.
“Today’s ceremony calls us to the roots of our own personal vocation and of the communal vocation of our Order,” he said. “We are moved to make this offering because of our trust in God’s grace. The Lord has given us the desire to offer ourselves in this way. This decision comes from God. The one who has given us the desire will also give us the grace, the help to live it out in the creativity and fidelity, in compassion and with imagination.” You can read the full homily here.
Many family members and friends of the new Jesuits travelled to Birmingham for this special occasion. They were joined by local parishioners of St. Mary’s Church in Harborne and about 40 Jesuits who all wished them well as they embarked on the first stage of their formation journey. After the Mass there was a reception at the novitiate to continue the celebration, where family and friends of the novices had the opportunity of meeting with the Jesuits and novitiate staff present at the ceremony.
Eight men are entering the novitiate this year: three of the Irish Province, three from Britain, and two of Netherlands/Flanders. They will join the five novices who are moving into their second year. A Jesuit novice spends the first two years of his formation at the novitiate and this culminates in his profession of the vows. Important aspects of the two years are making the Spiritual Exercises, cultivating a rhythm of prayer and reflection, experiencing Jesuit community life, and participating in a variety of apostolic experiences.