2021-04-09 GENERAL HOUSE

Marist novitiates in the marist world today

March 2021

The Marist novitiate is where life in the Institute begins. Its purpose is to accompany the novice as he discerns his call to follow Christ in the way of Mary as a Marist Brother, at the service of our mission as a global Institute.
The discernment process is designed to help the novice to deep­en his faith, to bring him to a loving encounter with God, and to clarify his motivations and suitability.
Assisted by the Novice Master and his team, the novice is initiat­ed into living in accordance with the Constitutions.
As the novitiate nears conclusion, the novice prepares himself for his religious profession. (Constitutions 67)

The Secretariat of Brothers Today is in regular contact with the different houses of formation throughout the Marist World.  Thanks to the advancement in technology, there are various platforms available, making it easy for us to make correspondence with the brothers, particularly the formators.  What a joy to be connected with them!  They have been very generous in responding to our invitation to give us updates about their respective realities and experiences in formation. In addition to refreshing our data about formation, we are also able to get to know our formators, many of whom we have never met before, as well as the young men who are on the journey to become Marist Brothers.  We are indeed deepening our sense of being a global Marist family.

In this article, the Secretariat would like to share with you some information about the novitiates. Most of what you will find here were supplied to us by the novice masters themselves.

Africa

There are three novitiates in Africa: Save Novitiate in Rwanda for the Provinces of East Central Africa (PACE) and Madagascar, Matola Novitiate in Mozambique for the Province of Southern Africa, and Kumasi Novitiate in Ghana for the Province of Nigeria and the District of West Africa.

The Covid-19 Pandemic brought about difficulties of international travel, among other problems. Thus, it was necessary to set up a provisional novitiate good for two years to receive the young men who finished their postulancy formation in Mtendere, Malawi because they were unable to proceed to Matola.

Constitutions 117/9 provides that [The Superior General cannot act without the consent of his Council to:] (9) set up, transfer or close a novitiate house, and authorize the establishment of various novitiates in the same Province or District.”  Guided by this, a decision was made to open a novitiate in Mtendere. Br. Simeon Banda was named novice master and on 7th November 2020, 9 novices began their canonical year. 

The Matola Novitiate, meanwhile, had 6 novices in second year who eventually professed their first vows on 5December 2020. The house was left without novices thereafter. The novice master is Br. Emmanuel Mwanalirenji.

Save Novitiate has a new novice master, Br. Fabien Bulaimu, who took over from Br. Antoine Kazindu on 30 August 2020. Br. Fabien finished his studies in Rome in early 2020; but he had to wait some time until he could go home, obviously because of the pandemic. On 6 June 2020, 7 brothers made their first profession. The incoming novices were also delayed in coming. It was only on 2 January 2021 that the 3 first-year novices from PACE were admitted, while the 2 from Madagascar were accepted more than two months later, on 19 March. Presently, there are 9 novices in second year and 5 in first year.

Kumasi Novitiate, on the other hand, was able to follow a more regular route despite the pandemic. On June 13, 2020, 6 brothers made their first profession.  Currently, there are 20 novices in second year and 4 in first year. Br. Sylvain Kouassi Kan is the novice master, and he has 2 brothers in his team.

America Sur

We have one novitiate in South America, the Champagnat Regional Novitiate in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Established in 2017, it is the novitiate of the Provinces of Brasil Sur-Amazonia, Brasil Centro-Norte, Brasil Centro-Sur, Santa Maria de Los Andes and Cruz del Sur.

Last December 2020, 6 brothers made their first profession. The then novice master, Br. Isidro Azpeleta, finished his term and Br. Rubens José Falcheto took over. As of this writing, only 1 novice in his second year is there because the 10 incoming novices are still to arrive on 15 April 2021. They will commence the canonical year on 01 May 2021.

In the community of Patos de Minas of the Marist Province of Brazil Centro-North, there is one novice making his novitiate, under the responsibility of Br. Claudinho Falchetto.  This way of doing the novitiate is based on Constitutions 117/5: [The Superior General cannot act without the consent of his Council to:] (5) authorize a candidate, as a particular case and by way of exception, to make his novitiate in a community of the Institute other than that of the novitiate, under the care of an experienced brother, who takes the place of the Novice Master.”

Arco Norte

There are 3 novitiates in Arco Norte: La Valla Inter-Provincial Novitiate in Medellín, Colombia, Jérémie Novitiate in Jérémie, Haiti, and Poughkeepsie Novitiate in New York, USA.

The Novitiate in Medellín receives novices from the Provinces of Norandina, America Central, Mexico Central and Mexico Occidental.  The Novitiate in Jérémie is for novices from Haiti, a country which forms part of Mexico Occidental. Novices of the US Province do their formation in Poughkeepsie.

In December 2020, 2 brothers who underwent the novitiate experience in Medellin made their first profession. The novice master of 7 years, Br. José Miguel Caballero Hierro, also finished his term. He was replaced by Br. Alejandro Herrera Galicia. Currently, there are 7 novices in first year and 6 in second year, 2 of whom are on extension.

The novitiate in Jérémie have 10 novices at present, 5 in each year level. The first profession is scheduled on 6th June 2021. Br. Antonio Cavazos Bueno is the novice master and with him are 2 other Mexican brothers.

There are no novices today in the Poughkeepsie; but there are 2 young men now who are in the postulancy. The novice master is Br. Sean Sammon.

Asia

Asia, perhaps, has the most interesting picture to paint as far as novitiate is concerned. There are 2 novitiates, Marist International Novitiate in Tudella, Sri Lanka which receives novices from South Asia and the District of Asia, and Immaculate Conception Novitiate in Tamontaka, Philippines, the novitiate of East Asia.

In May 2020, the leaders of Asia and Oceania, in anticipation of the influx of candidates and the incapacity of either one of these houses to accommodate big numbers, decided to establish Tamontaka as another inter-regional novitiate. The idea is for Tudella and Tamontaka to receive first year novices in an alternating fashion, such that in 2021 for example, incoming Asia-Oceania novices will go to Tamontaka and will stay on until 2023. Meanwhile, the second-year novices in Tudella will continue until they profess in 2022. Only then will Tudella receive incoming novices. In other words, it will be that at any given time, Tamontaka will either only have second-year novices while Tudella will only have first-year novices, and vice-versa.

The pandemic, however, led to several complications.

On 4 April 2020, 6 Vietnamese brothers of the District of Asia pronounced their first vows. Under normal circumstances, they would have gone home after that for family visit and then proceed to the Marist Asia Pacific Center (MAPAC) in the Philippines for their post-novitiate formation. But they were forced to stay in Sri Lanka. Some have enrolled in theology courses online, e.g., Mariology, Youth Ministry, Church History, and Scriptures. 

The incoming novices for formation year 2020-2021 never made it to Tudella. Instead, they had to follow a “post-postulancy pre-novitiate” program coordinated by the newly named novice master, Br. Francisco “Paco” Garcia who was also stuck in the Philippines. He was formerly the master of postulants in Davao, Philippines and is taking the place Br. Nicholas Fernando as novice master.

These 14 pre-novices were in Vietnam (2), Bangladesh (2), East Timor (7), Australia (1, an East Timorese), Solomon Islands (1) and Philippines (1, a Vietnamese). They began their canonical year of novitiate on March 25, 2021 and will undergo this stage of formation in the houses designated by the Provincials and approved by the Superior General and his Council, following the provisions of Constitution 117/5 referred to earlier in this article. While Br. Paco remains to be the novice master, these novices will be under the care of Br. Anselmo Kim (Vietnam), Br. Vigilio Bwalya (Bangladesh), Br. Greg McDonald (East Timor), and Br. Mark Poro (Solomon Islands). 

On 6 March after some months spent waiting in MAPAC, Br. Paco moved to Tamontaka where he will be temporarily based; with him is the novice from Vietnam. Once the international borders reopen, they will move to Tudella.

On 25 March 2021, 4 novices (3 East Timorese and 1 Vietnamese) professed their first vows. Afterwards, they will be joining the other 6 who professed last year in following a pre-scholasticate program in Sri Lanka. According to Br. Réal Sauvageau, who is acting novice master and partnering with Br. Rod Thompson in journeying with the post-novices, they are looking at the possibility of these young brothers continuing formation and at the same time doing some ministry in the different communities in Sri Lanka.  Some will pursue professional studies. The East Timorese, on the other hand, expressed the need for reinforcement in the English and Portuguese languages.

What will it be like then in Tudella Novitiate after March 25? There is a first-year novice from South Asia, a Sri Lankan, and a second-year novice who is doing extension, plus the 10 post-novices. The Sri Lankan novice is supposed to join Tamontaka, but he could not travel to the Philippines.  Thus, he will do his novitiate in Tudella. If the situation (of the pandemic) improves and would allow the novices to travel from the countries where they are now, they will finish their novitiate in Tudella.

Tamontaka Novitiate has been without novices since late 2018. There was a previous arrangement between the Province of East Asia and the District of the Pacific that in September of 2020, the novices and Br. Jone Seduadua, the novice master, of Lomeri Novitiate in Fiji, will move to Tamontaka. That clearly did not happen.

In mid-February 2021, Br. Pepito Mahong was named novice master of Tamontaka Novitiate. On 13 April 2021, the 14 postulants (9 East Timorese, 3 Vietnamese and 2 Indians) in Davao will move to Tamontaka to begin their novitiate formation. The habit-taking ceremony is scheduled on 19 April.

Oceania

In Oceania there is one novitiate, the Marist Brothers Pacific Novitiate, also widely known as Lomeri Novitiate, in Serua, Fiji. The novice master is Br. Jone Seduadua. On June 20, 2020, 2 Kiribati brothers made their first profession.  They are now in Suva, Fiji, doing post-novitiate studies while waiting to go to MAPAC.

East Asia Province decided in 2019 to send its lone novice to Lomeri. He was admitted on 22 November that same year. In early March 2020, he travelled to Samoa and shortly thereafter the borders closed; thus, he was unable to return to Lomeri.  The General Council eventually approved the continuation of his novitiate in the Mulivai Community in Samoa, naming Br. Afaese Afaese as his novice master. His companion, meanwhile, is continuing his formation in Lomeri.

In summary, there are 2 novices, both in second year in Oceania, 1 in Lomeri and 1 in Mulivai. Note that the novices of East Timor and the Solomon Islands which are part of the Province of Australia, were already accounted for when we talked of Asia earlier; except for another novice from Solomon Islands who very recently completed his postulancy and was admitted to the novitiate on March 25, 2021, along with the other 14 already mentioned.

The formation house in Baucau, East Timor could not accommodate all formands. Hence, the brothers have decided to rent a house for the 8 novices who are beginning their canonical year on March 25, 2021.

Europe

There is no existing novitiate in Europe today. However, there is a young man from Portugal, part of Compostela Province, who will start his postulancy in Madrid on 25 March 2021. Depending on how the Spirit moves, he may enter the novitiate by the end of this year.

We hope that the 2 aspirants from Mediterranea Province who started formation in January 2021 will continue and eventually proceed to the novitiate. Br. Manuel Jorques Bru of Malagá Community in Spain is accompanying them.

Global picture
  Novitiate  Novice MasterNovices As of March 2021  Notes
AFRICA   
Save Novitiate, RwandaBr. Fabien Bulaimu9 in 2nd Yr 5 in 1st Yr 
Matola Novitiate, MozambiqueBr. Emmanuel Mwanalirenji  
Kumasi Novitiate, GhanaBr. Sylvain Kouassi Kan20 in 2nd Yr 4 in 1st Yr 
Mtendere Novitiate, MalawiBr. Simeon Banda9 in 1st Yr  Another batch of 10 novices will begin the canonical year in mid-April 2021
AMERICA SUR   
Champagnat Regional Novitiate, Cochabamba, BoliviaBr. Rubens José Falcheto1 in 2nd Yr10 novices will begin the canonical year on May 1, 2021   1 novice (2nd Yr) in Patos de Minas, accompanied by Br. Claudinho Falchetto.
ARCO NORTE   
La Valla Inter-Provincial Novitiate, Medellín, ColombiaBr. Alejandro Herrera Galicia6 in 2nd Yr 7 in 1st Yr2 of the 6 in 2nd Yr are on extension
Jérémie Novitiate, Jérémie, HaitiBr. Antonio Cavazos Bueno5 in 2nd Yr 5 in 1st Yr 
Poughkeepsie Novitiate, NY, USABr. Sean Sammon  
ASIA   
Marist International Novitiate, Tudella, Sri LankaBr. Francisco (Paco) Garcia1 in 2nd Yr 16 in 1st Yr
Immaculate Conception Novitiate, Tamontaka, PhilippinesBr. Pepito Mahong 14 novices to be admitted on April 19, 2021
Oceania   
Marist Brothers Pacific Novitiate, Serua, FijiBr. Jone Seduadua1 in 2nd YrThe formation year will end in September 2021 and Lomeri will no longer receive novices. Future novices from Oceania will go either to Tamontaka or to Tudella.
Mulivai Community, SamoaBr. Afaese Afaese1 in 2nd Yr 
Concluding remarks

We in the Secretariat of Brothers Today, on behalf of the whole Institute, wish to thank our brothers who recently finished their mission as novice masters. We acknowledge the work they have done in accompanying the novices, many of whom are young brothers now. Our appreciation goes to:

  1. Br. Antoine Kazindu (Save);
  2. Br. Isidro Azpeleta (Cochabamba);
  3. Br. José Miguel Caballero Hierro (Medellín); and,
  4. Br. Nicholas Fernando (Tudella).

We welcome and send our best wishes and blessings to our newly appointed novice masters:

  1. Br. Fabien Bulaimu (Save);
  2. Br. Rubens José Falcheto (Cochabamba);
  3. Br. Alejandro Herrera Galicia (Medellín);
  4. Br. Francisco (Paco) Garcia (Tudella); and,
  5. Br. Pepito Mahong (Tamontaka).

We are also happy to have the following brothers who accepted to accompany the novices in special and extraordinary conditions:

  1. Br. Simeon Banda (Mtendere);
  2. Br. Claudinho Falchetto (Patos de Minas);
  3. Br. Afaese Afaese (Mulivai);
  4. Br. Réal Sauvageau (Tudella);
  5. Br. Anselmo Kim (Vietnam);
  6. Br. Vigilio Bwalya (Bangladesh);
  7. Br. Greg McDonald (East Timor); and,
  8. Br. Mark Poro (Solomon Islands).

Of course, we continue to hold in high esteem our veteran novice masters and send them our encouragement:

  1. Br. Emmanuel Mwanalirenji (Matola);
  2. Br. Sylvain Kouassi Kan (Kumasi);
  3. Br. Antonio Cavazos Bueno (Jérémie);
  4. Br. Sean Sammon (Poughkeepsie); and,
  5. Br. Jone Seduadua (Fiji).

While we could not name all of them, we are also thinking of the brothers and possibly some lay who make up the different novitiate formation teams. They also play a very important role in the journey of the novices. Our gratitude to and prayers for them as well.

To the brother serving as formator:

Your mission of helping aspirants, postulants, novices, and young brothers to discern their vocation is crucial for the life of our Marist community.
Share with each of them your passion for this way of life and the depth of your Marist spirituality, as well as your personal gifts and abilities and experience of faith.
Care for their well-being, foster their growth, be patient and discreet with each of them.
Never forget that the Spirit of God is the true formator of those entrusted to your care. Look to Mary and Marcellin as sources of inspiration. In your zeal to be of service, don’t overlook your personal well-being as a Christian and religious person, particularly your need for ongoing formation.  (Rule of Life, No. 90)

We pray to God and our Good Mother for our novices. May they receive the grace of openness of mind to allow the Holy Spirit to work in them and the generosity of heart to respond to where God is leading them. We ask our beloved father and founder, St. Marcellin, to pray with us that God may continue to bless our Institute with vocations.

To the novice:

Value and take full advantage of the privileged time of the novitiate. First of all, without fear open yourself to God’s love; it is the source and origin of every Christian vocation and ultimately the only thing that sustains it.
As you are initiated into religious life, open yourself fully to personal growth and the process of conversion of heart. Strive to know and value yourself more deeply while at the same time integrating the evangelical counsels and our Marist charism into your way of being and acting.
Learn to cherish silence and the interior life. Both will help you to grow in intimacy with God and to develop a deeper love for your brothers and sisters.
Listen carefully to the Spirit of God who longs to send you into the lives of children and young people; there you will witness to the love that Jesus has for each of them.
If you decide to welcome God’s call to our Marist life, and the community agrees, give yourself wholeheartedly to joyfully living the vows that you profess as a brother. (Rule of Life, No. 58)

This is a challenging time. The Covid-19 Pandemic caught the world by surprise. We were all affected, our lives were disrupted. What used to work before has been deemed insufficient, if not ineffective. However, we were also called to explore areas we never thought of going into.  Now we have learned that in the crisis, there are new possibilities that allow us to move forward. Above all, we once again realized that “Mary who has done everything for us” continues to do so. She who is and will always be our Ordinary Resource.

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