Six Men Begin Creating “Novitiate Community” at Godfrey

By Will Shaw

 The 2015 Rite of Reception into the Novitiate took place on Monday evening, August 17th at the Oblate’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate in Godfrey, IL.

(Photo above, Novice Master, Fr. Tom Horan and gathered Oblates listen as the Novices request to be admitted to the Novitiate)

Six young men from five countries on three different continents stood before Novice Master, Fr. Tom Horan, and answered the question, “What do you ask of us who stand before you as representatives of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate?” 

Two of the new Novices come to us from Sri Lanka where they went through the local Juniorate and Pre-novitiate. Amila Sandaruwan Perera Dawatage, 25, and Nishan Priyadarshana., 23, have been in the U.S. for just a few days but indicated they are ready for what comes. Asked how they felt about their new surroundings, Nishan answered, “Somewhat excited because there is a big difference, but I think I can adjust myself to this culture.” In a similar vein, Amila said, “There’s excitement, but I feel blest to be in the USA Province…I trust God that he will do the best thing for us.”

Paul Raj Arulanantham, 23, comes to us from Tamil Nadu, India. After attending an Oblate Juniorate, he studied philosophy and received a Bachelor’s Degree before coming to the U.S. So far, he is quite comfortable in Godfrey: “…it is a place that’s different, but it is also a place where people are living and so loving so I don’t find any difficulty.”

Jean Emmanuel Meloncourt, originally from Haiti, has been in the U.S. for several years earning a Master’s Degree before spending two years at the Oblate Pre-novitiate in Buffalo, NY. He feels he may be able to help his brothers with the “culture-shock” associated with being submerged in an entirely different culture: “I have experience in Buffalo with culture shock – my own personal experience – so I can tell them how to handle it.” His expectation for his novitiate year is, “To know myself…” “…to know why we are on this earth and how we can better serve, especially serve the poor.

Steven Montez, 22  hails from Kingsville, Texas and has spent the last two years at the Pre-novitiate in Buffalo along with Jean Emmanuel. As the only Novice from the U.S. in his class, Steven thinks this year in such a multi-cultural environment will help prepare him for an eventual life in an international congregation. By the end of his year in the Novitiate, Steven hopes to have, “…a better idea how I can serve others as an Oblate…a clearer image of what God is calling me to be.”

Joshua Nash, 24, comes from Adelaide, Australia. After graduating University with a degree in law and political science he worked with the UN serving refugees in South Africa. Next, he went back to Australia and worked in Catholic education and youth ministry. It was while attending World Youth Day in 2013 that he felt the call to become an Oblate. “I grew up in an Oblate parish and was involved in their youth ministry so I contacted the Oblate Priest that I knew, and applied for the Pre-novitiate in Melbourne.”                                                                                            (Photo above: Oblates Bless Novices and their medals)   

Many local Oblates came to witness the Rite and support the new Novices. Among them were Oblate Fathers Joe Ferraioli and Tom Hayes who remembered arriving at the Novitiate for the first time together some 44 years ago, Fr. Ferriaoli as a Novice and Fr. Hayes as Novice Master. (Photo at left features (L-R) Father Joe Ferraioli, Fr. Tom Hayes)

Oblate Formator, Fr. Jack Lau, finds humor in the cultural differences evident in first few days of the Novices time in Godfrey: “We need to have cameras here…the house is like a reality show.” “Like putting a tie on today…I tell them, ‘Join the Oblates and the first thing we do is put a noose around your neck.’ So its things like how to make a tie…it’s a trip.”                          

Novice Master, Fr. Tom Horan, sums up the Novitiate year with a staff expression, “We want our Novices to sink into the Oblate marinade, which means to absorb our Oblate charism, to become Oblates through the marinating process called Novitiate.” “We want them to know the Founder, to become aware of our charism through the ministry they’ll do and through theological reflection. We want them to leave the Novitiate with a greater sense of why they came and why they want to be Oblate and how they’re going to live that life in fidelity to their call.”

How do the formators make all these cultures come together? According to Fr. Tom, “We try to create a feeling of welcome in the kitchen, on the altar table and in the way we preach and in the way we listen to the culture of each person and create a new culture called, “Novitiate Community.”

(Afterward, the new Novices and their formation team: (L-R) Fr. Jack Lau, OMI, Steven Montez, Joshua Nash, Jean Emmanuel Meloncourt, Fr. Tom Horan, OMI, Amila Sandaruwan Perera Dawatage, Paul Raj Arulanantham, Nishan Priyadarshana, Fr. Rudy Nowakowski, OMI