A Novitiate Photo Album

Who can imagine the adventures that lie ahead when the spark of a religious vocation gets fanned into flame? Each young man who begins formation to be a Jesuit priest or brother comes to the novitiate with high hopes and vast dreams about the work he will one day be doing.

Most people rightly understand that the work of religious formation is spiritual and largely internal. Prayer and discernment of one's vocation are, indeed, primary. But not all of the prayer is done on one's knees; nor is the tone of the house all piety and devotion. The most lofy spiritual principles are often discovered -- and be applied -- in informal, ordinary, daily living. This is why most novices are surprised to find that life in the novitiate is much more down to earth than they ever suspected.

The first two years of Jesuit formation are based largely on what Jesuits call "experiments," including making the 30-day Spiritual Exercises, working with poor or marginalized people, making an extended pilgrimage with few material resources to depend on, and, finally, a five-month period living in a Jesuit community and working at a Jesuit ministry. Foremost among these experiments is the daily interaction with the others who are aspiring to live their lives as Jesuits.

As a novice tests out Jesuit life to see if it is right for him, the Society of Jesus takes a hard look at the novice to see if he has the aptitude to minister as a Jesuit and to benefit from Ignatian spirituality. This mutual evaluation process is based largely on the novice's response to the various experiments the novice director send him on.

Fr. John Paul, SJ, and Br. John Masterson, SJ, join me in the day-to-day running of the St. Paul novitiate, one of seven in the United States, ours serving the Jesuits' Missouri, Wisconsin, and Upper Canada provinces.

The image which follow simply offer glimpses into the daily life of our Jesuit Novices.*


An important part of Jesuit formation is ministry. One day a week in the fall, first-year novices visit the elderly, care for the sick, or work with immigrants and the homeless. Second-year novices choose their twice-a-week ministries; this year they worked as prison chaplains, advocates for the poor at a parish, and teacher's assistants at a grade school and a home for troubled youth.

As time permits, novices also help supervise the school playground next door, teach catechism, and prepare prayer services for the juvenile detention center.

Farrell and Neitzke

During a free week in their schedule after completing summer classes, novices, including John Farrell and Tom Neitzke, helped build a house in St. Paul with Habitat for Humanity. Working with parishioners from a Catholic and a Lutheran parish, they framed a two-story house from foundation to roof in one week.

Paul Vu

Paul Vu brings his skills as a counselor and his caring smile to the elderly, including Ethel Minerich and Vivian Carlson-Uhler, at a Little Sisters of the Poor Residence once a week.

Brian McAdam

Brian McAdam's first-year ministry involved preparing bags of food at The Aliveness Project, a center providing care, concern, and many services for people with AIDS.


In addition to praying and working together, novices discover that playing together creates bonds of friendship. Swimming and racquetball at the local YMCA are opportunities for exercise along with the more-seasonal sports of bicycling, running, and cross-country skiing.

Novices skiing

Between Christmas and New Year's, first-year novices spent a few days relaxing before they began the Spiritual Exercises, the 30-day retreat. Conditions around Frontenac, Minnesota, were perfect for cross-country skiing as far as Brian McAdam, Fr. John Paul, Drew Kirschman, and John Meehan were concerned.

Tubing down the river

Novices enjoy a relaxing afternoon getting to know each other shortly after entrance day. Elton Fernandes, Andy Jaspers, Drew Kirschman, Fr. John Paul, and Joe Laramie bob along through the choppy waters of the Apple River.


Prayer is at the heart of what we do in the novitiate. Each novice is expected to engage in at least an hour of personal prayer each day in addition to participating in daily community Eucharist. Guided by a director, each man chooses the style and method of prayer best for him. Midway through his first year in the novitiate, the novices make the Spiritual Exercises, a 30-day individually directed prayer experience, the foundation of Jesuit spirituality.

Novices also meet with candidates and novices, men and women from other religious communities in the Twin Cities, to study Scripture, prayer, and the basic elements of Church life.

Novices at Eucharist

Each day the novitiate community gathers to celebrate the Eucharist. Br. John Masterson hands the communion cup to John Meehan as Kathryn Anderson, the community's receptionist and secretary, and the novices prepare to receive communion.

Fr Paul in a contemplative mood

Fr. John Paul, SJ, co-director of the novitiate, enjoys a contemplative moment by the fireplace. Once a year on an Advent evening the community fasts from electricity from sunset to the following morning, not using anything electrical or battery powered. It is a chance to slow down, to appreciate the dark and the waiting of the season as well as the leisurely conversations that happen when TVs and radios are off.

Community Life

There's laundry to be done, there are chores around the house (and outside the house as well; St. Paul gets a lot of snow), and there are meals. Novices find their way to the kitchen to chat with Margaret Rawlings, our cook, or to see what might be available for a midnight feeding frenzy. They also take their turns at making a meal for the community, and many become excellent cooks.

Preparing a meal for guests

Once a year the community invites the novitiate staff and their spouses to mass and dinner to express their appreciation. Teo Ugaban, chef for the evening, prepared the plates with extra care and a colorful flair.

Fixing Breakfast

John Farrell, Br. John Masterson, Fr. John Paul, Elton Fernandes, and Tom Neitzke proudly display the breakfast they prepared for the families of the eight new novices on the weekend they arrived at the novitiate.

Turkey carving

Turkey carving is generally not one of the skills required of a novice director, but it does come in handy on Thanksgiving and Christmas as author and photographer Fr. Mike Harter, SJ, demonstrates with a smile.

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