The Voyage of Self-Discovery and Discernment
A new novitiate begins in Nigeria
And so, on 15 September 2015, the Schoenstatt Fathers Community once again welcomed six new “odysseys” as they embark on a voyage of self-discovery and discernment through the two years of novitiate. It is not by chance but out of God’s Divine Providence that this happened just at the end of the 5th General Chapter and the time the Sion Community celebrated her Golden Jubilee.
The Novice Master welcomes the novices
Already in his welcoming address, the novice master, Fr Kingsley Okereke introduced himself in the words of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus as a “senior novice”. He sees himself not just as a master but as an elder brother who is there to help and guide his younger ones. He then remarks that the novitiate is a journey, an adventure of discovering or rediscovering Sion, the Father and Founder, of self and of the confrères in the Course. It is a special time of grace, a period of discernment. It is, in his words, a period of closing and opening such that there is a closure to the outside or external world and an opening to the internal world — the world of the novitiate, which entails opening up oneself to the world of the Father and to fellow confrères.
Officially the novitiate kicked-off with the arrival of the novices on 15 September, the anniversary of the death of our Father. However we had the opening mass on 20 September with the newly elected Paterfamilias, our own Very Rev. Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio. Marvellously, the presence of the Paterfamilias makes this novitiate one of its kind, for it is the first time the Schoenstatt Fathers community in Nigeria had its novitiate started by the General Superior.
The most decisive moment in our lives
During his homily, Fr Juan Pablo pinpointed the novitiate as the most decisive moment in our lives. While he expressed his gratitude to God for the gift of our lives, he, at the same time, echoed his admiration for the novitiate and asserts that its Latin etymology, Novum, which means “new” makes the novitiate important for him, as it is a period when one begins anew to discern that which is God’s plans for him and for the Course, and it is also a time of deep encounter with God. Drawing from the life of the Apostles and Christ, he counsels that humility should be the bedrock of our daily activities.
Following the Holy Father, our Paterfamilias gave us four essential marks of the Novitiate: A school of the charism of our Father and Founder, which he said, is our originality. Through the tool of silence, we are launched into a deeper encounter with God. He further avows that the novitiate is a time of inspiration as it entails a great deal of openness to God and to one another. The third, he acknowledges as the school of service which he already spoke of as demanding a great deal of humility so as to be in the service of one another and also to have a welcoming heart to all. The last is the school of community of brothers which is the cornerstone of discipleship for as he explains, true discipleship requires brotherly communion.
A Father symbol for the new Course
In this history-making mass our Paterfamilias gave us the gift of the Father Symbol, something which is very important for him and has accompanied him for many years. As he is about leaving Nigeria he bequeaths this Treasure to us as a course. This is indeed a wonderful thing and surprise to us!
In this mass also we brought along to the Victory Shrine our big MTA picture which is permanently in our Chapel (House Shrine) in the Novitiate. From the Victory Shrine our Mother made a Pilgrimage through the rooms of the Novices in the Novitiate visiting and conquering the room and heart of each one of us including that of the Novice Master. Each of us had the special privilege of welcoming our Mother in his room and staying with her for a day, after which she was accompanied by all with singing and dancing to the next brother. After the visit to each of us our Mother was ceremoniously enthroned in our Chapel here in the Novitiate.
In a nutshell, in the spirit of fraternal charity, we were all entrusted to the caring hands of Mary, our Mother and Educator. The euphoria of the celebration continued throughout the whole day with great emblematic flamboyance. Please pray for us novices, as we start our great voyage towards the fulfilling of our vocation.
Ameh Francis Imaben