North American Novitiate: Year in Review

Novices in Lima, OH (left to right) Vihn Nguyen (Extra Patriam Vice Province), Antonio Montoya (Denver Province) Dai Ho (Extra Patriam Vice Province), Bao Tran (Extra Patriam Vice Province) and Steven Urban (Denver Province).

The novitiate year for Redemptorist novices in the North American Conference is drawing to a close. Five novices in Lima, OH are on retreat in preparation for their first profession of vows next month – the Extra Patriam novices on July 26, and the Denver Province novices on July 28. We are pleased to present articles by Steven and Antonio about their novitiate experiences. Read on!

Novitiate 2020: Lost in Middle America (Lima, OH)

by Steven Urban

The 2020 novitiate was in Lima, OH. Initially, I basically knew nothing about the novitiate or the town of Lima.   As I finish my year, I want to share a little about the logistics of the community and my experiences.

Msgr. William Kubacki and Steven Urban welcome new Catholics to the faith during the Rite of Election at St. Michael Parish in Findlay, OH.

The Redemptorist community in Lima is responsible for St. Gerard Church, a parish a community of about 350 active families – largely blue-collar workers living a middle-class lifestyle. In typical Midwestern fashion, the parishioners are extremely friendly and supportive, welcoming me into their homes and their lives. In addition to the parish, there is an elementary school with 190 students ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.  The Redemptorists have a close working relationship with the school. The final piece of property is the rectory, a large three-story building. After previously being used as a storage area, the third floor was cleaned and remodeled for use as a novitiate. Two large conference rooms were dedicated for class work and the rest of the floor contains rooms for the novices. A house chapel and the professed community’s rooms are on the second floor. The first floor of the rectory contains the kitchen, dining room and offices.

Our novitiate year started with a retreat conducted by Fr. Jack Kingsbury, North American Conference Coordinator. In his retreat, he framed novitiate as a year for reflection and spending time to get to know where God is calling us. One of his main points was dealing with expectations of the ideal versus the shortcomings of the real – the difference between a perfect Redemptorist and a realistic Redemptorist, and how to reconcile this discrepancy. The novitiate schedule reflected the foundation Fr. Jack set up by giving novices the afternoon for self-reflection, prayer and reading. In addition to learning about ourselves, time was devoted to learning more about the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and the vows members profess.

Steven Urban leads preschoolers on a tour of St. Gerard Church.

I have learned a lot about myself during novitiate, and have become more open to how God might be calling me to serve others as a Redemptorist missionary. Before entering formation, I worked as a tax accountant in corporate America for five years. I enjoyed those years in practice and looked forward to using my accounting skills to serve the Redemptorists.   I would even go so far as to say I was looking forward to sitting at a desk in the Provincial Office, with responsibility for the finances of the Denver Province. Purely by coincidence, I began helping at the parish elementary school. At first, I believed it was a way to challenge myself to relate to a younger audience, but I soon fell in love with the students. To my surprise, I could see Christ in these kids. They began teaching me more than I was teaching them! After experiencing school ministry, I realize that I need to be more open to different ministries, and willing to go where the Holy Spirit wants me to serve.

After dealing with the typical struggles Fr. Jack warned about during my novitiate year, I am just as excited to take vows as I was when I entered the formation process three years ago. I look forward to taking the next step and beginning theology studies in San Antonio.  I cannot wait to take vows in July and officially be part of the Redemptorist Congregation! Thank you for your prayers and support.


Novitiate 2020: Serving in Parish Ministry

by Antonio Montoya

Greetings from Lima!

I have now been in the novitiate for a bit more than ten months, and am starting to prepare to profess my first vows after a final retreat in June. Please keep me and my classmates in your prayers. It has been a rather interesting year – but I think everyone can say that, considering our current world situation.

While school was still in session, I taught religion class to the second-graders who were preparing for their First Holy Communion. It was a very good experience, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Unfortunately, the school closed and we had to conduct classes using zoom meeting technology. That was a little bit harder, especially to get all the kids to sign in and pay attention. Due to the pandemic, their First Communion date got moved to July 28. Please keep them in your prayers.

I also have been able to serve as an extraordinary Eucharistic minister and as a lector. I have enjoyed being a lector much more because it is something that I have always enjoyed. We only have one Spanish Mass in our parish every weekend, and our Spanish community is not very big. Participation ranges from typically 20 people to as many as 35 on a “good” Sunday. I have made it a point to join the Spanish Mass on a regular basis and serve in whatever way possible.

Novices enjoy a typical Saturday evening Vietnamese dinner prepared by Fr. Chuong Cao (second from right).

Our community usually gathers on Saturday evenings for an informal meal. Usually, it is a Vietnamese meal prepared by Fr. Chuong Cao. I have really enjoyed those meals because they are informal, and I get to share in the Vietnamese culture and their food. Even though we were sheltering-in-place, we were able to make the best of the situation. All things considered, it has been a good year. I am looking forward to the next step in my formation and seeing what God has in store for me in the future. Please keep me in your prayers, and be assured that all of you are in mine.


courtesy of Denverlink, update June 19, 2020