North American Conference: Redemptorist Novices professed first vows

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On July 16, Solemnity of the Most Holy Redeemer, six novices of the North American Conference of Redemptorists professed their first vows: McQuain Clovis from the Baltimore Province, Mark Suezo, Benedict Nicholas and Gabriel Yun Zhang from the Province of Canada, and Abel Rios Alba and Edwin Rolando Hernandez Avila from the Province of Mexico. Unit superiors and several confreres arrived to witness the celebration, among them Br. Larry Lujan CSsR, general consultor, and Fr. Jack Kingsbury CSsR, coordinator of the North American Conference.

The seventh novice, Hieu Minh Bui, from Vice-Province Extra Patriam, will take his vows during a Mass on 30 July in Houston. The professions will close the first year of a new way of doing novitiate that we hope will last for a long time.

Fr. Matt Allman CSsR, an assistant of the novice master, has done a summary of the first year of joint novitiate in Tlalpizahuac, México. His article was published on the website of the North American Conference of Redemptorists (June 22):

Back in the spring of 2021, with the Mexican Province having newly joined the North American Conference of the Redemptorists, the superiors of the Congregation’s five units in North America (Baltimore, Denver, Extra Patriam, Canada, and Mexico) decided to undertake a new project in initial formation. They would establish a
joint, English language novitiate in Tlalpizahuac, Mexico, to which all units of the Conference would send their men in initial formation.

They chose Father Javier Morán Marín (Mexico) as the novice master, Father Matthew Allman (Baltimore) as his assistant, and Brother Tito Lopez Cartagena (Mexico) as the third member of the formation team. The site of the novitiate would be just outside Mexico City. 

The Mexican Province’s former seminary building in Tlalpizahuac was unoccupied and the building and its extensive grounds were an ideal setting for the new project. After a year of planning and preparation for both the formation team and the novitiate building, the first crew of novices arrived for orientation in early July 2022.

Father Dennis Billy of the Baltimore Province joined them over Zoom to provide the conferences of their initial eight-day retreat, and with the spiritual atmosphere well set, the novitiate community entered into the rhythm of prayer, work, conferences, rest, and recreation that would shape its life for the next twelve months.

Although the Novitiate Board (the Redemptorist unit superiors of North America) had initially said that the novitiate would be an English language program, they quickly agreed that it made practical sense for life in the community to be bilingual. Each week would see three days of community prayer in Spanish and three days in English, with Sundays having a public Mass with the people in Spanish and private community prayers in English. 

The Monday to Friday conferences in which the novices would receive content on spirituality, prayer, the vows, and Redemptorist apostolic life, etc. would be given primarily in English.

Life throughout the novitiate year was an adventure in intercultural growth. The community not only represented four different Redemptorist units, but its members also had roots in at least eight different cultures, including Mexican, Chinese, St. Lucian, Filipino, Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Canadian, and American. Throughout the year we attempted to celebrate and benefit from our variety, while also acknowledging how hard cross-cultural encounters and understanding can truly be.

One greatest gift to the novitiate has been the warm welcome provided by the people of Tlalpizahuac. The local community is incredibly fond of the Redemptorists, and they mourned our diminished presence after the seminary had ceased operation over a decade ago. They have been amazingly hospitable and supportive since the novitiate began. 

We celebrate a public Mass each Sunday morning, and the congregation has grown so much that we’ve had to make room for additional seating and add speakers outside the chapel so that the overflowing crowd can hear what is going on inside.

We’ve taken great advantage of the opportunity to engage in the faith and devotional life of the local Mexican church. The novices joined in all the activities surrounding the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Posadas (a Christmas Novena), and during Holy Week they helped give a retreat in the Mexican province’s church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in San Luis Potosí.

As the days of this year’s novitiate are winding down, the men are going to help lead a public novena in advance of the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and then they will go on their end of the year eight-day retreat. Our former Superior General, Father Michael Brehl will lead them through their retreat. He will also stay on to celebrate with the novices and their families as the men profess their vows for the first time on Sunday, July sixteenth.

We praise God for the 16th of this first year of a successful joint novitiate in Mexico, and we look forward to many more!

(www.redemptorists.com)