Divine Word Novitiate
After you have completed your degree at Divine Word College or participated in the Associate Program, there is a canonical year of Novitiate. It is called canonical because Church Canon Law requires this special calendar year to focus on the spiritual, personal, and vocational aspects of your journey to religious life. The Divine Word Novitiate is located just north of Chicago in Techny, Illinois.
The Divine Word Missionaries' Constitution provides a good introduction to the Novitiate year. It reads:
The Novitiate serves to mature and clarify a vocation. It provides a basic introduction to the following of Christ as outlined in the life and spirituality of the Society in our constitutions; thus it leads one to follow Him in an ever deeper way. Through a living union with the Divine Word and through life in community, a novice should come to understand himself more clearly and know our Society better so that he may make a mature and responsible decision about his vocation.” (Const. 512)
You may have done very well in your college classes, but unless this knowledge is integrated into everyday life and challenges the way you think and live, its purpose is frustrated. This integration helps you become a man of mature faith who uses a regular and serious life of prayer and meditation to nourish your self-understanding and future ministry.
The Novitiate is a year in which you put aside academic requirements and the busyness of everyday life in order to focus on your inner life. The Novitiate year is centered on making sufficient time available for prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, and vocational discernment. Life in the Novitiate is structured. Your day starts with morning prayer, followed by Mass, breakfast, a time of silence and meditation and then a class with the Novice Director. These classes include a wide range of topics such as the history and development of religious life, the life of our founder, St. Arnold Janssen, the charism of Divine Word Missionaries (SVD), the SVD Constitution, and living the vows. As you can see, the focus is on religious life and your own personal and spiritual growth. Afternoons include time for community work, exercise and recreation as well as time for reading or developing a hobby or talent you always wanted to work on. Evenings may include Bible sharing, Holy Hour, or a group sharing. There are also opportunities for apostolic ministry at local parishes.
The high point of the Novitiate year is an extended retreat. This retreat follows the traditional Ignatian Exercises format. There is silence during the retreat so you can come to truly know yourself and the Lord. You meet daily with your retreat director, attend Mass and have significant time for prayer. You might feel like an extended retreat “filled” with silence is something you could never do, but year after year our novices experience this retreat as a life-changing event.
The SVD Novitiate also participates with the Inter Community Novitiate (ICN) on many Tuesdays throughout the year. Novices from other religious communities of men and women come together to share amongst themselves as well as listen to invited speakers on a wide range of topics important for vocational discernment and personal awareness. On weekends the SVD novices are encouraged to take a day and explore the wide range of cultural opportunities in the Chicago area.
Importantly, the Novitiate year is also about experiencing life in a close-knit community with your novitiate classmates and with the wider SVD Community at Techny. Novices often develop close friendships with the retired SVD priests and Brothers who live in the main residence and enjoy their many stories of life in the missions.
Around May, the novices decide whether they wish to apply for first vows as a Divine Word Missionary. After an evaluation process, the Provincial and his council will decide to accept you to become a temporary-vowed member of the Society of the Divine Word. Once you have taken your first vows during a solemn celebration in the beautiful Holy Spirit Chapel, you are finally ready to being your theological studies as a clerical candidate or move on to professional or technical studies as a young Brother.