Jesuits open new novitiate in Montreal

  • September 5, 2008

{mosimage}The Jesuits’ new home for novices is exactly where it needs to be, according to novice master Fr. Eric Oland.

“Something that has been a hallmark of the Jesuits from the very beginning is that we go to places where there is the greatest need. Yes, the church is very challenged in Quebec at the moment. But I can say from personal experience there are glimmers of hope and glimmers of change,” Oland told The Catholic Register during the opening week of a new combined novitiate for English and French Canada in Montreal’s Cote-des-Neiges district.

Cote-des-Neiges is the right place because it’s where those glimmers of hope and change are shining through — an area of Montreal full of immigrants and buzzing with energy that comes from being next door to the Université de Montreal.

“The church in the West — the church either in Europe or populated by people of European extraction — across the board I would say is being challenged,” Oland said. “It’s either new Christians or Christians from the developing world who are injecting new life into the church in North America.”

That’s exactly the right context to introduce young men to poverty, chastity and obedience in the Jesuit tradition, said Oland. It’s a chance for them to pick up on the new energy in the church and run with it.

“It matters hugely. We need leadership in the church,” said Oland. “Anybody who has decided to go into the priesthood, or lay persons going into some kind of church leadership — any kind of vocational choice where someone is willing to become very public and very intentionally active in fostering the development and growth of the church — I think that is huge.”

Seven novices follow in Brebeuf's footsteps

Written by Catholic Register Staff

  Jesuits were among the first European explorers on the frontiers of Canada in the 17th century, and they’re still a force in the Canadian church today. Seven men — five from English Canada and two from French Canada — have taken up the challenge to follow in the footsteps of St. Jean de Brebeuf and his companions this fall.

  • Yvon Bellavance is a 42-year-old textile artist who has worked in Quebec theatre and with Cirque du Soleil.
  • John D. O’Brien, 32, has been studying at the Gregorian University in Rome the last two years and has worked as editor of Peterborough, Ont.’s diocesan newspaper.
  • Twenty-year-old Christopher Taucar is a musician and songwriter from Bradford, Ont. He was a guest performer at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia.
  • Pier-Yves Larouche has been active in youth ministry in Quebec City. The Lac Saint Jean, Que., native is 29.
  • From Hong Kong via Vancouver, 26-year-old Edmund Kwok-Fai Lo holds a masters degree in science.
  • A former software engineer for Nissan who happens to hold a theology degree, 26-year-old Santiago Rodriguez has been living in Hamilton, Ont., but is originally from Colombia.
  • Twenty-three-year-old Artur Suski of Whitby comes to the Jesuits fresh from McMaster University where he completed a Bachelor of Science degree.

The seven men now living together at Montreal’s Pedro Arrupe residence join nearly 19,000 others in the Catholic Church’s largest male religious order.

Starting Oct. 3 they will spend 30 days in silence and prayer following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

For seven Canadian novices who have entered the Society of Jesus this year — five from English Canada and two from Quebec — it matters hugely in two languages. The new novitiate operates equally in English and French. Daily Mass is celebrated in English one week, French the next. Classes in Jesuit history and spirituality are conducted in both languages.

While that might seem to complicate the first stage of Jesuit formation, getting more Jesuits comfortable in multiple modern languages has been a constant cry from Jesuit leadership since the Second Vatican Council. As candidates, before they were accepted into the novitiate, both the French and English hopefuls were sent to English and French immersion classes in Quebec City.

For English Canada’s Jesuits the new novitiate ends a 14-year period when the first stage of Jesuit training was undertaken in St. Paul, Minn., with Americans from the Wisconsin and Missouri provinces of the order. When the U.S. Jesuits decided to consolidate some of their novitiates, St. Paul was no longer an option.

Quebec’s Jesuits happened to have a house in Montreal which no longer had enough Jesuits to sustain it. With a few modifications the former apartment building has been transformed into a Jesuit community and novitiate. The community currently has four priests to go along with the seven novices. The building can accommodate up to 16 men.

Rather than a single-purpose novitiate, Pedro Arrupe House will combine a functioning apostolic Jesuit community with the novices.

Novices won’t be allowed to settle in too much. In the Jesuit way of things they will be on the move to Guelph to begin a 30-day silent retreat in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola starting Oct. 3. They will be joined there by two more novices from Jamaica and a number of lay people also making the Exercises.

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