By Fr. Ray Douziech, C.Ss.R.
Why would anyone take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in a world that offers so many other options to live a full life? Fr. Charles Duval, the Provincial of the Redemptorists in Canada, in the opening words of his homily quoted St. Paul, who gives us an answer. “The love of Christ urges us on.” It may seem strange to some but it is all about love.
After two years as candidates and one year as novices, Noel Oco and Andrew Phillips have developed a deeper relationship with Christ, a love for Christ, that urges them on. On Sunday, the twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, at St. Patrick’s 11 am Eucharist, Noel and Andrew made a three-year commitment to trust their love for Christ and to live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as Redemptorists. During these three years they will continue their studies for the priesthood and they and the Redemptorists will discern if this is their path towards a life-long commitment.
In the meantime, the imagery of the Sunday Gospel from Mark seems highly appropriate. The story is of Jesus asleep in the boat, besieged by a storm that threatens to engulf the boat and take everyone into the depths of the sea. It is a story of faith and trust.
As Fr. Charles mentioned in his homily we are all in a boat that at times faces stormy waters. This is above all true for members of our Church today as we look at the news and the legacy of residential schools, the stories of abuse by clergy and the challenges of moral issues that are contrary to our understanding of the Gospel. We are going through stormy times and we need to trust. We need to trust that we have the Spirit of Jesus to give us courage and strength.
The temptation is to have the illusion that we can fix things on our own. We forget that there is someone else on our boat who can help. All we need to do is awaken him to our struggles. Who is this man in our boat? It is Jesus and we believe he does care and does not want us to perish. We need only turn in prayer and cry out – do you not care, Lord? I’m hurting, your Church is hurting. “Of course I care”, he replies, “Peace, be still.”
Noel and Andrew are trusting in the presence of Jesus in their boat as they disengage from the safety of the shore and its moorings. They have publicly stated their desire to trust that Jesus is in that boat with them, that they can trust that he will help them through stormy seas. There will be storms but Jesus has promised to be there for them and for all of us. “Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
On Sunday Noel and Andrew professed that with Him there is mercy and plentiful Redemption. Noel and Andrew had the courage to say publicly that they, with God’s help, will live a life of dedication. It is about love and living love with openness and generosity. Sunday was a day of thanksgiving and grace for us as Redemptorists and for Noel and Andrew.
More pictures of Andrew and Noel’s profession as well as a link to a video follow at the end of this article.
St Michael’s in Old Town Chicago was the setting for a magnificent celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The organ had all the stops pulled, the trumpet blasted, the cymbals clashed and the choir and congregation gave full voice. This was a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the icon to St Michael’s. For our Ukrainian confreres this was also the feast of the Redemptorist Martyrs Vasyl and his companions (the Roman Church celebrates their feast on the 28th). To add to the celebration was the profession of vows of two of our novices, Noel Bustillos and Scott Partin. Noel, because of difficulties returning to Canada after being with his mom and sister in Denver, following their family tragedy, was able to complete the last month of his novitiate in Chicago.
We, the formation team and provincial and council, were very grateful for the kindness and welcome that Fr. Steve Rehrauer, the Denver provincial, and Brother Larry Lujan, the novice director extended to Noel. Noel was able to join Scott for the last days of the novitiate year which included an eight-day retreat at our retreat house in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin with Fr. Dick Thibodeau. Noel commented several times how he felt so welcomed and at home with the community in Chicago. The confreres were brothers to a brother in grief and went the extra mile to accommodate Noel as he finished the novitiate year.
The novitiate year reached its climax at the celebration in St. Michael’s, when Noel committed himself to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In attendance were several Redemptorists from nearby and from a distance. Brother Eumir Bautista, C.Ss.R. (pictured with Noel at left) represented the Province of Canada.
Like his classmates, Noel Oco and Andrew Phillips, Noel will now move to the next stage of formation in San Antonio, Texas. We welcome Noel as our newest member of the Congregation and as a Ruthenian Byzantine member of the Yorkton region.
We wish Noel and Scott perseverance and assure them of our prayers. Many happy and blessed years. Axios!