Article by Graham Hill
Every year the Redemptorist students from around North America get together for a week that is as much about getting to know one another as it is about the conferences that take place during the gathering. It is a chance for students from the formation houses in the Bronx, Boston and Chicago, from the North American Interprovincial Novitiate in Toronto, and from the Vietnamese Extra-Patriam Theologate in Houston, to catch up with each other and to share stories, experiences and insights. This year the Redemptorist Student gathering was held at the San Alfonso Retreat Center, West End, New Jersey, between the 21st and 27th of May.
The “gathering” aspect of the event was made more explicit by the presence of the Coordinator of the North American Conference, Fr. Jack Kingsbury. As the various North American provinces explore what it means to co-operate ever more closely for the sake of the mission, the next generation of Redemptorists represented by the student body are already growing together and bonding over their sharing, games of volleyball, Uno and Monopoly, and over Vietnamese Hotpot and beer.
The conferences were given this year by Fr. Denis McBride of the London Province. Two themes that emerged from his presentations were those of identity and transformation in the scriptures. So for example how Jesus understands Himself, His identity, His outlook and His direction, both before and after meeting John the Baptist. We were then asked how we identify ourselves, what is important to us, our outlook, and direction; how we are transformed by our encounters, and how that prepares us for mission.
So it was against this background that the investiture of the three novices: Kevin Zubel and Quy Duong from the Denver Province, and Graham Hill from the Edmonton-Toronto Province, took place.
The Investiture Mass was presided over by Fr. Jack Kingsbury, and the students were joined by three lay groups who were also staying at the San Alfonso Retreat Centre. Fr. Jack provided a brief introduction to what was going on at this particular Mass for our guests, together with a tongue-in-cheek warning that there were several parts of the celebration that they were “not allowed to see” and would be asked to “close their eyes through parts.” In his homily he tied what was happening at the Mass to what was happening in the North American Conference and in the retreat conferences, drawing on the images of transformation, identity and mission. Fr. Gary Lauenstein and Fr. Ray Douziech said the blessings over the habits, cinctures and rosaries before presenting them to the novices. I would like to be able to report that the novices quickly changed into their habits, and returned to the chapel, but that is not exactly as it happened. Let’s just say that there was a “wardrobe malfunction” involving the rosary of one of the novices from Edmonton-Toronto province and leave it at that! One of last year’s novices, Anthony Michalik who was the organist for the day, ably covered the gap with an extended motet before the novices returned to read the prayers of the faithful.
What made the investiture so special to all three novices was the fact that it took place with our fellow Redemptorist students in that unique atmosphere that is the annual student gathering.