Fr. Ronnie Bonneau, C.Ss.R., Assistant Novice Director
Friday, the 20th of May, was a very important date here in Toronto at the North American Novitiate of the Redemptorists, not only because it was our monthly retreat day, but mostly because it was the day on which our novices were officially invested with the Redemptorist habit. The habits, whose confection was overseen at the Redemptoristine monastery in Beacon, NY by Sr. Linda, O.Ss.R., had arrived about a week before. Two nights before the investiture they were given to the novices and Fr. Ray Douziech, the director of the novitiate and I taught the novices how to apply the white collar to the habit and how to wear the rosary. It was a happy and exciting evening. Some of the rosaries had been made by the novices themselves with the instruction and help of Fr. Santo Arrigo (thanks, Fr. Santo), others used rosaries that had already been made.
Now back to Friday, the 20th. It had been a day of silent reflection with the conference being on the “True Redemptorist” by our founder, St. Alphonsus. At 4:30 p.m. we met in the chapel. The novices were holding their folded habits, cinctures and rosaries, the blessing of these was held in a short ceremony prior to the celebration of the Eucharist. Besides the directors we were graced with the presence of Kathy McMerty, secretary to Fr. Mark Miller, Provincial, Fr. Jim Mason, C.Ss.R., and Bro. Raymond Pierce, C.Ss.R.; all of the professed Redemptorists wore our own habits. After the blessing the novices were asked to put on their habits, with the aid of the professed confreres present. Our chapel was filled with a great feeling of pride and love for the Congregation. Even we more elderly members experienced (at least I did) a tinge of pride and joy in the midst of that sign of love for who we are and hope in who we will be and what we will do…reach out with the Word to the most poor and abandoned. I had an undeniable experience of men who are: “Strong in faith, rejoicing in hope, burning with charity, on fire with zeal…” (Const. 20) Following the ceremony of investiture Fr. Ray presided over the Eucharist and preached on the meaning of “putting on the habit” as an extension of having “put on the new man” in our Baptism. He pointed out that the habit is not only a sign of accomplishment but principally an “apron” of service that we put on, similar to the “apron” with which Christ clothed himself to wash the feet of his disciples.
Once the Eucharist was finished we posed for a picture. After the “official” group picture had been taken there was a flurry of activity around picture taking…individuals, groups from the different provinces, etc., etc. At this time it strikes me that I have not given the names nor origin of those who received their habits. They are:
- from the London Province: Michael Taylor and Royston Price;
- from the Dublin Province: Ryan Holovlasky and Mark McMullan;
- from the Denver Province: Thien Hoang;
- from the Baltimore Province: Brian Vaccaro, Joseph Song You and Kevin McGraw.
The pictures were followed by a lovely pre-prandial reception. We were joined at this time by Frs. Mark Miller, C.Ss.R., Provincial, and Mick Fleming, C.Ss.R. of the Saskatoon community, who had not been able to be present at the ceremony having gotten caught in traffic on the highway. The reception was held in the solarium and was nicely prepared by the novices Royston, Song and Ryan. Following the small reception we enjoyed a celebratory meal prepared by our chef, Shawn Brown.
It was a great moment in our novitiate journey. Hopes were strengthened, a love for the Congregation was alive and well in our hearts and we all felt the presence of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, St. Alphonsus, our other saints, blesseds, martyrs and also the confreres of our provinces who have been and continue to be a source of inspiration for all of us.
To all of our novices: Ad multos annos!