My Journey Through the Novitiate Year of Formation

Posted: 4/9/2015

Charles Aketch, Glenmary NoviceI came to America from my home in Kenya in 2013 to answer God's call to be a Glenmary missioner. I had already completed my philosophy studies and first two years of theology. For my first year in this country, I lived at Glenmary's House of Studies in St. Meinrad, Ind., and went to St. Meinrad Seminary to complete my third year of theology.

Things were new and a bit complicated for me. But Father Bruce Brylinski, the house director, and the American seminarians really helped me adapt to American education and culture.

At the end of that year, I was accepted into Glenmary's three-phase novitiate program with Richard Toboso. To me, the novitiate is about entering into Glenmarians' way of life and ministry to enable me to understand them well.

The program directors, Fathers Dan Dorsey and Tom Kirkendoll, inspired me with their simplicity, brotherliness and teamwork. In the first two-month phase (July-August 2014), they introduced us to Glenmary's charism and spirituality. We also learned about the society's constitution and theology of ministry and prayer. And we learned the story behind Father Bishop's founding of Glenmary.

Then came the second phase (September 2014-January 2015), when I went to a mission area for five months to experience how missioners do their apostolate. I was assigned to missions in two Tennessee counties. From being part of the mission team (Father Steve Pawelk, Brothers Craig Digmann and Joe Steen, and me), I learned about the importance of Glenmary community and the qualities of good missioners. In the missions, I learned more about the U.S. and Southern cultures and about ministry to the growing Latino communities.

And I also learned to be really present to the people I served. In Pope Francis' words, I needed to "smell like the sheep." I was involved with several ministries and sites such as adult day care, faith formation, homebound ministry, Head Start, a Christian residential group home for at-risk children and youth, and nursing homes.

During that time, I gained an understanding of the importance of ministry of presence and life witness. A missioner needs to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

Our third and current novitiate phase (February-May 2015) is mostly study and contemplation. We are studying the Glenmary Oath, through which each Glenmarian promises to commit himself to Glenmary's mission and special practices of poverty, chastity, obedience and prayer. Before making First Oath, a novice has to meet with Glenmary's Executive Council to show his sincere desire to follow Christ according to the society's way of life. This phase is the time for choosing to say yes to the Lord.

Once a man professes his First Oath in the spring at the end of his novitiate, he becomes a temporary Glenmary member and begins on his path toward Final Oath. This is my dream and what I am looking forward to.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 Home Mission News newsletter.