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Photos/Edmund Lo, SJ

William Mbilinyi, SJ, professed first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience last August 16, 2020 at the Villa Saint Martin in Montreal. The First Vows Mass was presided by Fr. Erik Oland, provincial of the Jesuits of Canada, concelebrated by Fr. Gabriel Coté, SJ, and assisted by deacon Jean Franky Guerrier, SJ.

William Mbilinyi, SJ
William Mbilinyi, SJ

A novice spends two years at the novitiate for the first stage of Jesuit formation, culminating in first vows — a public profession of commitment to the Society of Jesus.

At the Mass, each Jesuit novice makes the profession of vows individually in front of the Eucharist, just as St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and some of his first companions did. They also receive a vow cross that they will keep for the rest of their lives.

Fr. Gabriel Coté, SJ, and Fr. Erik Oland, SJ, hold the vow cross
Fr. Gabriel Coté, SJ, and Fr. Erik Oland, SJ, hold the vow cross

During their two years in the novitiate, each novice prepares to become a vowed member of the order by learning about the Society, participating in local ministries and living in Jesuit communities. They also embark on pilgrimages, minister in different settings and complete the Spiritual Exercises — a 30-day silent retreat developed by St. Ignatius.

By the time a novice kneels at the altar to pronounce vows, he is prepared and ready to speak the words of the vow formula to God, which concludes: “And as you have freely given me the desire to make offering, so also may you give me the abundant grace to fulfill it.” As the assistant for formation, Fr. Gilles Mongeau, SJ, states, “the meaning of First Vows is an offering of oneself to God.”

Fr. Erik Oland, SJ, and William Mbilinyi, SJ
Fr. Erik Oland, SJ, and William Mbilinyi, SJ

Following the profession of first vows, Jesuits prepare to be priests or brothers. Priests usually begin this period with three years of studies: two years of philosophy studies, combined with one year of graduate-level theology courses. Those men who took vows as a Jesuit brother will usually take several theology courses.

The novitiate team of 2020

Fr. Jean-Marc Laporte, socius to the novice director, with William Mbilinyi, SJ, Bryan Manning, nS, and Fr. Gabriel Coté, novice director

Fr. Erik Oland, SJ, Frantz Georges, SJ, and William Mbilinyi, SJ

Click here to read more about the steps of Jesuit formation.

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