We have come together to celebrate the closing of the Canonical Year for our Novices, and their entry into the Apostolic Stage of their formation in Sion, when each will be sent to apostolic experiences, here in Jerusalem or in Egypt or in Tunisia. This stage is symbolized by sandals, with the call to Go and Proclaim.
The Apostolic stage is not entirely separated from the Canonical Year, but rather, is the continuation of it, during which the Novices assume increased responsibility, and decision- making.
The purpose of the Apostolic Stage is to Go and Proclaim. What can I proclaim after this year of learning, of silence, and of community living?
What did I hear and live during this Canonical Year, in my weekly desert moments, and in my daily living in community, and in my times of study during the year?
And now, I want to direct my attention to the Novices:
You all made a personal reflection on your year, with questions like:
What am I grateful for in this year of living in the Congregational Novitiate here in Jerusalem?
Can I be grateful for the challenges of living in the Congregational Novitiate, including our ways of praying, our studies?
Am I grateful for the limitations I experienced in myself, and for the resources I discovered in myself ?
Am I grateful for what has intensified or deepened in me? Can I name this deepening?
Or am I perhaps grateful for what has been healed or is being healed in me?
How has this year strengthened my call in Sion?
Can I name my favourite memory of this Canonical Year in Jerusalem?
Or even my worst memory of this year in Jerusalem?
And what you have received, you are now sent to give, to Sion, to the Church and to the people to whom you are sent, in the spirit of Sion.
Mission is based on call and Mission requires a specific task and a community who sends you. All of us here now are closing this Canonical Year with you and sending you into the next stage of the Initial Formation Program.
The symbol of this stage is sandals and the words of Jesus: Go and Proclaim (Mt 24:19).
We need to remember Father Theodoreâ€™s words : â€œThe more active the apostolic life, the greater the demand for continual prayer.â€
Father Theodore insisted on speaking a great deal to the Novices about apostolic life and on forming them for this life. At the time of his death, of the 76 novices in the Congregation, 26 were on mission. Very frequently Novices were sent to new foundations, not only because of a lack of professed sisters, but because the experience proved to be valuable for their formation.
A missionary is placed in the midst of other people, nations, cultures, civilisations, so that he or she can proclaim, announce, and share the Good News, and worship God there, as a call to life, and a call to freedom, uprooting the idols of dependency, certainty, and other ideologies that keep us un-free and try to enslave us — mind and body.
Different tasks are going to be required of you in this Apostolic Stage. Skills you learned need to be practised. No one is expecting you to be masters in those skills, but to continue growing, and taking responsibility for your call, for scheduling your prayer time, your desert moments, and the tasks of your mission which are asked of you according to Sionâ€˜s Charism, for your daily, weekly, or monthly commitments.
This Apostolic Stage is a call to Go and Proclaim.
And as you go forward now remember the words of Fr. Lionel Goh, OFM,; If you donâ€™t know what you are bargaining for donâ€™t take a step forward; know what you are giving up when you prepare yourself to take the step forward which leads to the day of your first profession.