Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.
Getting to know you…
Lyrics from The King and I
Getting to know you… In a sense, the lyrics from this perennial favorite Broadway musical “The King and I” can serve as a metaphor for the yearlong program five men have just completed.
In Vincentian language, the program is called the “Internal Seminary” or Novitiate. We celebrate its conclusion with a ceremony we call “Good Purposes” signifying a commitment to continue on the journey to a lifetime commitment in the Congregation of the Mission.
These five men, Thomas King, Bemnet Melaku, Erik Sanchez, Joseph Swaris and Rok Zlender, were born on four continents. They came together during the last twelve months for a “getting to know you” experience here in Germantown, Philadelphia.
The official language of the year-long program was English. However, at the closing ceremony, representatives from the three provinces witnessed their profession, bestowed a medallion of Vincent and greeted this candidate in English, Spanish or German. Truly a symbol of the internationality of the community.
The Internal Seminary
In the language of our official documents
“The goal of Vincentian formation in the internal seminary is to provide the seminarian with a firm foundation for living the life of a Vincentian missioner, committed to “following Christ, evangelizing the poor.” This level of formation can be likened to that of a sprouting plant in process of developing deep roots for a stable and fruitful life in the Congregation. ” (Ratio Formationis of the Congregation of the Mission)
“The objective of Vincentian formation in the internal seminary is twofold: to provide the seminarian with a broad and detailed understanding of our founder, community, and charism; and to help him develop a disciplined life of prayer and apostolic service.” During this year each came “to know the confreres better, and prepare to commit himself to the province when he pronounces “good purposes”.
With the guidance of Fr. Jack Timlin, the Director of the Internal Seminary, they came to know themselves, each other and their distinct cultural backgrounds. All this in the context of getting to know Vincent and experience the common life of “missioners”.
The paths they took were quite varied.
The first few months were difficult with so many adjustments of language and culture, both secular and religious. But at the end of the year they formed a tightly knit group who exemplify St. Vincent’s hope he expressed in his Common Rules that confreres live together “like true friends.”
Who they are
Erik Sanchez is 28 and comes from Choluteca, Honduras. He likes to hike, play soccer, read the Scriptures, and learn about astronomy. He is preparing to serve in the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission. He is ready to go wherever he is sent.
Thomas King is 26 and comes from Oakdale, NY. After graduating from St. John’s University with a degree in adolescent education (with a concentration in biology) he continued as grad student. He became more involved in campus ministry and service projects. All these experiences led him to the Internal Seminary.
Joseph Swaris is half a world away from his native Sri Lanka. After many twists and turns, he came to the Congregation and the internal seminary or novitiate via our Austrian-German province.
Bemnet Melaku is originally from Ethiopia and came to our Internal Seminary or Novitiate program via our Western Province. He explored the possibilities of becoming a doctor with premed studies of BS degree in Psychology and biology. However, later he decided to study his masters in Healthcare Administration.
Rok Zlender, despite being trained in Slovenian law, felt something was missing. At 26 he was haunted by the question “Is God calling me” he felt “I had to give it a try even if only for a week or a month.” He discovered he felt at home. When it came time for the period of formation called the internal seminary or novitiate he was asked to come to the US to join 5 others with diverse International backgrounds.
He did not take “good purposes’ with his classmates because his home Province of Slovenia would like to witness his commitment when he returns there.
Fr. Jack Timlin captured the spirit of happiness of the day in his homily when he said that we are happy for them, ourselves and the poor whom they will serve.
Although my own Internal Seminary experience had parameters of June, 1957 through January/February, 1958, fondest memories remain of novices,priests and brothers. The length of the canonical year was one year & a day plus another year prior to taking temporary vows. As many of you know, I did not attain that goal. Saint Vincent de Paul Novitiate was a great classroom,and many of the lessons remain with me to this day. Many Many Thanks!
Today, you manifest a new relevance suited to these times. The location has returned to Germantown, but I feel your spirit of Christ and Vincent refreshing,renewing and molding young men in a universal sense while continuing to teach these these gentlemen how to “live in the world while being apart from the world”. Please forgive the inaccuracy of my quote.
Richest Blessings on this Feast of Mary Mother of Our Incarnate Savior.
Ed Ambrose,AA,St. Joe’s,1957