As the novice master for the Brothers of Saint John in the United States, I am often asked what the process is for becoming a member of our community. The first thing is always to visit one of our priories and begin to familiarize one’s self with our community and its charism by seeing our life where it is lived. There must be a basic knowledge of what religious life means and how it is lived by the Brothers of Saint John before a young man is capable of taking the next step, which is to request entry into our postulancy program. As a postulant, a young man lives with our brothers in one of our apostolic priories in the United States for no more than one year. The time period can be shorter if the young man is more familiar with the Brothers of Saint John and has a sufficient human maturity that shows he is capable of entering the novitiate sooner. The goal of the postulancy is to experience our brothers’ life within an apostolic setting, being able to see firsthand what it is like to be an apostle as a Brother of Saint John. The postulant is also exposed to the communal life of the brothers within an apostolic priory. Throughout the postulancy, the young man, through his experiences and accompaniment, grows in his own personal responsibility, enabling him to make a free choice in his discernment of a vocation to religious life.
At the end of the postulancy, the young man is then sent to our novitiate at Princeville, Illinois, where he will become a novice for the next 18 months. As a novice, the young man is under the guidance of a novice master, who will be responsible for his initial formation in the charism of the community. A novice receives classes on religious life in general, the spirituality of Saint John, prayer life, the liturgy, philosophy, and theology, just to name a few subjects. The goal of the novitiate is the deepening of a young man’s knowledge of our charism, his introduction into our prayer life, and the refinement of the novice’s discernment of his vocation with us. At the end of the novitiate, the young man who discerns God is calling him to our community is able to ask for permission to profess temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for four years. During the various stages of formation, there are evaluations performed by the community to help the candidate make a good decision about his vocation.
Currently, the formation period for a Brother of Saint John consists in about three or four years being spent in the United States and about five or six years being spent at our two houses of formation in France. The community is currently discerning the possibility to do more of the initial formation in the United States, which would allow for all of the initial formation through philosophy to be spent within the US. The theology formation would be completed at our Motherhouse. That will be voted on at our upcoming General Chapter in France, which is an assembly of professed brothers that takes place every three years. If this proposal is accepted, a young man would spend a more substantial amount of time in the US for his initial formation up to the time of perpetual profession.
If a young man is interested in knowing more about our various stages in formation, he can always contact me at 309-573-2489 or at email@example.com.
Fr John-Luke, csj
11223 W. Legion Hall Road
Princeville, IL 61559