August 11, 2020 — “This year has been unlike any other in recent memory or that we could have imagined. All of our lives have been touched by the pandemic and turned somewhat upside down,” said Fr. Stephen Corder, SJ, director of novices for Jesuits West during his homily at the First Vows Mass. “And we are making our way through it, we are making it day by day together. And I think a time like this highlights all the more the importance of the step our brothers are taking. We are all the more moved by your courage and by the faith, hope and love with which you profess your vows today in the Society of Jesus.”
Five Jesuits West novices professed first vows on August 8 in the Chapel of St. Ignatius at the Jesuit Novitiate of the Three Companions in Culver City, California. Due to restrictions of public gatherings in response to the coronavirus, the Mass was livestreamed so family and friends could watch as Brett Stephen Helbling, SJ, Travis Dean Neuman, SJ, Alexander Francis Phan, SJ, Collin Martin Price, SJ, and Nicholas Alexander Russell, SJ, professed perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Fr. Corder noted that the novices care deeply about the people of God, especially those at the margins. “They want to help bring the joy and the hope of the Gospel to a world where there is so much chaos, confusion and injustice,” he said.
Addressing the novices, Fr. Corder said, “We are all so blessed by your choice today, by your presence in our lives and your saying yes to God.”
Fr. Stephen Corder, SJ, (third from left) director of novices, delivered the homily at the First Vows Mass.
The five newly-vowed Jesuits spent the previous two years at the Culver City novitiate learning about the Society of Jesus, participating in local ministries and living in community. They also performed community service and completed the 30-day Spiritual Exercises retreat.
“There’s a lot of talk these days about essential, non-essential,” Fr. Corder said. “And as I was praying about it, it moved my heart how essential today is and how essential our brothers are who are professing their vows. This is a very beautiful and essential step, for them and for all of us and for the sake of the church and the world. Especially in a time like this, we need witnesses of hope who stand up and remind us of what is truly important and of what endures.”
During the Mass, each novice received a cross that once belonged to a Jesuit who has passed away. Fr. Corder thanked this new generation of Jesuits for committing their life to love and to service, calling it “a beautiful gift that our brothers make to God and to each of us. So thank you for your witness today and thank you for your trust in God.”
“May the Lord continue to give you his abundant grace always and may you know of our heartfelt gratitude for each of you today,” Fr. Corder told the newly-vowed Jesuits at the conclusion of his homily.
Now that they have pronounced first vows in the Society, these five Jesuits will continue their formation with several years of philosophy studies at a Jesuit university.
(Please note in the group banner photo, the novices did not wear masks as they live together in community.)