In a ceremony known as ‘Investiture,’ two Josephite novices received their Habits along with the Josephite Constitution and Directory, on Dec. 23, 2022, at the hands of their novice director,Father Roderick Coates, SSJ, and with the assistance of Father Charles Andrus, SSJ, the pastor of the Blessed Sacrament-St. Joan of Arc church, New Orleans.
The ceremony took place in the chapel of Mary Immaculate Novitiate House, just opposite Blessed Sacrament- St. Joan of Arc church, where the novices carry out their weekly ministries.
The novices, Alexander Lema, and Justus Ihemawulotu, who are both Nigerian, were received into the Josephite Novitiate program on July 31, 2022, and have been undergoing the novitiate program for about five months.
The novice director, while preaching at the Mass of the ceremony, reflected on the words of the ‘collect’ – the opening prayer – which emphasized ‘being clothed.’ He spoke about the theological symbolism of being clothed with the Josephite Habit and was quick to observe that the Habit does not make a Josephite but it is rather a constant reminder of the way of life a person has chosen to accept.
As he congratulated the novices, he advised them to continue to be steadfast while relying on the mercies of God.
As the novice director noted, the Habit does not make a Josephite but the Habit is not a mere piece of cloth.
In ancient Israel, the prophet’s mantle was a sign of authority, not the authority itself but an indicative.
We can draw similar conclusions from the Habit, that it is a sign of who and what God wills us to be; people called into the life of Christ.
The prayer for blessing the Habit contains the following words: “May we who wear the Habit in your service always remember that we are your humble and devoted sons.”
It is in the true understanding of what the Habit means that we can say with the prophet Isaiah: “He has clothed me with garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of justice” (Is. 61:10).
And again, as we tie the sash around our waists, we become heirs of the Christ whom Isaiah spoke of: “Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips” (Is. 5:11).
The investiture of the Habit possesses the power of inner transformation, and in fact has that very intention.
When the novice is presented with the Habit, the priest says: “May the Lord strip you of the old man and all his deeds.”
The novice then receives the Habit, and while putting it on he says: “May the Lord clothe me with the new man, who has been created according to God, in justice and holiness of truth.”
Again, as the novice receives the sash the priest prays: “May the Lord grant you perfect chastity and wholehearted obedience.”
To which the novice responds and prays: “I gird myself with faith and good works. May the Gospels always be my guide.”
The transformative power is in the readiness to abandon old ways and cling to a new way which is deep in faith and good works, directed by the light of the Gospel.
The investiture took place after the homily, with Father Andrus acting as a Josephite witness who helped the novices in putting on their Habits.
At the same Mass, the novices also received copies of the Josephite Constitution and Directory.
During the Novitiate year, as novices discern their vocations as Josephites, it is important that they understand what life as a Josephite implies, and by studying the Constitution and Directory, novices get an appreciation of the Josephite life, the life that they may be called to for the rest of their lives.
After the Mass, the novices, who were visibly happy, expressed their profound joy at having gotten to this stage which is a step in becoming a Josephite while also soliciting for prayers to continue in their chosen vocation.
The next step for these two young men will be ‘First Profession,’ which usually comes towards the end of the novitiate program.
The First profession is a public rite in which the novice promises for the first time to live according to the Josephite Constitution; this act marks the end of the novitiate year.
If the novice director judges the novice fit for the Josephite apostolate, and the novice also desires to commit himself to the Josephite Mission, he makes a public declaration to abide by the Josephite Constitution.
The promise is received by either the Superior General or his delegate.
Back on Feb. 6, 2021, the Josephite seminary in Washington, D.C. received two men from Nigeria to continue their studies in Theology at the Catholic University of America, these two men are currently the Josephite Novices.
We continue to rely on the grace of the Holy Spirit working through the constant prayers of the members, benefactors, and friends of the St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart.