Photo: Felix Carroll
by Dan Valenti
Not that they needed it, but on Sunday, Aug. 15 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception had a multitude of additional reasons to celebrate the solemnity of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. It was a vows day like none in recent history: six novices professed their first vows, six temporarily professed Marians renewed their vows, and two men re-entered the community.
If that wasn’t all, in the morning, the Marians accepted a new postulant and welcomed eight new novices, who took the next step in their spiritual lives following postulancy. This flurry of activity amounted to a front sweeping in, a virtual army of new recruits assembled by Our Lady to brave the front lines for Christ and the Church.
Six novices made their first temporary vows as Marians’ of the Immaculate Conception. They are Allen Alexander, Bart Lapus, John Paoletti, Gabriel Cillo, Brent Thayer, and Fr. Dan Malone. Six Marian brothers renewed their temporary vows: Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC; Br. Richard Dolan, MIC; Br. David Blasland, MIC; Br. Esteban Ybarra, MIC; Br. John Luth, MIC; and Br. Matthew Halladay, MIC. In addition, the Marians welcomed back Br. Keith Andre, MIC, and Br. Chris Alar, MIC, who renewed their temporary vows after authorized leaves of absence.
The day before, Saturday, Aug. 14, the Marians conducted a morning prayer service to formally welcome Daniel Allard, who begins a yearlong postulancy at the Marian House of formation in Steubenville, Ohio. That evening, the following postulants became novices: Giuseppe Mignano, Abel Ruiz, John Nahrang, Joe Lappe, Adam Bazarini, Kenny Bouzan, Jonathan Inskip, and Michael Baker.
A ‘Special Day’ of Consecration
If there was a dominant visual impression from the Aug. 15 Assumption liturgy, it had to be this flock of young men joined with the sight of young Marian priests and deacons on the altar, among them Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC; Fr. Andy Davy, MIC; Deacon Ken Dos Santos, MIC; and Deacon Michael Gaitley, MIC. Youth was served on this holy day, and it bodes well for the future of the Marian Congregation.
“It’s impressive to see Mary build this army,” said Br. Chris following the service. “If this doesn’t put the stamp of authenticity on the message of Divine Mercy as the message for our time, I don’t know what does.”
In the name of his fellow Marian priests and brothers, the Most Rev. Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, provincial superior, acknowledged this “special day for our religious community and in the life of the universal Church.” Father Dan read a prayer from Pope Benedict XVI, in which the Holy Father consecrated the priests of the world to the protection and guidance of the Blessed Mother as the Mother of Mercy.
That consecration, he said in his homily, also serves as “the voice of our community” to be priests who proclaim God’s mercy to the world in a province that takes it name from that same Mother of Mercy. He asked God that the Marians “receive the grace necessary to do the Father’s will” and not their own. The Marian Constitution, he said, in its emphasis on the spiritual virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience, would help them do so. They must, as so many religious before them, “die to the world.”
Photo: Felix Carroll
With Mary as Our Model
Father Dan then stressed the importance of mercy in our lives. He said Catholics are called to be co-redeemers by “uniting our suffering to that of the one divine Redeemer” and to join with Mother Mary in her role as co-redemptrix. He urged the Marians, novices, and postulants to follow the example of Mary, “who was the first of the disciples and the first to say, ‘Here I am to do the Father’s will.’ We follow in her footsteps by saying, ‘Here I am to do the Father’s will.'”
Father Dan summed up the importance of the day by hearkening back to baptism. He said to the professed that their vows could be seen as a fulfillment of their baptismal promise “to be called to salvation in Christ.”
Each man professing first or renewed temporary vows were called individually, by name, to make their public commitment. The declaration of a formal, public oath carries the weight of solemnity. Such promises are not made lightly, that is, to willingly choose a religious life, which, Fr. Dan promised, would be full of difficulties and obstacles. Such vows run counterintuitive to the values of “the world.”
The combination of formality, resolve, declaration, and ritual exhibited in the act of professing public vows presented the moment with gravitas. It imbued the air with an imposing, ceremonial redolence, a perfect adjunct to the sweet, smoky incense that hung in the air from the censer.
“In the name of the Church,” Fr. Dan accepted the promises made by these men.
‘What Happens Next?’
One of the best moments in the profession of first vows comes when the men process from the altar to the sacristy, where they don religious garb for the first time. In that room, the new Marians changed outfits, a fitting symbol for putting on their new life in Christ as Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
“Now I’m a Marian today,” said Fr. Dan Malone, who joined the Congregation after years of service as a diocesan priest in Rockford, Ill.
“It feels good!” exclaimed Bart Lapus.
In the room, novice master Fr. Mark Baron, MIC, doled out a generous portion of hugs and high fives. He had invested many hours of instruction and direction in these men, and one could witness in Fr. Mark a justified sense of ownership in the progress they had made. He shared their joy.
They processed out of the sacristy at the National Shrine and up the side stairwell that leads to the altar. As they waited to re-enter the Shrine, Br. Gabriel asked in a whisper, “What happens next?”
Of course, Gabriel was referring to the remainder of the liturgy and the Marian rite of passage that would soon resume in the Shrine. Take a longer view, though, and Gabriel’s question hangs over all of the newly professed, all those in the Shrine, and everyone else, for that matter.
“What happens next?”
This is, ultimately, a spiritual question.
God, as always, has the answer. We only have to listen and assent.