OBLATE NOVITIATE

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Jaffna had the happy privilege of nurturing the first Oblate Novitiate in Sri Lanka. On May 19, 1857, Fr. Christoper Bonjean was the first Oblate novice who received the habit and began his novitiate. It was not the custom among the Religious Orders at that time to have a separate house as "novitiate" isolated from the mission. The novice had spent the period of his novitiate in active pastoral ministry during which time the qualities of the novice could be more visible and more observable.

Thus, during the period of his novitiate, Fr. Bonjean was in charge of the vast Vanni Mission, which extended from the coastal areas of Jaffna to Mannar. He even accompanied Bishop Stephen Semeria OMI in preaching Parish missions. It was at Trincomalee, at the conclusion of a "parish mission" that Fr. Bonjean completed the period of the novitiate and made his profession of vows as an Oblate of Mary Immacula1ate. Later the Novitiate was shifted to a section of St. Martin's Seminary, Jaffna.

With the creation of the Vicariate of Colombo, another Novitiate was opened at Kotahena, Colombo in 1883. TheNovitiate was shifted from place to place. In 1892 it was shifted to Borella, then to Maggona in 1902 and then to Mattakkuliya in 1903. In 1905 it was decided to amalgamate the novitiate at Jaffna and Colombo and have only one novitiate in Colombo. Towards the end of 1908, the novitiate was moved to Slave Island.

On 01st October 1911 a ten- acre property at Bambalapitiya was acquired to establish the Oblate Novitiate and on 03rd December 1911 it was formally opened, dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. The house served as the novitiate till 1949. Fr. I. Coqui1 OMI was installed as Novice Master on 03rd December 1912. Since the population at Bambalapitiya was growing and becoming noisy, the novitiate was shifted to Mont Eden, Kalutara on July 5, 1949 where it served till 1973 when it was again shifted to Sidupiyanila, Ellathota, Bandarawela.

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The Programme of the Novitiate in Sri Lanka

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On 15th May, 1973 “Sidupiyanila” meaning "a home of joy and peace" owned by Mr. Watson Peiris, was bought by Fr. Lucien Schmitt OMI, the then Provincial and established as the Novitiate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Sri Lanka. This novitiate caters also to the novitiate formation of the candidates coming from Jaffna Oblate Province and Oblate Delegations of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Japan-Korea.

OMI Sacred Heart Novitiate, “Sidupiyanila”, Ellatota, Bandarawela, in Sri Lanka has been catering to the local Candidates as well as to the Candidates coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Korea and Japan. We did have Candidates from India and some years from Indonesia as well

The Programme of the Novitiate in Sri Lanka

The Novitiate programme begins with a well-planned orientation programme that would last for a week. This includes few workshops too. Then the following areas are dealt with.

Such as - the basic introduction to the use of the Breviary, Sacraments, Eucharist, Prayer life and Meditation, course on Spiritual Direction and introducing them to the Spiritual Director, Spirituality and Spiritual Formation, Lectio Divina, History of the Religious life, Course on Consecrated life, Community life, Introduction to the Evangelical Counsels, Three vows, Perseverance, Constitution and Rules of the Oblates, Canonical aspect of religious life, Brotherhood in the Oblate Congregation, History of the Congregation, Life of the Founder and Charism of the Oblates.

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Besides the above, the Novices are also given the chance to conduct classes on the life of the Founder and the formators are present to assess. They read books on the life of saints and they present a summary to the Novice Master. During the Novitiate year the Novices have one personal retreat (desert experience) besides the monthly retreats and the two annual retreats. They have to write a peer evaluation and the evaluation is given to the respective novice for his reflection and meditation during the personal retreat. They have a well-planned pastoral involvement and the basic question they need to reflect is; “what happened to you as you do your pastoral work”. They have three or four day outs during the Novitiate Year and one annual excursion for two days. The formators accompany them in all these exercises. Competent Oblates are invited to conduct special classes on Oblate Ministry and Psychology etc,. Whenever an Oblate visits us, he is given an opportunity to speak to the Novices and celebrate the Eucharist in the community. They have Bible sharing in community and in Units. Refectory reading is done on weekdays. The Novice Master will meet each Novice personally every month.

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