Claretian Directory on Novitiate

THE NOVICES AND THE NOVICEMASTER

Article 1. The Novices

1. The aim of the novitiate is to initiate the candidates into an experience of following Jesus according to the Claretian charism, so that both the Congregation and the candidates may discern whether the latter have truly been called and may hence proceed to be incorporated into the Congregation.

2. As a formative institution, the novitiate should enable the novices to lay the foundations for:

     ‑a life of union with Jesus Christ, the Son who was sent by the Father and became incarnate of the Virgin Mary through the working of the Holy Spirit;

     ‑a knowledge and practice of the essential demands of the Claretian religious life, as a way of following Jesus Christ, who was poor, chaste and obedient in proclaiming the Good News;

     -a truly Claretian community lifestyle;    

     ‑a missionary spirit and a preparation for the apostolate in keeping with the charism of the Congregation (Can. 652).

3. The attainment of these objectives require:

‑an inner and outer context that will provide the novice with a sufficient opportunity for “breaking away” and a desert experience;

‑a chance to listen to and receive God’s word in the liturgy and in the silence of prayer, which is the core of our spirituality;

‑a growing conversion to the existential attitudes of Jesus the Evangeliser;

‑an increasing co‑responsibility in programming, implementing and evaluating community life;

‑an acceptance of the novice master’s guidance in being initiated into the life of the Congregation and in responding faithfully to one’s own vocation;

‑a dedication to the study of matters relating to the aim of the novitiate.

                 During the twelve canonical months of the novitiate, the novices should not be occupied in studies or works that do not contribute directly to the formation proper of the novitiate (Can.652 § 5).

4.The erection, transfer or suppression of the novitiate must be done by means of a written decree of the superior general with the consent of his council (Can. 647 § 1; Dir. 496 f). This is to be requested by the major superior with the consent of his council (No. 457 m).

5.Only those candidates who do not have any canonical impediment (Can. 643) and wish to be Claretian missionaries, and possess the requisite qualities of age, physical and psychological health, aptitude, and human, spiritual and vocational maturity (Can. 642), may be admitted to the novitiate. Those who have shown progress in fulfilling the demands of religious life and apostolic activities in our Institute should be regarded as suitable candidates.

6.Before being admitted to the novitiate, all candidates should present certificates of their Baptism and Confirmation and of their free status (Can. 645 § 1). For those persons referred to in Can. 645 § 2, the testimony of their respective superior is required.

7.Postulants must submit to the major superior a written request for admission to the novitiate at least one month before they are accepted.

8.Admission to the novitiate belongs to the major superior with the consultative vote of his council (Can. 641; CC 69; Dir. 458 e). For any just reason the novice can be dismissed by the major superior (Can. 653; Dir. 271).

9.The beginning of the novitiate should be preceded by no less than five full days of spiritual exercises.

10.The canonical novitiate begins when the major superior or his delegate declares it begun (CC 69). For the opening ceremony it is fitting that the Congregation’s own rite of initiation be used.

11.Under the direction of the government of the Major Organism, different ways and forms of organising the novitiate may be promoted in keeping with the needs and convenience of each territory, but in such a way as to respect the fundamental characteristics of our Institute and to observe the norms of universal law.

Only by way of exception and in particular cases, through concession by the superior general with the consent of his council, can a candidate be allowed to make his novitiate in a house of the Institute other than the novitiate house. The candidate shall always be under the direction of a religious who acts in the novice master’s stead (Can. 647 § 2; Dir. 496 m).

12.There is only one novitiate and it is valid for all, independently of whether they have a clerical or lay vocation. Nevertheless, before his first profession in the Congregation, each individual must manifest to the major superior, in writing, whether he presently desires to be a Claretian according to the lay, diaconal, or priestly vocation.

13.With regard to the relationship between novices and professed members, given the distinctive character and aims of the novitiate, on the one hand there must be a balance between the nearness the novices need to achieve a knowledge and love for the Congregation, and on the other, the fitting separation they require to safeguard their condition as novices. The government of the major organism must determine the general guidelines for this relationship.

14.The novitiate ends with first profession. But if on completion of the ordinary time there still remains some doubt about the suitableness of the candidate, the major superior, after hearing from his consultors, can prolong the period for another six months (Can. 653 § 2).

15.If a novice becomes gravely ill and is in danger of death, the major superior or even the superior of the house may allow him to make his profession “in articulo mortis,” according to the norm and effects determined by the Holy See.

Article 2.        The Novicemaster

16.The novice master is designated by the major superior with the consent of his council (CC 68; Dir.457 a). He must be perpetually professed and endowed with the human, religious, and apostolic qualities that will allow him to fully accomplish his mission.

17.The novice master’s role is to help the novices by his words and actions to become formed and well founded in the missionary life of the Congregation. In order to do this, he should be acquainted with and accompany each novice in his personal growth process. He should patiently and constantly initiate them in the ways of the Spirit of Christ. He should create and encourage a true community of faith and love among the novices, and explain the doctrine of our missionary life according to the teachings of the Church and the Congregation (Cann. 650‑651).

18.The direction of the novices is reserved solely to the novice master, under the authority of the major superiors. In order to be able to devote himself fully to an office of such importance, the novice master should be free from all obligations and charges that might hinder him from guiding the novices. He can have collaborators who work in a team and share his responsibilities and functions. They depend on the novice master regarding all that refers to the direction of the novitiate and the implementation of the formation plan (Cann. 650, 651 § 2).

19.He should periodically inform the major superior concerning the progress of the novitiate and of each of the novices.

Article 3. Incorporation and Profession

1.       Nature

20.Incorporation into the Congregation is effected by religious profession (Can. 654; CC 70).

21.In the Congregation, religious profession is effected through a consecration to God by taking the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and by a public act of commitment to the Heart of Mary in order to achieve the aim of the Congregation according to the Constitutions (CC 159).

First profession and temporary professions include the will to make perpetual profession and are a preparation for it.

22.Those who have lawfully left the Congregation after completing the novitiate and did not profess vows can be admitted again by the superior general with the consent of his council, without the obligation of repeating the novitiate (Can. 690 § 1; Dir.496 h).

In these cases, the superior general himself should assign some time of probation, after which they may be admitted to first profession of vows by the superior general with his council (Cann. 690 § 1; 655; Dir.457 f).

2.       Process of Incorporation

23.Three months before the date assigned for finishing his novitiate, the novice should submit a written petition to the major superior, asking for religious profession in the Congregation, at the same time clearly expressing his will to persevere in it, and his disposition to fulfil the Constitutions and other norms of our Congregation.

  1. 24.Before their incorporation into the Congregation, novices should be explicitly informed that superiors do not wish to admit anyone who has kept silent about any excluding impediment or has hidden any notable defect or does not have a desire to remain in the Congregation, and that in such cases, their profession would be invalid (Can. 643). Likewise, they should be informed concerning the channels and criteria for separation from the Institute, as explained in Nos. 271-282 below.

25.During the novitiate it should be made known to the novices that the Congregation will not take the responsibility for the moral and legal consequences arising from acts against consecrated chastity. Before the first profession the novices should declare in writing that they know the mind of the Congregation in this regard and accept it.

26.Before their first profession but after their approval for it, the novices should freely cede the administration of their goods and dispose, likewise freely, of the use and usufruct of the latter, observing, if possible, the civil formalities governing such acts (CC 27). If for a lawful reason someone should fail to make this cession and disposition, he should do so when the aforesaid reason has disappeared.

A civilly binding will must be made before perpetual profession (CC 27), but it may be made throughout the period preceding that profession. If anyone has already made his civil will before his first profession, he is not obliged to make it anew (Can. 668 § 1).

If for a just reason anyone wishes to change the dispositions he has already made in matters pertaining to patrimonial goods, he needs the permission of his major superior.

27.Temporary professions are to be made annually during the first three years. After that, they may be made for a longer period, which the major superior will determine after hearing from the candidate and the person in charge of his formation (Can. 657 § 2; CC 70).

28.Unless something to the contrary is expressly stated, seniority and precedence will be determined by reckoning from the time of first profession (No. 370 c).

29.Three months before the expiration date for temporary professions, candidates must submit a written petition to the major superior requesting permission to renew them.

30.Six months before perpetual profession, candidates will request it freely and in writing from the major superior. The major superior will decide whether the time has come for immediate preparation for perpetual vows, and will determine the place and manner in which it is to be carried out (No. 241).

31.Those who request perpetual profession should, a month before it takes place, write to the superior general, manifesting to him their dispositions and aspirations as regards the missionary service of the Congregation. The major superior of the candidates, in turn, will send the superior general a complete file on each of them.[1]

32.No one may make perpetual profession before he has completed 21 years of age (Can. 658).

33.All members of the community, especially the superior, formators, and peers, are obliged to submit a report on candidates for profession, particularly for first and perpetual profession.

In all of these cases, as well as for attempts to abandon the Congregation, it is not allowed to ask spiritual directors or confessors for information (Can. 240 § 2).

3.       Admission

34.Admission to first as well as to perpetual profession belongs to the major superior with the consent of his council (CC 70‑71). Admission to renewal of profession belongs to the major superior, after hearing from his consultors (No. 458 e). By major superior is meant the superior of the major organism in which the candidate is enrolled, even if the latter is making his novitiate in a house of another major organism.

35.The major superior of the candidate and his consultors can delegate their right to grant admission to the superior and consultors of the major organism where the person asking for profession is living. In this case, each and every one of the members of the council should delegate their right to grant admission. The right of a candidate to have his petition dealt with by his own major superior remains intact.

36.It is also the right of the candidate’s major superior to receive professions. But by habitual delegation, superiors of the houses where the professions take place can receive them and can sub-delegate other members of the Congregation, or even persons from outside the Congregation, to do so.

 The major superior enjoys the same faculty within his own territorial jurisdiction, with respect to candidates from other organisms who make their profession there.

37.Professions should be made on assigned days and should follow the proper rite.

38.An official record of the profession should be drawn up, and signed by the religious himself, the superior who receives the profession, the secretary, and two witnesses. In houses where professions take place habitually there should be a special book to contain these records.

39.The local superior of the house where the profession takes place will inform the provincial secretary of the person professed concerning all professions. The provincial secretary should inform the secretary general of all first and perpetual professions and report perpetual professions to the pastors of the places where the professed were baptised (Can. 535 § 2).


[1] Ann. 54 (1980) 463.

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