The road to becoming a Divine Word Missionary is a challenging, yet joyful one that includes education, formation, prayer, pastoral work and cross-cultural training.
Here are the steps you’ll take on your journey:
When a man first explores a call to life as a Divine Word Missionary, he will make contact with the Vocations Director, and after an initial period of inquiry and contact with the SVD, he will enter the Pre-Novitiate.
The pre-novitiate is seen as the first experience of community life for the candidate to the religious missionary vocation.
The candidate would be expected to have an adequate knowledge of the Catholic faith; to have successfully completed high school or its equivalent; to have developed a certain amount of personal independence through employment; to have maintained an active participation in relationship to Church; to have fulfilled the admissions screening requirements of the SVD.
The goal of the pre-novitiate is to enable the student to experience religious missionary life in community, deepen his own understanding of vocation and continue the initial learning about the SVD, its charism, its origins, history and mission.
Through daily prayer, scripture studies, spiritual direction, retreat and recollections, the pre-novice deepens his understanding of his relationship with God, himself, community, church and the world and enables him to grow in identification with God’s call to mission and ministry.
Regular meetings with the formation director and a supervisor help the pre-novice to reflect on his daily experiences of work, studies, recreation and pastoral experiences.
The pre-novice may take some courses in English, public speaking or in theological studies. As some of our pre-novices come from overseas, learning and experiencing Australian culture takes priority in this initial stage of our SVD formation.
The Novitiate provides a special time and environment for the nurturing of a growing vocation. The Novitiate builds upon what is already underway in a person’s life. It serves to mature and clarify a vocation in accordance with the religious lifestyle and the special charism of the SVD.
During this time, the Novice must deepen his understanding of and commitment to his own vocation. This is a time of serious personal and community discernment, the aim of which is to allow the novice to make a mature and free decision whereby he publicly commits himself to the religious missionary life of the Society as a student for the priesthood or for brotherhood in the SVD.
The Novitiate experience is designed to strengthen the novice’s commitment to the Christian way of life. This entails a personal relationship with God through a discipline of prayer, a desire to place one’s gifts and talents at the disposal of others through ministry, and active involvement in the Church.
The Novitiate Program is also designed explicitly to develop the novice’s understanding and living of religious life within the particular charism of the Society. The emphasis here is on the heritage, vows and way of life of the community. This lies at the heart of the Novitiate formation.
The Novitiate experience is finally designed to support and enhance the novice’s growth as a human person. This includes the continued development of the personal qualities and capabilities necessary for living and working with others.
The Novice is expected to attend daily community prayer and Eucharist as well as periods of private prayer. He involves himself in regular household duties.
Regular input from the Novice Director and other capable persons as well as attendance at the Kairos Inter-Novitiate Program in Sydney are also part of this commitment. Some pastoral activity, especially toward the end of the Novitiate, is recommended. Private meetings between the Novice and his Director are a feature of this time. The Novice is introduced to the keeping of a personal and spiritual journal.
Days off for the novice during the year are opportunities when the students can move away temporarily from the regular routine. A thirty-day retreat is usually undertaken half way through the program. A second, shorter retreat is done as preparation for taking first vows.
During Novitiate the student discerns his vocation within the Society, which will lead him to making a public commitment to live according to the apostolic counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, according to the Constitutions of the Society of the Divine Word. For the next 5-7 years, at the beginning of the academic year, (usually on March 25,) every SVD seminarian or brother in formation makes a commitment to live religious life according to the SVD Constitutions for one year. With the intention to commit oneself for life, assisted by professional formation personnel, his community and personal reflection and prayer, the student makes a choice to live religious life for one year. The temporary character of living religious life gives the student the freedom "to choose again," until he is ready to say his "Yes" for life, at the end of his initial religious formation.
Although the focus of post-novitiate formation may appear to be on academic pursuits, in fact it is very much in the line with the SVD Constitution 503: "Our formation is total and integral: it seeks to bring about human maturity, professional competence, and committed faith." The SVD Australian Province Formation Program makes it even clearer: "As a single thread, running through our whole formation, missionary service and religious life form a unity in our vocation. The missionary mandate determines the form of our religious life and the spirit of the evangelical counsels permeates our whole missionary work." In the spirit of dialogue and focused on our missionary call, our formation program promotes a balanced and wholistic approach, rooted in one's culture, community forming, directed towards apostolic service and open to the needs of the world.
While the number of Australian and New Zealand born vocations has decreased significantly, other students from overseas have brought new riches and challenges. In recent years we have had seminarians from countries of birth including Angola, Australia, China, Tonga, Vietnam, Fiji, Korea and Papua New Guinea pursuing their missionary formation at Dorish Maru College in Melbourne.
The formation community in Melbourne gives witness to international and multicultural living. Drawing upon our scholars from around the world, we have also been able to make an innovative academic contribution to the Yarra Theological Union, particularly in the field of missiology.
The academic program is based at Box Hill in Melbourne, Victoria. Our students study philosophy and theology at the Yarra Theological Union. Those students who are able to meet the requirements will, in the course of their studies, earn a Masters of Theology Degree from the Melbourne College of Divinity.
Students also need to fulfil two years of an Overseas Training Program (OTP) which is normally done after three years of full-time study at YTU. Some students training to become SVD Brothers, undertake other professional courses at universities. The full course of studies in preparation for priestly ordination, apart from the OTP, is normally completed in five-and-a-half years of full-time study.