The novitiate is a two-year time period in which a new Sister continues her formation. The first year is an intense time of prayer and reflection, with little ministry responsibility. The second year includes more ministry while maintaining a focus on learning and prayer. The novitiate is a time to prayerfully prepare for making one’s first vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
Novices study congregational documents, meet regularly with a formation director, and grow in their prayer life. Novices also make the 30-day Spiritual Exercises with a director and experience God\\\’s love and their own response in a new way. Sisters Michelle Cimaroli and Oanh Vo recently experienced this and below recount their experiences:
Michelle’s Sharing of the Experience of 30-Day Retreat
I am so grateful for the time I was given to make the Spiritual Exercises; I felt so deeply how much it truly is a privilege and a gift. It was an amazing grace-filled experience that will certainly continue to feed me for a long time to come. It was certainly a time for me to grow very much in the interior freedom that is so central in Ignatian spirituality. I was very touched by the abundance of God\’s love that calls forth in me a response of abundance, and I was incredibly grateful to receive nothing but confirmation of my vocation to the Handmaids, feeling my heart aflame to co-labor with Christ in our mission of reconciliation and unity. I felt very united to all who accompanied us in prayer and am deeply grateful for the fruit those prayers bore and continue to bear. – Sister Michelle Cimaroli
Sister Oanh’s Sharing of the Experience of 30-Day Retreat
How blessed I am to have had the privilege of making the 30-day Spiritual Exercises for the first time during this past summer! Before I began this retreat I had begged the Lord to allow me to know him more intimately so as to love and serve him more passionately. The Lord answered my prayer by opening my heart to the Sacred Heart of his Son, and there I experienced newly his unique, infinite love for me. How many blessings has He had freely gifted me, even before I came into this world?! How many times has he had tenderly welcomed back this sinful daughter into his fatherly arms without any conditions. The feeling of Gods love for me was so overwhelming that I could not help but cried out, How can I ever sufficiently repay this love when all that I have and all that I am is His?!!! Well, thank God that what he wants from us is our total being, our open heart and not our great work. Thus, with Gods grace and with a deeper conviction, I offered myself totally to Him in response to His generous love, committed to follow him to wherever He wanted. So with greater humility and courage, I desire to live this life more fully and more joyfully so that through me people may come to know and love this merciful God. – Sister Oanh Vo