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Meet the Oblate Novitiate Class of 2016-2017

 Abril Villarreal-Medina
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On August 17, 2016, these six young men stood before a group of local Oblates and requested admittance to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois. By participating in the Rite of Reception, the men pledged to spend the next year in study, prayer and discernment at the Oblate Novitiate overlooking the Mississippi River.

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joseph_saukaniJoseph Saukani, NOMI

 

Delegation: Zambia

Date of Birth: 05 January 1990

Place of Birth: Kabwe, Central Province of Zambia.

Education: Kasanda Malombe, Secondary School: Highridge High School, Tertiary Education: Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies, Diploma in Psycho-Spirituality-St Bonaventure College affiliated to the Pontifical University Antonianum (PUA)-Rome, Italy.

Previous ministry: University Teaching Hospital Lusaka, Zambia (at pre-novitiate).

 

I come from a family of ten, four boys and six girls and I am the 9th born from this family. At the moment we are eight because my brother and my sister answered the call to the Lord. My parents are both still living enjoying life in their old age.

It was during my primary education when I first felt the call to priesthood. The feeling at this time was not so strong but it kept on developing as I grew older. When I completed my secondary education my vocation call became very strong.

In my quest, I came to know about religious life and the Missionary Oblates through a former novice of Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate, Br. Nchimunya Bbuyumba Haakakata (class of 2014-15). He introduced me to the vocation director of De Mazenod  House of Formation in Lusaka, Zambia, Fr. Ron Walker, OMI. I kept in touch with him for two years and in 2012 when I felt it was the right time for me to join the Oblates, I applied and luckily I was accepted into Oblate formation.

It came as a real surprise for me to learn that I was among the pre-novices who were chosen to do their novitiate in the United States, for there were nine of us in our class to choose from. I received the news of my novitiate location with joy and it made me realize the confidence the Zambian formators have in me.

I am now honored and happy to be formed by friendly and lovely formators: Fr. Tom, Fr. Rudy, Fr. Jack and Fr. Bob. May my novitiate year be a year of happiness and learning about the Oblate Charism. May it help me to deepen my relationship with God and deepen my self awareness.


 

macario_mumba_sausande

Macario Mumba Sausande, NOMI

 

Delegation: Zambia

Date of Birth: 19 May 1991

Place of Birth: Mufulira, Copperbelt Province of Zambia

Education: Primary school at Kamuchanga Primary School, Secondary School: Ipusukilo High School, Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies, Diploma in Psycho-Spirituality-St Bonaventure College affiliated to the Pontifical University Antonianum (PUA)-Rome, Italy.

Previous ministry: Kamuchanga Prison (Parish Youth Ministry) Mufulira Copperbelt, University Teaching Hospital Lusaka Zambia (at pre-novitiate).

 

I am the youngest in the family of nine, comprising seven boys and two girls. I come from a family of devout Catholics and I really thank my both parents for teaching me the Catholic faith.

My desire to become a priest can be traced from the time when I was in grade five. I came to know about the Missionary Oblates in 2008 after writing to them, a very good friend of mine provided me with the Oblates’ address. Initially, I had no idea about the Oblate Charism and works, especially since they were not in my home diocese.

My initial intention was to join the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals. However after attending the “Come and See” program in 2012 for the Oblates, I became so attracted to their Charism and consequently changed my mind and decided to join the Missionary Oblates in the same year.

During my pre-novitiate, I studied Philosophy and Psycho-Spirituality at St Bonaventure College in Lusaka, Zambia. I graduated the on 20th May of 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Religious Studies and a Diploma in Psycho-Spirituality. I had also a privilege to do a CPE program at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia for twelve weeks.

By the grace of God and with the help of the Novice master and the formation directors, during this year of novitiate, I intend to deepen my relationship with God and also to know more about the Oblate Spirituality and Charism in order to discern my Oblate vocation.


 

thuan_duc_buiThuan Duc Bui, NOMI

 

Province: Australian

Date of Birth: 03 November,1992

Place of Birth: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Education: Diploma in Interior Design in 2014, Certificate 4 in Floristry in 2015

Previous Ministry: Catechizing in primary schools, Eucharistic minister to the sick and the home-bound.

 

I am the youngest child in the family of five siblings. I grew up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where my family had a successful fabric store. I lived with my parents and my sister for the last few years, while my three elder brothers studied abroad in Sydney, Australia living with my grandparents. In 2012, my family reunited in Australia. Our family settled in a peaceful suburb called Sefton near Sydney, where my parish church “Immaculate Heart of Mary” was staffed by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Following my passions, I studied interior design and floristry and received degrees in both. My brothers are in real-estate and construction and I knew my expertise would assist them in building up their business.

I decided to join the Congregation after a conversation with an Oblate on a Sunday during Lent in 2013. This Oblate shared with me about the new aspects of the kindness of God. The kindness which came from Christ was more accepting and much more forgiving than I could ever think of. My life has been fascinated by beauty and the revelation of God’s forgiveness.

As time went on and I discerned God’s call; I met many others Oblates in Australia and experienced more deeply the Oblate Charism through their acts of kindness. Now, I realise it is the Oblates kindness to the people that first inspired me and invited me into a closer relationship with God.

In February 2016, I officially joined the Australian Oblate Community as a pre-novice. I spent six months learning about the Oblate Community life in Mazenod College, Melbourne. I also like many young Oblates joined the many volunteers who participated with the Rosies Youth Ministry where we befriended those living on the streets.  At the same time, I also studied and practiced my English for the further studies.

It is a privilege for me to have the next twelve months here at the Novitiate in the U.S. Province. Since I knew these few words may be published, I would like to take the opportunity to express my thankfulness to the U.S. Oblate Community and the local people for the warm welcoming and all the support that I have received.


 

ansalin_joe_jelastin

Ansalin Joe Jelastin, NOMI

 

Province: India

Date of Birth: 21 November, 1993

Place of Birth: Pallam, Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India.

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy.

 

I hail from a traditional Catholic family from a small village at the most southern tip of India. My father died when I was 10 years old. After the death of my father, my mother managed to find a job and brought us up with the help of my grandparents. I am the oldest in my family. I have one younger brother and one younger sister. After high school graduation, my younger brother chose to become a local fisherman, like my father. My younger sister is now doing her college studies.

It was my parents who raised me up with the firm faith in God and introduced me to the Christian faith with the support of my elders and my teachers. I served on the altar in our parish for quite a long time and was inspired by all the priests. The desire to be a priest was growing within me. My parents and the elder people encouraged and motivated me in this way of life.

I came to meet the Oblates through my vocation promoter in high school. In 2011, I attended the Oblate Vocation camp in Madurai. I was attracted by the way of life the Oblates lead, and the charism of the founder. At that moment I decided to become an Oblate. I entered the Juniorate in June, 2011 in Bangalore. During this period of time, I learned English with the help of the Oblates and the teachers; it was challenging! The next three years of my formation were for Philosophical Studies (both Western and Indian). It was there I had ample opportunities to bring out my talents, my thoughts, and develop my ideas. During this period, I did weekend ministry among the youth, teaching them catechism and hymns for the mass.

In 2015, I completed my Philosophical Studies. I hold a BA degree in Philosophy from IGNOU University. In 2015-2016, I was asked to do my Regency in the State of Assam in North Eastern India where I had to learn a new culture and language. I worked as a teacher at the English Medium School and took care of the affairs of the house. Besides all my works, I had regular spiritual direction, mass, prayer, and personal time to read and write. Being with the Oblates for five years, I feel that my desire to become an Oblate has grown even stronger and deeper.


 

alejandro_alvaradoAlejandro Alvarado, NOMI

 

Province: United States

Date of Birth: 23 January, 1975

Place of Birth: San Antonio, TX

Education: BS Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas at San Antonio

 

I am Alejandro Alvarado, a Novice from, the Oblate Parish of San Juan de Los Lagos, San Antonio, TX.  I come from a family of 6, with 2 brothers and 1 sister, and my parents.  My parents were born and raised in Mexico and graduated from college as math teachers.  I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and have worked as an engineer for 10 years.  During those 10 years of work experience, I found myself with a gift of knowing how to bake and decorate cakes.  I had a passion for it and I found  places to learn how to expand on my knowledge and skills.

During my employment, and most of my college life, I knew I had a calling to serve, but I never in my life expected it to be a calling to serve as a priest, let alone an Oblate.  In my discernment for my calling, I researched many ways to connect my world with my calling.  I researched an organization, “Engineers Without Borders”, where I had hoped to go on mission trips to provide ways for poor communities to have clean water and many more things that most third world countries can’t provide.

In my job, as an Engineer for the City of San Antonio, I also helped citizens find ways to keep their homes protected from developers who followed the bare minimum, in code compliance.  While working and providing such help to my surrounding community, I also found a different sense of serving by being aware of the state of Planet Earth.   I began to work with other engineers to develop new codes to ensure a cleaner environment as well as reducing the waste produced from rain running off large parking lots and developments.  I was able to organize a National Conference of Low Impact Development in San Antonio and I had invited engineers from the entire nation to participate and share ideas.

While working as an engineer, my passion for baking grew.  At first I began with family events and simple birthday cakes.  I attended a three-month course in cake decorating to help realize my new passion.  Not long after, I was able to provide a sweet 16th birthday cake for a cousin’s daughter and my talent and passion grew from there.  One of the surprising moments of my life, as an engineer and baker, was when I began to discern my calling to serve those around me.

Several years ago I attended an ACTS retreat and from there the Spirit moved me to discern a call to religious life as a priest.  It was a scary moment but very exhilarating.  Having been in an Oblate parish all my life, I was also moved to seek my call as a Religious priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.  I was able to meet with Fr. Art Flores, OMI and Fr. Charlie Banks, OMI when I first began to truly discern the call to religious life.  As I grew in my discernment, Fr. Richard Hall, OMI and Fr. Ricardo Guerra, OMI became my guides in vocational my discernment.


 

joseph_mathai_olickanJoseph Mathai Olickan, Jr., NOMI

 

Province: United States

Date of Birth: 09 April, 1979

Birthplace: Staten Island, NY

Place of Residence: Stafford, TX (Houston)

Education: B.A. International Economics & Finance: The Catholic University of America -Washington, DC, M.B.A. International Business: Trinity Washington University – Washington, DC

 

I come from a small family where my parents are both enjoying retirement in Rowlett, TX. I have one older sister living in Dallas and is enjoying life as a newlywed and an executive employee.

I started to take my faith seriously during my young adult period in 2005. This is where I started getting involved in various ministries like Habitat for Humanity (2005), DC Central Kitchen (2005-2006) and Catholic Youth Ministry (2006-2011). My discernment of a general vocation was an ongoing process and my consistency with the spiritual exercises (prayer, mass, spiritual direction) provided the steps that were necessary in preparing to say “Yes” to the Lord’s Call.

As years and job opportunities were going by, I continued my walk with a new spiritual director in 2012. In 2014, I took my faith to a new level by consecrating myself to Mary, Our Lady of Fatima. That following summer, I went on a pilgrimage to Europe with my spiritual director. While in Lourdes, both of us came to the conclusion that religious life was the next step for me.

Before the pre-novitiate program in 2015, I worked as a bookkeeper for an Oblate parish “Immaculate Heart of Mary” in Houston from January through July of the same year. That August, I went to the Pre-novitiate in Buffalo and while living in community studied philosophy. Here, I felt a strong calling to “Mission” and got to meet Fr. Richard McAlear OMI during his visits to the Northeast. After successfully finishing the program in 2016, I had the privilege of doing some pastoral work in France during this past summer. These experiences involved my interaction with the local Oblate communities and meeting Frs. Alexandre and Renaud Saliba. I definitely related to their stories being that they experienced similar conversions and callings in Lourdes. In Lourdes, I was working with diocesan seminarians from around the world. Being the only Oblate pre-novice, my formation continued as Fr. Roberto OMI was in charge of us. Fr. Nikolai OMI was in charge of the liturgical celebrations where we all volunteered our time and service. It was this experience that served as a sample of what to expect as I continue with the novitiate program of 2016-2017. As I continue my formation in Godfrey, IL, I feel that God has rolled out the red carpet and welcomed me home.


 

St. Eugene de Mazenod, pray for us and for these young men!

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