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Role of Novice Director Changes with the Times

January 7, 2016

Over the last year, Fr. John Van Wiel, CSV, has accompanied Novice Br. Peter Lamick Van Wiel and Lamickthrough his novitiate year, guiding him through the months of spiritual growth and discovery about living a consecrated life.

“I see it more as being a companion, walking with Peter, trying to guide him along the way,” says Fr. Van Wiel, who taught chemistry at Saint Viator for 25 years before retiring in 2013.

How things have changed. In looking back at his own novitiate year, more than 50 years ago, Fr. Van Wiel recalled that it took place at the same Province Center building, but it was vastly different.

Fr. John Van Wiel, left, with his former Novice Master, Fr. William Cracknell

Fr. John Van Wiel, left, with his former Novice Master, Fr. William Cracknell

Their days started before dawn, with silent meditation, prayer and Mass, before having breakfast in silence and then heading into a morning filled with classes led by the novice director.

Afternoons were similar, though peppered with one hour of recreation, two hours of work on the property before spending time in meditation, evening prayers and supper in silence, while someone read a reflection.

“There were a lot of rules and regulations,” Fr. Van Wiel says. “They were testing you all the time, putting you through all kinds of trials meant to test your obedience and just seeing how much you could put up with — and just whether you were a good fit for religious life.”

By contrast, his time spent with Br. Peter has been congenial and empowering. They typically met twice a week, including spending time attending the Intercommunity Novitiate in Techny, IL, with other novices from different religious communities.Van Wiel Lamick

In addition, Br. Peter met one day a week with Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV, to learn more about the Viatorian Community, its history and logistics of living in community.

Another day was spent meeting with Fr. Robert Erickson, CSV, in learning about sacred Scripture and its impact on every day life. Fridays were spent with Br. Michael Gosch, CSV, and working with Viatorian social justice initiatives.

This was  third time Fr. Van Wiel has served as novice director, after spending a year of training at the Institute of Religious Formation. He describes the year as enriching for him, too.

“It’s been refreshing for me, spiritually, as well,” Fr. Van Wiel says. “I’ve enjoyed helping Peter grow spiritually. But in today’s world, it’s done in a way that’s compatible with his personality type, by providing materials and experiences that he can identify with and grow from.”