Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus

The first day of school

06 Dec 2020

I arrive in Genoa on October 3, on a warm and sleepy early autumn afternoon. It is the first time I set foot in Liguria. Along the road that leads from the airport to the novitiate, from the window of the car, I see buildings, views, corners, squares never seen before. In the background, then, I see the port, the great Lantern and finally the blue-green expanse of the sea that reminds me so much of the years I lived in Naples and that always warms my heart. Just a few people are around: these are the first days of the slow and difficult resumption of school and work activities, after the summer, still in full health emergency. For a moment I look inside myself: I feel a bit moved, perhaps shy and uncertain like the sun that hides behind grey clouds from time to time and throws a few flashes of light on the deserted city. Finally, after a few hairpin bends that make space through the greenery of the gardens, the house appears. I recognise the address: Villa S. Ignazio, 3 Via Domenico Chiodo.

Once through the gate, the novitiate begins. In fact, I say to myself, it seems like the first day of school, or at least the feeling and the atmosphere are the same: the entrance, the gate, the same butterflies in the stomach, the same impatience to begin, the same desire to meet and get to know your classmates, but also the same little fears that usually accompany every new beginning. It remains true that every beginning is new by definition, as such, otherwise it would not be a beginning. I like to think, however, that this beginning is new in a unique way. As unique as the first day of school. Now, a month and a half after my arrival, I recall the words with which Fr. Agostino, the master of novices, introduced the short retreat of the first probation which concludes the first two weeks of novitiate inaugurating the long formative period which is the second probation: “the Lord has called us to a newness of life”. The word that strikes me the most and in some way marks this time is precisely “newness” (in Italian: novità).

The word novitiate itself contains, in its Latin root which the Italian language preserves, this mysterious reference to the newness: I feel that the novitiate is the time in which one learns to live the newness. And, in general, learning means going back to school for a while. As on school desks, sometimes in life we can find ourselves unprepared for the new, but also full of fear and amazement. For this reason, I like to think of the novice’s identity as a child at school. Jesus himself in the Gospel describes the mystery of the Kingdom as something new that can only be learned, that is, welcomed, if we change our mentality and become like children (cf. Matt 18:1-5; Matt 11:25-30). As children on the first day of school.

2020-12-06. Christian Lefta – first year novice

Interview with the new Socius Fr. Davide Saporiti

21 Nov 2022

In September a new Socius arrived in our community: Fr. Davide Saporiti SJ. His predecessor Fr. Iosif Şandoru SJ began the third year in the Dominican Republic.

You have been for 10 years in the retreat house in Bologna. How did you take the news when the Provincial communicated your new destination?

Initially with a bit of sorrow at having to leave a place I knew and loved where I spent all my energy; loved for the activities I carried out and the beautiful relationships I experienced. Later, however – I say this without rhetoric – deep inside me I felt peace because I understand the apostolic mobility that is part of our vocation. The Jesuit is a man sent for others. I understand that staying too long in reality runs the risk of becoming its owner, of taking root, of no longer having pastoral freshness and therefore not doing good for the work itself. In this new destination, i.e. in the Novitiate, I have no problem with the type of work or the environment, but – as often happens – a sense of inadequacy arises in the face of novelty: am I capable of doing well the things that are asked of me? At the same time I feel that in the Novitiate I can give the best of myself.

You celebrated your 25th anniversary in the Society of Jesus a few weeks ago. You are now 6 Jesuits in the Society of your year. What is your memory of the Novitiate?

The first thought is that we are half the number of novices I entered with. Thinking of former companions, I realise that those who continue the journey in the Company are no better than those who leave: indeed, the vocation is something personal. (Although it has to be confirmed by the Society).
For me it was very formative to join a heterogeneous group. Companions with very different ecclesial experiences, different maturations, different tastes, have opened my eyes to so many sensitivities that I had not considered before. The most emotional memories are definitely with the people, both novices and formators. A unique bond remains with the companions of the novitiate, even if we hear each other very little. I also have vivid memories of the typical novitiate experiments: the month of Cottolengo, the Lent experiment with students from one of our colleges and, of course, the Month of Spiritual Exercises; these were the passages that marked me deeply: every time I think about them a light goes on.

And what is your memory of your Socius? In what aspect do you want to be like him?

In the two years of novitiate I changed Master and also Socius. The first was very gentle and also very learned without showing it. The second was good at accompanying and guiding Spiritual Exercises, I saw in him a model of a Jesuit. Both were very helpful and I too would like to be helpful in what was asked of me. Above all, God willing, I would like to witness with my life more than with words the joy of following the Lord in the Society. But this is also true in other environments, not only in the Novitiate.

What will your commitments be this year?

I am understanding little by little, because some things have changed since I did the Novitiate. I interpret my role in concentric circles. The first circle (and the most important) is the life of the Novitiate: the formative modules with the novices, the instruction for the Month of Spiritual Exercises, the re-reading of the Month and everything related to the life of the Novitiate in the strict sense. Then, a subsequent “circle” concerns the life of the house and our works in the city: guiding guests who make the Spiritual Exercises, spiritual accompaniment, helping the pastoral care of the Jesuits in the city (SEEL for young people, CLC…). Finally, the more ‘external’ circle includes all the requests that arrive from the diocese or from our Province: formation courses, Spiritual Exercises courses and so on…

What memory would you like to leave in the memory of the novices? What message would you like to communicate through your example of life?

As mentioned earlier, I would like to communicate the joy of following the Lord in the Society. When I think of the Jesuits I admired in my youth, what impressed me about them was not only and above all their great pastoral skills (although they are important) but that they taught me ‘who a Jesuit is’: a person sent because he feels part of a universal body, a person in love with the Lord who can only spend his life for others, a person capable of self-denial and obedience, capable of living in community with a constructive style (today we would say ‘synodal’) but always in obedience to the superior because the two are not mutually exclusive. I too would like to testify, at least in part, to all this.

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