By Benedict Nicholas, C.Ss.R.
Gabriel, Mark and I were in Mexico by the 10th of May 2022 to study Spanish while staying at “Templo de la Santisima Trinidad”. This was an extremely valuable experience that allowed us to have a 6 week ‘warm-up’ to this new environment and culture. I would be lying if I told you it was easy. Our first 3 days felt like we had been there for 3 weeks! Our program was done by the 1st of July at which point we headed to Ixtapaluca to begin our Novitiate at “Semenario San Alfonso”. The first 3 months was a lot of adjusting; as we had men made up of many different cultures trying to live and work together (Jalisco, Chiapas, St. Lucia, Vietnam, America, China, Philippines, Canada and Sri-Lanka). Our first 3 months we slowly got a working schedule with our typical day beginning at 7am and ending at 9:30pm:
However, this schedule would change throughout the year with things being moved around. Outside of our schedule we each had jobs that rotated monthly and weekly; weekly we changed who washed dishes and who led prayers as hebdomadary and antiphonaries and monthly we had coordinator roles (being in charge of different parts of the house i.e groundskeeper, housekeeper, animals) or specific cleaning responsibilities (chapel, old hallway, new hallway etc.). Thankfully for the guys who joined this year they do not need to worry about shoveling pig deposits because we ate two and sold two, but they do need to care for the sheep (which is much easier). It’s unfortunate because I think it's quite the humbling experience having to clean up after others (good training for the future).
Overall, this year helped me understand how as a Redemptorist I am not simply a part of the Canadian province but rather part of something much larger, and I am excited about that. Having had the opportunity to experience some of the many cultures that make up our Congregation I am hopeful that through our differences we can make it work if we continue to keep our eyes on Christ the Redeemer and avoid our own cultural bias’. In addition, I cannot forget to mention the Mexican people, because this was my first true experience of ‘being close to the people’ or more accurately ‘the people being close to us’. Every home we went to we were always reminded as we left, “mi casa es su casa”. I had never felt so much love and generosity from people who barely knew me, anytime anyone asks what I love most about Mexico I would reply ‘the people’ (the food, especially Mole is a close 2nd).
I hope you enjoy the photos below that probably do a better job than my words at expressing what a novitiate in Mexico could look like.