Vows at last!

"With my right hand on the holy Gospels and my left on my heart, I vowed to live chastity, poverty, and obedience for one year, for the glory of Jesus Christ.  'Take off the old man,' Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, our Superior General, said as he and a server helped me remove my black coat. 'Clothe yourself in Christ.'"

Welcome to a new weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes." Watch for a new column every Friday.

By Br. Josh, MIC 

I made my religious vows on August 15, 2023, the Solemnity of Our Lady’s Assumption. It was the same day I first made my act of consecration to Mary — a self-gift to her that she uses to glorify her Son and unite me more closely to Him. 

I don’t remember ever having felt so joyful as I felt that day.

The Hard Way
A key moment directing me toward the religious life took place in Lent 2009. I was at my local parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Huntington Beach, California, standing near a statue of Mary. The sky had been overcast all morning. 

I made the decision to consecrate myself to Mary, and I told her, “If it is your desire, I will consecrate myself to you.”

I felt a rush of joy in my heart, and I thought I heard her answer: “My way is a hard way.”

I told her I didn’t care, that if she gave me the grace to persevere through all the trials, this was what I wanted. 

Immediately, the dark gray clouds covering the sky broke. 

Brilliant sunlight streamed down onto the statue of Mary, and perhaps it was a trick of the light, but I thought the statue’s eyes appeared to look at me. 

The church’s bells began to ring at the same moment. 

There’s more: When I returned home, I found my sisters singing a song from the play Porgy and Bess: “Yeeeees, I is your woman now, I is, I is.” 

I was deeply moved. On August 15th of that year, I made my act of consecration to Mary. 

That night, while half awake and half sleeping, I thought I saw a tiny, luminous woman standing by my bedside. I believe Mary wanted me to know that she was looking at me with love. 

Two or three days after my consecration, I felt a passionate desire to enter religious life. That was the beginning of my journey. 

First vows
The way was indeed hard, as Mary told me. It was fraught with difficulties and setbacks. 

But now, 14 years later, on the same day I consecrated myself to Our Lady, I finally took vows. Instead of Novice Josh, I am now Brother Josh, MIC.

With my right hand on the holy Gospels and my left on my heart, I vowed to live chastity, poverty, and obedience for one year, for the glory of Jesus Christ. 

“Take off the old man,” Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, our Superior General, said as he and a server helped me remove my black coat. “Clothe yourself in Christ.” 

Father Joe placed a beautiful new cassock into my hands, signifying vestment in Christ. 

I was given a blue scapular, and I put on the new garments in the back sacristy.

When my fellow Marian seminarians and I emerged, we turned and faced the crowd, our hands folded on our chests. Rosemary, our beloved secretary from the novitiate house, immediately sprang to her feet, clapping. Everyone soon followed her lead, rising to their feet, clapping and cheering. 

My joy was overwhelming. 

Brother Josh (center, second from left) after taking his first vows in the presence of Marian Fathers, Brothers, and Seminarians on Aug. 15.

Flooded with joy
The whole day of my vows was flooded with joy, talking, joking and laughing with friends and family, feasting and celebrating. Many friends came, including even some laity I knew from my days with the Franciscans of the Immaculate, another religious institute I lived with. My friend, Br. Elliot Yozwiak, MIC, was in touch with them, and he told them about my vows. They surprised me by showing up; I hadn’t had any idea that they were coming!

Brother Elliot Face-timed me from Argentina, where he is serving, so I was able to talk with him on the phone on the day of my first vows and, for him, his renewal of vows.

My Dad shelled out the money to come with three other family members all the way from California, booking hotel rooms to stay a couple nights. He honored me and my journey with God, even though he isn’t Catholic himself. 

My family and I talked with my friends in the Marian Congregation until late that afternoon. Then, we flew back to my parents’ home in Southern California for a week. 

A new chapter begins
After a joyful vacation with loved ones, I traveled to Steubenville, Ohio, and began seminary at Franciscan University. 

I expect to take at least two years of philosophy at Franciscan University, and then four years of theology. I will also likely do an apostolic year of ministry at some point in the process, for a total of seven years and then, God willing, ordination.

A new chapter of my journey is beginning. Please pray for me and my brother seminarians!

Next: "Newbie Seminarian Chaos!"
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