Novitiate at Don Bosco
Newton, NJ

            Ignem veni mittere in terram.

by Dominic Vautier
4/2001 


I spent a year in novitiate from August 1960 until August 1961.  There were no TVs, radios, phones, or outside communication.  It was a year of almost complete isolation from the cares and troubles and turmoil of the outside world. We got our news from the Master of Novices.  Kennedy got elected and inaugurated, Shepherd went into orbit and the Northeast U.S. suffered a huge long power outage which resulted in a lot of babies nine months later.  We also had record snowfalls that winter and they could not get the food truck up the hill so one day we all got pretty hungry.

I got my first and last crew cut as a Novice.  I hated it and not until my army days was my head subjected to such abject abuse.

I also worked the leaf burning detail on the hill out back  which consisted of watching the leaf and debris pile burn.  Nobody else wanted the job so I volunteered. Unfortunately I smelled like burned leaves most of the time.

In the novitiate everything was painted beige.  I never liked beige.  The walls were beige, the steps and railings were beige. When we went on paint detail, you had this huge selection of colors; glossy beige, flat beige, and semi-glossy beige.

 

I don't have a lot of pictures of the Novitiate area because I had no camera but the few pictures I do have are presented here.

don bosco college Novitiate chapel 1960

Our chapel was modest and the kneelers were bare wood--no padding at all and you soon developed "camel knee" or "seminarian's knee."  There were lots of Latin expressions all over the place.  To the right on the chapel wall was an inscription from one of the Gospels that would appropriately light up at night.  It read Ignem veni mittere in terram which I translate as "I came to raise hell" or perhaps more devoutly "I have come to send fire upon the earth."

 

don bosco college Novitiate view to east 1960

Here is a view of Don Bosco College from Novitiate Hill.  The brothers were not allowed to come up the hill or speak with us, and we were strictly advised not to communicate with anybody except our fellow novices.  As I recall there were many periods of silence where we could not communicate at all even with each other.  There was also the "grand silence" that went from evening study hall until after mass the next day.    

 

don bosco college Novitiate main hall 1960

Here is a picture of the main building hallway with the chapel to the right.  further down the hallway at right was the dorm with the gym to the left.  Our classrooms were at the other end.

Each morning we would gather here and sing a song before beginning classes. We had lots of studies for sure, most of which were designed as college prep.  I enjoyed Italian, Ethics, and English.  I did not do well in Greek because there was so much memory involved and our teacher was very hard on us.  In fact I don't think anybody did well in Greek, even though I can still recite passages by heart from the old testament, Homer and the Anabasis.  I can also conjugate some irregular verbs--wow!.

Each week on Sundays we had a special talk given by the Master of Novices Fr. Geovenini.

There was a brother from the college, usually a senior, who would act as kind of a sergeant-at-arms in charge of the Novices.  He would stay with us and direct all our activities.  He had a pretty busy schedule because he also had to attend classes down at the college.


This is the only picture of me taken spring 1961.

don bosco college Novitiate, dominic vautier in front 1960


The novitiate was certainly a unique experience in my life, an experience--I suppose like the Army--that I would never do a second time.  At the end of novitiate we took three year vows and got the title of Brother in the Salesian Order.  We also got to join the college down the hill as freshmen. I was very glad when my novitiate was over because I had done enough praying for a lifetime.