Early enough on and especially from 1818, Father de Mazenod required of his future missionary religious that they undergo a period of formation at the novitiate. In the course of his trip to Rome in 1825-1826, he visited a few religious houses in Italy. He was struck by the consummate regularity that reigned all over. On March 16, 1826, he wrote to Father Tempier: “I conclude from all I see and hear that from the beginning we have sinned with regard to the novitiate and still it not up to the standard where it should be.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 7, no. 230, p. 62) It was himself, then Fathers Maunier and Tempier who acted as the first masters of novices. They were replaced by Father Courtès from 1823 to 1826. With his time too taken up with the sodality of Christian Youth and ministry in the chapel, Father Courtès did not accompany the novices closely enough. Upon his return to Marseilles in the summer of 1826, the Founder gathered the novices around him at Le Calvaire and entrusted their care to Father Guibert. Father Guibert was not suited for a sedentary life and he soon fell ill. Subsequently, the office of novice master had eight successive occupants from 1828 to 1833. A lasting master of novices finally was found in the person of Father Casimir Aubert who held that office from 1833 to 1841.
Initially, the novitiate was in Aix, then at Notre-Dame du Laus, at Le Calvaire in Marseilles, at Saint-Just in Billens in Switzerland, et at Notre-Dame de l’Osier from 1841 on. A second novitiate was opened in Nancy in 1847. In the registries of the taking of the habit in the novitiates of France from 1816 to 1861, 948 names appear. There were more novices than that because some names have been omitted, especially with regard to the brothers who were sometimes compelled to make their novitiate in the houses where they had entered the Congregation as postulants. About 350 left during the novitiate.
Here is the list of masters of novices and the places where the novitiates were located in France.
In the Midi
|Mazenod at Aix, assisted by Tempier and Maunier
|Tempier at Notre-Dame du Laus
|End of 1822-beginning of 1823
|Deblieu at Aix
|Courtès à Aix
|1826-beginning of 1828
|Guibert at Le Calvaire in Marseilles
|Reynier at Le Calvaire
|June 1828-June 1829
|Guigues at Saint-Just
|Capmas at Saint-Just
|November 1829-October 1830
|Honorat at Saint-Just
|Mille at Billens in Switzerland
|Honorat, Guibert and Mille at Notre-Dame du Laus
|Aubert, Casimir at Le Calvaire
|Aubert at Aix
|Aubert at Notre-Dame du Laus
|Aubert at Le Calvaire
|Vincens, Ambroise at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
|Santoni at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
|Richard at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
|Vandenberghe, Florent at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
|Mouchette at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
Province du Nord: in Nancy
|October 1848-January 1849
|novitiate in Nancy is closed
|October 1855-January 1857
|Soullier, superior and master of novices
|February 1857-June 1859
|Guinet, (Berne at end of 1857 and beginning 1858)
|September 1859-June 1861
|J. J. Lagier
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
BEAUDOIN, Yvon, o.m.i., Les noviciats et les maîtres des novices au temps de Mgr de Mazenod. Conference delivered at a congress of masters of novices at Rome, March 15-28, 1998, 31 typewritten pages.