The Novitiate is "...a time of probation directed to this purpose, namely, that the novices come to know more deeply their divine, and indeed Dominican vocation, experience the Order's way of life, be formed in the Dominican spirit in mind and heart, and manifest their intention and suitability to the brethren (LCO 177)."
Coming to knowledge of a religious vocation requires time, silence, prayer and solitude. Our Constitutions and the law of the Church require that a novitiate last at least one year. Silence provides the framework in which the Dominican can pray and study, which must always precede our preaching. Father Damien Byrne, O.P., the former Master of the Order wrote that vocations are drawn to us by a desire to preach the Gospel and because of a love for study, but even motives as exalted as these need to be tested by the experience of sustained prayer and solitude. And while involvement in the apostolic life of the Order must not be omitted, that is not the primary purpose of the novitiate. More than just a time of probation, the novitiate is a place and it is people.
The novitiate of the Dominican Vicariate of Eastern Africa is located at St. Martin de Porres House in Kisumu, KENYA near Lake Victoria. The novitiate year begins during first vespers of the Solemnity of Our Holy Father, St. Dominic on 7 August when the aspirants are vested in the habit of the Dominican friars and ends during the Mass of Simple Profession on the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Dominic a year and a day later. It is a time to discover whether one is fitted for the Dominican life - a blend of apostolic ministry and contemplative prayer. The emphasis is on prayer, the common life, and the study of the Dominican Constitutions and lives of Dominican men and women, both past and present. It is also a time for the Dominican community to determine the suitability of the man for Dominican life. It is a time of discernment (that is: prayerfully considering what God wishes for me and also considering my heart's desires). It is discernment of God's will.
Novices receive their most important formation by actually living the religious life. Classes in the life and traditions of the Order and assigned duties are part of the life but the matters that have primacy in the religious formation of our brothers are our communal celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. Each brother becomes familiar with the cycle of the Church's celebrations by taking an active part in the planning and performance of the Mass and Divine Office. In addition to these, the novices are expected to receive the Sacrament of Penance regularly and to foster a love for Our Lord in the Eucharist and devotion to Our Lady, especially through praying of the Rosary.
The brothers engage in some apostolate. Even though the apostolic component of the life is limited by the nature and the purpose of the novitiate, it is nonetheless a component that brings before our mind that the Dominicans are a missionary Order founded for the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. The fruits of our prayer and study are the treasures that we share with our brothers and sisters.
Next to our novitiate house is the St. Catherine of Siena Home which is a hospice for children terminal with cancer run by the Hawthorne Dominican Sisters. The novices and the novice master assist the Dominican Sisters in a limited way in their apostolate to the Poor. In addition, the friars of St. Martin de Porres House run Fr. Tom's Kids program.
Definition of the Novitiate