Marist Fathers’ Novitiate,
Sat. 11th Jan. ’69.
Dear Mum & Dad,
Well, we’re here! We came down (the 12 of us) on Newmans on Friday 3rd, getting here about 1.30 p.m. The house (I may have told you during my Massey course) is an old “mansion”, rather similar to the Presentation Novitiate at Takapau. But I think “Highden” is more American Colonial looking than Takapau. It is on a farm, mainly cattle with some pigs – about 10 miles west of Palmerston & 6 miles east of Fielding (I think).
The Superior & Novice Master is Fr. Bennett. He is very good. (I suppose he has to be). The only other priest on the staff is Fr. Con O’Connor, who was Novice Master for about 30 years before Fr. Bennett came about 6 or 7 years ago.
Everything is run as a small scale Greenmeadows, although the rule is much stricter. For example, we get up at 28 minutes past 5. (Apparently the rule was changed from 27 to 28 minutes past a few years ago, so they really mean what they say!) However, all the bells are “Vox Dei”.
On the Saturday we began 3 days of recollection. The 1968 Novices were still here and on Retreat so we didn’t speak to them for 5 days although we lived with them. On the Tuesday they took their Vows (for 3 years) of Poverty, Chastity & Obedience, so they were very pious and conscientious during those 5 days much to our regret – for we had just finished Camp and still had the holiday spirit.
During this year we study the Religious Life, Psalms, Latin, Spiritual Theology, and the Constitutions of the Society of Mary (the Constitutions were drawn up by the founder [Fr. Colin] and give the Spirit of the Society, the special virtues & way of life of the Society, etc. & by studying & living them you become a Marist).
There are four terms during the year (no holiday & only a few hours of free time during the week). We have Conges! We all have our jobs & these are often changed each term.
To begin with I am in charge of Music – Organist & Singing Master. There is a Sung Mass every Sunday (Latin & English alternatively) & usually two Benedictions each week for 52 weeks. This could become monotonous after a while!! There is a half hour singing class almost every day so they will have to be kept interesting. Fr. Bennett is taking the first few singing classes.
Another of my jobs is book-binding which is similar to that at Greenmeadows, although the facilities aren’t so good here. I am also on laundry which entails hanging out the washing & getting it in, etc.
My other job is cleaning the car & the “bus”. They have a Vauxhall Viva & a Leyland Van (in which I believe we sometimes go out for a drive or something).
I am also on rose gardens. The rose gardens here are fantastic – the pride & joy of the place. There are 3 of us on them (as well as Fr. Bennett) & they require a lot of work. However, Fr. Bennett means it to be more of an interest than a chore & I’m sure it will be interesting. You will see it when you visit.
I am not sure what the story is about visiting. Certainly no “surprise” visits or ones other than the specified visiting days. I think there are 4 visiting days in the year but will give details later.
I mentioned that there were 12 Novices (including me). These are students from Green meadows. There are also two Novice brothers with us – training to be Brothers (like at Green meadows), Professed Brothers run the farm & cook, etc. but we cannot talk to them without permission – we are really separated from them except during prayers (which is a lot of the time).
Well, I have to go. Have really gone on too long about “Highden” but thought you would be interested.