On Saturday, December 12 at 11:00 a.m., Brother Ambrose Okema had his Profession at Mary Mother of the Church Abbey. Ambrose has been with the Benedictine monks for six years, constantly learning the ways of the monastery and the teachings of the monks. The Profession of Solemn Vows is the commitment to faithfully live as a monk until death, which causes many practicing the monastic life to become stressed and give up before the ceremony.
This Profession is a very serious and important moment in a monk's life, determining the rest of his time on this earth. Those who attended the event were parents, friends, Abbey supporters, other religious groups, the Knights of Columbus and BCP staff and students. On Saturday, the ceremony started with the procession of Father Jonathan Licari, Father John Mary, Brother Ambrose, the acolytes and the other priests and monks who visited.
The Benedictine College Prep choir sang for the occasion, first singing "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" as they walked in, representing Ambrose's call to worship and servitude of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
After the procession was over, the altar was blessed with incense and the reading of the Book of Revelation (11:19a; 12:1-6, 10ab), the Responsorial Psalm, the Gospel Acclamation and the Gospel reading (Luke 1:26-28) followed. Then the Monastic Profession began, where Ambrose was questioned, accepted, inspected and made sure of his decision to stay. While still being nervous, Brother was excited more than anything else. "A lot of things went through my head like 'This is the moment I've been waiting for,'" said Ambrose. "It has been my dream to become a monk. The Lord has done wonders through me, and I felt great."
The journey to this moment is a long and strenuous adventure. Usually this process takes four years, but due to some complications it took Brother six years. After coming to Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Virginia, he went to Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina for a year of academics. During his time there, Ambrose practiced monastic studies, learned Church history and studied Sacred Scripture. He would then come back to Virginia to do his First Profession, which he would renew each year (Simple Vows) and end at his Final Vow (Profession of Solemn Vows). "It was not an easy ride. Like everything in life, it had its ups and downs. It was not as quick as it should've been," said Ambrose. "I realized it was a test from God, and I developed more patience from it. I felt strong, and it's a good lesson that everyone should learn. No matter what you're going through, you must stay strong."
Brother Ambrose and Father John Mary both made it very clear why this milestone is important to those of the Abbey. The monastic life is a calling for those from different backgrounds to live together as one family, as brothers, making it a more meaningful event for all the monks. That is the rule of Saint Benedictine. "It gives you a brother for life and is a servitude to others and the Holy Spirit," said Father. "We can always depend on and help each other. We are here for the long haul."
This inspirational occasion is quite special to witness, since it doesn't happen all the time in a monastic community. Father John Mary has been at BCP for many years and has only seen three of these Professions, and he is especially happy about the newest addition to the Abbey. "It's exciting to see him (Ambrose) keep to his faith so strongly and to know he will be staying with our community and family," said Father. "He will help and contribute to the community, keep the Benedictine presence in the school and Cadets, to carry on the legacy of the founders of the Abbey, and to maybe even bring out more vocations.
"That is why the monks come here."