Noviciate Interview

Noviciate Interview

Not Out of the Blue

Many people cannot imagine life in a monastery. They think of self-denial and strict discipline behind thick monastery walls. In reality monastery life looks different.

Alexianer brother, Dominikus Seeberg (41) told us why his decision was just right for him – and still is today.

Brother Dominikus, can you still remember your first day with the Alexians?

Oh yes. As my parents took me took me to Neuss with two suitcases on 1 January 1987, the brothers at the Neuss monastery weren’t expecting me, but Br Ambrosius took me under hi swing. They had coffee for my parents and Br. Ambrosius and then it was time to say goodbye. I remember my father telling me before he left “I fit doesn’t work out, we’ll come pick you up.“

That’s no wonder. You were only 19 years old. Many young people at that age don’t know what they want yet. Was it different for you?

Of course that’s right, but of course my decision was well thought out. A calling doesn’t just come out of the blue.
You have to do something for it. It starts with an initial idea; could this be the way for me? Then you need to pray about the calling and to listen.
Every calling is a gift from God.
The beginning of every calling is learning to listen and to listen to God, and to good people, family, friends and the pastor.

Did you listen to your inner voice?

Yes, of course. The fact that I came into contact with religious life I owe to my family and several people in my home town who had an influence on me.
I am thankful to this day for their testimonies.
I experienced community life as a server and it impressed me.
The joy of mass and prayer, and community activities left its mark on me.
When I am active today as a priest in several communities and celebrate holy mass in different churches that gives my home community a great value for me. It hast o do with home, memories, feelings and sentiment.

Why such an enthusiasm for the Alexians?

With 74 brothers world wide and 23 in Germany it’s a small brotherhood, and one that not many people know of.
I first became aware of the Alexians through an article in “Weltbild“. Many brotherhoods advertised there back then. Nowadays people look in the internet.
It was important for my decision to find a socially active organization instead of a contemplative one. I had the feeling that the Alexian brotherhood was right for me. My decision fell quickly. I visited during advent time and joined them in January.

Why was the decision made so quickly?

At 19 I made decisions much more quickly, but I never put myself under pressure.
We see the same today. We rarely have 19 year olds who join us. Normally they are older and have already established their position in society with job and family. Then joining an order is not as easy anymore. For me the step was easier, and I was able to study and learn many things thanks to the brotherhood.

The nice thing about this order is that you grow into it and learn the religious position. Nobody has to be perfect. We all have our quirks and we are all walking the same path.
 The structured daily routine with set times for prayer, work, meals, relaxing, and community is enormously important especially at the beginning of life in the order since many people come from a society where speed is important.

What influence did your social environment have on your decision? Did you grow up in a strict catholic family?

That question is typical. Most people think of a strict catholic upbringing when they think of a calling. With me it was different. My parents weren’t more religious than others.

How did friends and family react when they heard about your decision?

No one was against it. They were more reserved. That’s because this way of life is unusual and most people can’t imagine what life in an order means.

What does it mean?

To begin with: Life in a brotherhood is certainly different than 50 years ago. Of course the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience are a part of our rules. This no longer has to do with strict order that you just obey. It has more to do with scrutinizing one’s self. What am I getting into? How am I with my decision? And to find out if I can do this. What path am I taking?
Individual responsibility is more important now than in the past.
My efforts, and building and maintaining my relationship to Christ are most important and to do this one needs religious bearing. The promise we made to God and the church has to lived every day. This is a constant process. We all live today and not in the past or the future. Knowing this gives me peace and trust in God.

How important is discussion with the other brothers?

Regular discussion with the brothers is very important. Unfortunately the problem of finding the next generation is also there. Although I am alone in Siegburg now, I have regular contact with the other brothers in Neuss, Aachen and Muenster. We have different meetings and celebrations that we enjoy together. Discussion with the brothers is always important at any age. We need to stand together, especially in a small brotherhood, to show that we are brothers and to strengthen our calling, which also means that I have to learn to accept my brothers advice “correctio fraterna“. 

Do you ever doubt having gone the right way?

Everyone has doubts. That’s why one should not be arrogant or overbearing.
I never doubt God’s good working in my life. I doubt more that I can live up to my calling with all of my short-comings, weaknesses.
Problems with one’s own beliefs are also a part of our life. That’s why it’s important to have people to help one through such times. Confessors, pastors, religious men and women. There are many men and women who can help one religiously. I am thankful that I had people who could accompany me through these times. Regular retreats help too.

But even less people join orders today. Why is that?

Many people are afraid to commit themselves to something these days. This is not only noticeable in orders, but in relationships in general. But I think it’s helpful and necessary to commit to things and to take a chance.

I believe that commitment create trust and provides for security. Only this makes me free to be open to new things.

How can you convince young men to take the step to the Alexians?

We don’t have sensational advertising like you see on television. We don’t offer a product but we show how a life style can be meaningful. And we are in a century old tradition of Alexians. Many brothers have sacrificed themselves over the years for others, and have surely become saints.
They actually led Alexian life which they had been called to. We can only attract people to us by inviting them to come and to watch what we do.
Nowadays people who are interested contact us through the internet. For this reason it is extremely important to us to have a current and modern website. Recently we been offering an Alexian year to young men who are looking for their way. Here we invite interested men to come and spend a year in our monastery with us. This is a good opportunity to test the water and to ask the question: Is life in an order something for me?

Which requirements do interested persons have to fulfill?

Anyone can come to us. Occupational background is not of greatest importance. In the past an Alexian brother had to be trained in nursing. That is different today. Anyone can come to us and bring their occupation with them. Our sphere of activity is enormous and everyone can find a place here. Although it is important that every brother has a basic understanding of hospital operation, knows the structure of such a facility and has experienced the daily routine in the hospital or in a nursing home. This is a part of our charisma: Caring for sick and needy people. That’s the way it is and the way it will stay.  

Brother Dominikus, thank you very much for this interview 

The interview was conducted by Britta Ellerkamp
(Editing department, Alexianer-Magazine)