When I was young, I would associate the Novaliches district of Quezon City with the Holy Cross Memorial Park and the Sacred Heart Novitiate. The first is because my paternal grandparents are buried there, and the second is where every 4th high school student of the Ateneo de Manila would take their retreat before graduating.
The Sacred Heart Novitiate is a Catholic seminary, where young men are trained to be future Jesuit priests, and most often these seminarians would come from the Ateneo, a Jesuit run school system in Quezon City, Cagayan de Oro City, Cebu City, Davao City, Iloilo City, Naga City and Zamboanga City. I for one took my elementary and high school at the Ateneo de Manila, in Quezon City.
The Sacred Heart Novitiate draws its name from the Jesuit devotion to the Sacratissimum Cor Lesu or Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was first initiated by St Claude de La Colombière SJ (1641-1682), after he became the director of the Monastery of the Visitation, and met the visionary Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
The Sacred Heart Novitiate draws its roots from the old Seminario de San José (San José Seminary), which had opened in 1915 on Padre Federico Faura (1840-1897) Street in Manila. However, when the original Ateneo de Manila campus in Intramuros, in Manila, burned down in 1932, the students were moved to seminary compound; while the seminarians were transferred to the Mission House in Intramuros and the La Ignaciana in Sta. Ana, Manila.
Already expecting a need for a larger home for the growing number of novices, the ground breaking for the Sacred Heart Novitiate was held in 1932, and on the next year the novices, juniors, philosophers, superiors and their formators from the La Ignaciana were able to move into their new home. At the mean time, those who were transferred to the Mission House stayed until 1965, when they moved into the new San Jose Seminary in the new Ateneo de Manila campus, in Quezon City.
The Jesuit philosophers moved out of the novitiate in 1939, and were to transferred to the City of Baguio in 1939, back to the Sacred Heart in 1946, then to Berchmans College in Cebu City (now the University of the Philippines Cebu campus) in 1949, returned to the Sacred Heart in 1963, and finally settled in their permanent home in the Loyola House of Studies, in the Ateneo de Manila campus, in 1963.
When the Sacred Heart Novitiate was erected in 1932, Novaliches was just a small town proper that was mostly agricultural lands and dense forests. The town was finally rising from the ashes, after much of it was razed by the Spanish during the 1896 Philippine Revolution. With the Our Lady of Mercy Parish rebuilt in 1928, the Sacred Heart Novitiate’s establishment further emboldened people to return to Novaliches, as a “pagus novae lucis” or place of the new light.
And now the Sacred heart Novitiate continues be a source of light, not just to the seminarians who are training to be future Jesuits, or the Ateneo students who troop to its halls at every end of the school year, but also to the public. The Sacred Heart Novitiate has opened its doors its neighbors and to all who seeks solace. The novitiate has held many seminars, workshops and retreats for all types of people, and all subject matter to be discovered. From team building exercises for students, to corporate trainings, and marriage seminars; more and more people pass through these halls. Yet not all know of the treasures that stand before them . . .