SANTA BARBARA-—On Monday, July 16, 2018—a typically balmy Santa Barbara morning—14 new novices were received into the Franciscan Order. One of the group, Friar Bernard Keele OFM, received the Rite of Probation initiating his transfer from the Benedictines to the Franciscans. In addition, two men from Canada are awaiting their US visas before they can join their US confreres in the program. After they arrive, this year’s novitiate class will consist of 16 novices.
“We’re not at St. Peter’s in Rome, “ began Novice Master Jeff Macnab OFM as he welcomed the diverse group of new friars—almost all of whom had just completed their postulancy year in Silver Spring, Maryland, before moving to the interprovincial novitiate location at Old Mission Santa Barbara. “We’re very relaxed here,” he continued as he looked around the group of the newly received novices, the last class of novices who will make their first vows on August 6, ministers provincial, formation team members, and others gathered in the Friars Chapel: “This is a family celebration—a family gathering.”
The sense of family was reinforced in the remarks given by Provincial Minister Jim Gannon OFM, of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary province. Following the proclamation of the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John (1:1-10), Friar Jim mentioned that it reminded him of not one, but three separate generations of baptisms witnessed in his native Philadelphia. He began by mentioning the parish priest where he grew up, immediately following the baptismal rite, would typically carry the infant in his arms from the rear of the church. The priest would then “present” the infant by placing it on the main altar, while he recited the Prologue, formerly known as the “last Gospel”. Jim shared that this same custom has been treasured in his own family for three generations now.
Jim challenged the incoming novitiate class members to work to understand more deeply the real meaning of the Prologue—“words full of grace and truth; grace upon grace, love upon love” and to apply its message to their own lives. “The Prologue of the Gospel of John is one of the most glorious foundational statements about Jesus Christ. Yet, we often skip over it. John’s story reveals two most fundamental affirmations about Jesus: Jesus is the presence of God’s own life and that Jesus makes this life of God available to every human being.”
“For Francis of Assisi,” he continued, “ the Word became the core foundation of his renewed, revitalized life. The Word turned Francis of Assisi upside down and inside out. I firmly believe that no individual renewal or revitalization, no global renewal or revitalization of the Order of Friars Minor– no national renewal or revitalization of the Franciscans in the United States will be successful unless we are committed to renewing our love for living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Brothers, you are the next generation,” he concluded. “As you enter your novitiate year, enter deeply into the implication of the Prologue of John’s Gospel. Enter deeply into the implications of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh upon your life as a Friar Minor.”
During the actual reception of the new novices, each man was called by name and, along with two solemnly professed friars as witnesses, signed the Book of Reception. Novice Bernard Keele OFM was welcome separately into “a time of probation” with the friars. Also in attendance were provincial ministers Friars Jim Gannon OFM, Jack Clark Robinson OFM, Ralph Parthie OFM, David Gaa OFM, and Mark Soehner OFM. Friar Basil Valiente OFM represented the Most Holy Name of Jesus Province.
Afterward, Provincial Minister David Gaa OFM, presented each new novice with a journal of his own “to write and express your journey.” “…Be attentive to the workings of the Spirit and (even) the days you resist the challenge,” he urged them.
The service concluded with blessings of and by this year’s interprovincial novitiate team, consisting of Friars Jeff Macnab OFM, Michael Blastic OFM, and Michael Jennrich OFM, as well as Sister Susan Rosenbach SSSF.
Row 3 (l to r): Novice Friars Loren Moreno OFM, Ian Grant OFM, Salvador Mejia OFM, Andrew Dinegar OFM Row 2 (l to r): John Neuffer OFM, Steven Young OFM, Andrew Aldrich OFM, Matt Ryan OFM, Bernard Keele OFM Row 1 (l to r): Josh Tagoylo OFM, Carlos Portillo OFM, Richard Phillip OFM, Nhan Ton OFM, Rafael Ozoude OFM Photo: (c) Dick Tandy OFM
SANTA BARBARA, California — Some 30 friars, novitiate team members, and staff gathered in the Friars Chapel at Old Mission Santa Barbara here on Aug. 21, 2017, to witness the reception of eight men into the interprovincial novitiate. The program was moved to California this summer from its previous location in Burlington, Wisc.
The new novices are:
Michael Cerretti (29; Carey, North Carolina)
Jason Damon (23; Buffalo, New York)
Troy Hillman (24; Olean, New York)
James La Grutta (28; Goshen, New York)
Michael Lomas (29; Cupertino,California)
Antonio Luevano (28; Rancho Cucamonga, California)
Domingo Martinez (28; Aiken, South Carolina)
Luis Manuel Rosado-Colombani (45; Villalba, Puerto Rico)
The incoming novices represent two of the seven OFM provinces in the US: six from Holy Name Province; two from St. Barbara Province.
New novices and team members (Front, l to r) Novices James La Grutta, Michael Cerretti, Luis Manuel Rosado-Colombani, Domingo Martinez, Michael Lomas, Jason Damon, Antonio Luevano, Troy Hillman. (Back, l to r) Novitiate Team members: Friar Jeff Macnab OFM, Sister Susan Rosenbach SSSF, Friar Michael Blastic OFM, Friar Kevin Schroeder OFM. (Photo by: Brother Friar Tandy OFM)
Friar John Hardin OFM, former provincial minister, welcomed the new novices and those assembled on behalf of the Province of St. Barbara. John, who is also Guardian at Old Mission Santa Barbara, introduced members of the local fraternity as well as members of the Old Mission staff and administration. He thanked Jim Balsitis, director of facilities at the Old Mission, for overseeing—in record time– the extensive remodeling of the former retreat center into the new novitiate facility. And he also introduced Executive Director Monica Orozco, who welcomed the program saying: “Thank you for returning to what we were built for.”
After Scripture readings by novitiate team member Sister Susan Rosenbach, SSSF, and Friar Phillip Polk OFM, Director of Novices Friar Jeff Macnab OFM shared some brief remarks. He recalled that just a few weeks previously, on August 2, the departing class of last year’s novitiate had “closed a chapter” in their lives together, each of them to go on to start a new one. “This moment now we all have come here together, many of us traveling long distances, with moving vans, UPS, and suitcases . . . to begin our new chapter,” he told the novices. “In the writings of St. Francis, we learn the instruction to pick up scattered pieces of the Word of God we might find and then to put them where they are supposed to be… All of us are pieces of the Word of God. What’s nice about community… is that we help each other put ourselves into the places where we are supposed to be. That we are not isolated but have support and care. . . . We will be with you to help.”
Jeff continued: “Brothers, the novitiate is more than just you. . . . It’s a place to gather, to meet; a place of support, of hospitality. Because the novitiate is one of the most sacred places that a province of the Order has. It’s a place where things develop.“ Jeff went on to extend an invitation to professed friars to visit: “In the old days, the novitiate was a place that pushed you away… You are invited to come to share our life, to share your life (with us)… You’ll ask ‘Why do you have so many rooms?’ Well, we have a larger section of guest rooms. It’s a symbol to let you know you are invited and welcome here.”
In expressing his appreciation to the Old Mission staff and resident friars, Jeff said “We are so grateful to you. Our way of life would not be possible without you.” He concluded by reminding the new novices that “ You will find our humanness very quickly. We are not saints… You are entering into the human experience of the Incarnation.” To the friars present, he repeated: “ Help them write their story… (Together) we can help each other pick up the scraps of the Sacred Word and put them where they should be.”
Each of the new novices received a blessing and welcome from Friar John and novitiate team members: Friar Jeff Macnab OFM, Sister Susan Rosenbach SSSF, Friar Michael Blastic OFM and Friar Kevin Schroeder OFM before adding his signature to the novitiate roll. Friars Didacus Clavel and Garret Edmonds served as official witnesses.