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Eight Men Received into New OFM Novitiate

The new novices with the novitiate team members. Front row, left to right: James La Grutta, Michael Cerretti, Luis Manuel Rosado-Colombani, and Domingo Martinez of Holy Name Province, Michael Lomas of St. Barbara Province, Jason Damon (HNP), Antonio Luevano (SB), and Troy Hillman (HNP). Back row, left to right: novitiate team members Jeff Macnab (SB), Susan Rosenbach, and Michael Blastic (HNP), and friar-in-residence Kevin Schroeder (ABVM). (Photo courtesy of Dick Tandy of St. Barbara Province)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Some 30 friars, novitiate team members, and staff gathered in the Friars Chapel at Old Mission Santa Barbara on Aug. 21 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, Wis. The incoming novices represent two of the seven OFM provinces in the United States: six from Holy Name Province and two from St. Barbara Province.

The new novices from Holy Name Province are: Michael Cerretti, 29, from Carey, N.C.; Jason Damon, 23, Buffalo, N.Y.; Troy Hillman, 24, Olean, N.Y.; James La Grutta, 28, Goshen, N.Y.; Domingo Martinez, 28, Aiken, S.C.; and Luis Manuel Rosado-Colombani, 45, Villalba, Puerto Rico. St. Barbara Province is represented by novices Antonio Luevano, 28, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Michael Lomas, 29, Cupertino, Calif.

Fr. John Hardin, OFM, former provincial minister, welcomed the new novices and those assembled on behalf of the Province of St. Barbara. Fr. John, who is also guardian, 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. He also introduced Monica Orozco, executive director, who welcomed the program saying: “Thank you for returning to what we were built for.”

After Scripture readings by novitiate team member Sr. Susan Rosenbach, SSSF, and Br. Phillip Polk, OFM, (SB Province), director of novices Br. Jeff Macnab, OFM, (SB Province) shared brief remarks. He recalled that just a few weeks previously, on Aug. 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. “We 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.”

Br. 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.” Br. 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 lives, 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 that you are invited and welcome here.”

In expressing his appreciation to the Old Mission staff and resident friars, Br. 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, “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 Fr. John and novitiate team members Br. Jeff, Sr. Susan, and Michael Blastic, OFM, as well as Fr. Kevin Schroeder, OFM, (ABVM), who is a friar in residence at the novitiate. Each novice then added his signature to the novitiate roll. Br. Didacus Clavel, OFM, and Fr. Garret Edmonds, OFM, both of St. Barbara Province, served as official witnesses. A complete video of the event is available on the Franciscan Friars Province of Saint Barbara Facebook page.

Fr. Charles Talley, OFM, is director of communications of the Province of St. Barbara.

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