SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Thirteen novices participating in the OFM Interprovincial Novitiate, coming from five provinces of the US-6, were vested in a probationary habit in an investiture rite on Oct. 17. The rite was conducted in the side chapel of the historic Old Mission Santa Barbara and was overseen by Br. Jeff MacNab, OFM, novice master. The investiture, which lasted one hour, was viewed by friends, family, and others via a live-stream and remains available on YouTube.
The 13 men – representing Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Name of Jesus, St. John the Baptist, Sacred Heart, and St. Barbara Provinces – received their probationary habits from delegates from each province. Br. Andrew Aldrich, OFM, received his habit from Fr. Kim Studwell, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province; Loren Moreno, OFM, John Neuffer, OFM, Richard Phillip, OFM, Carlos Portillo, OFM, and Steven Young, OFM, and I from Basil Valente, OFM; Brothers Matt Ryan, OFM, and Rafael Ozoude, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, from Charlie Miller, OFM; Br. Nhan Ton, OFM, from Fr. Ralph Parthie, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province; and Brothers Andrew Dinegar, OFM, Salvador Mejia, OFM, and Josh Tagoylo, OFM, from Fr. David Gaa, OFM, of St. Barbara Province.
Novices from the nearby Conventual and Capuchin novitiates contributed to the liturgy through music and the readings. Fr. David, provincial minister of St. Barbara Province, shared a personal reflection of the habit and the ideals of the Order of Friars Minor and the Catholic Church. He began by stating that the habit the novices will receive should be an “outward sign of an inward reality,” a reality that must be expressed in our behavior. He went on to say that, “We are men of ideals,” of prayer, peace, reconciliation, and simplicity. He continued to express how often we fall into the “abyss” that stands between the reality of ourselves and the ideals set by Christ and St. Francis. “How do we bridge this abyss,” without becoming frustrated? In an attempt to answer a question that has no one answer, David offered the understanding that our ideals as Catholic men in Franciscan life should be to see these ideals as “stars we stretch for,” that we will never totally reach.
Basil led the scrutiny of the novices. He briefly detailed the novices’ journey and finished by asking, “What is it that you ask of us at this point in your Franciscan journey?” As individuals forming one voice, the novices responded “to be clothed with the habit of probation so that we might join you ever more fully in following Jesus in the example of St. Francis.”
The novices exited and reentered clothed in the habit of probation and were welcomed ever more fully by their Franciscan family.
“In receiving the habit of probation, we are being asked to more fully try on this life as a friar, a significant step in our discernment of whether Franciscan life is a ‘good fit,’” said Loren. “For many of us, this symbol of the habit is an outward sign of a transformation already at work inside of us. Shortly after arriving at the novitiate, we underwent the rite of divestiture, where we were encouraged to give up parts of our daily habits or patterns that would stand in the way of the inner work that is necessary at this stage of our formation. Then, during the rite of receiving the Rule of the Order, we were asked to reflect even deeper about how we are being asked to embody the Franciscan life. These preparatory steps allowed us to understand and fully appreciate the awesome responsibility that comes with putting on the habit of a friar.
“At the same time, receiving the habit was a joyous occasion,” he continued. “Our novice counterparts from the Conventuals and Capuchins were here to celebrate with us. Because so much of our novitiate years are intertwined, it was wonderful to have our novice brothers from the other orders present. Similarly, we were encouraged by the presence of our postulant director Charlie Miller and vocation director Basil Valente, along with so many other friars who have accompanied us this far. As we entered the chapel wearing our habits for the first time, we felt a spirit of welcome from all the friars. It was a source of inspiration for us as we continue this long journey of formation and discernment.”
A reception and dinner hosted by the novitiate team and friars at the Old Mission followed the mid-afternoon ceremony. And the novices, being partially formed in Franciscan life, left the dining room before being asked to do the dishes.
— Br. Ian is a member of the novitiate class of 2018-19.
Editor’s note: Photos and information about the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate can be found on its Facebook page.