New novices and team members (Front, l to r) Novices James La Grutta (HNP), Michael Cerretti (HNP), Luis Manuel Rosado-Colombani (HNP), Domingo Martinez (HNP), Michael Lomas (SB), Jason Damon (HNP), Antonio Luevano (SB), Troy Hillman (HNP). (Back, l to r) Novitiate Team members: Brother Jeff Macnab OFM (SB), Sister Susan Rosenbach, SSSF, Father Michael Blastic OFM (HNP), Brother Kevin Schroeder OFM (ABVM)

By Charles Talley OFM

Some 30 friars, novitiate team members, and staff gathered in the Friars Chapel at Old Mission Santa Barbara (California) on August 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, Wisconsin. The incoming novices represent two of the seven OFM provinces in the US: six from Holy Name Province; two from St. Barbara Province.

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

Father John Hardin OFM, former Minister Provincial, 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 member 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 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 Sister Susan Rosenbach, SSSF and Brother Phillip Polk (SB Province), Director of Novices Brother Jeff Macnab (SB Province) 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 travelling 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.”

Brother 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 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, Brother 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 Fr. John and novitiate team members: Brother Jeff Macnab OFM (SB) , Sister Susan Rosenbach SSSF , Michael Blastic OFM(HNP) and Kevin Schroeder OFM (ABVM) before adding his signature to the novitiate roll. Friars Didacus Clavel and Garret Edmonds, both of St. Barbara Province, served as official witnesses. A complete video of the event is available on our Facebook page: Franciscan friars province of saint Barbara.

Charles Talley OFM is Director of Communications of the Province of St. Barbara (California).
Tel: 805/886-6575. email:

Photos by: Brother Dick Tandy OFM (Santa Barbara)