Sept. 5, 2020 – This is a busy time of year at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Grand Coteau, La. On Aug. 20, the novitiate welcomed 11 men who hail from all over the U.S. Central and Southern (UCS) Province, from Texas to Missouri to Puerto Rico. The 11 comprise the province’s largest class of novices in three years. All are set to embark on a two-year period in which they will learn about the Society of Jesus, grow in their prayer and community life and discern whether God is indeed calling them to life as a Jesuit.
On Thursday, Sept. 3, all 11 men successfully completed their “first probation,” perhaps best described as a time when novices get to know the Society and each other. During this focused, nearly two-week period, newly arrived novices put aside their electronic devices and study some of the foundational documents of the Society. They spend significant periods of time in prayer and community activities with other novices, culminating in a three-day silent retreat.
The 11 new novices join four second-year novices at the novitiate, as well as Novice Director Fr. Andrew Kirschman, SJ, and Br. Lawrence Huck, SJ, socius to the novice director.
Meet the 11 newest members of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province:
Nicholas Bernard, 22, was born in Tulsa, Okla. He attended a Catholic high school and then Saint Louis University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theology and Catholic studies this past May. Nick enjoys reading, fitness and photography, and took up cycling as a quarantine hobby. A Spider-Man comic enthusiast, he has long been drawn to Ignatian Spirituality and was moved to join the Society after getting to know several Jesuits during his time at SLU.
Jason Britsch, 26, is a native of the New Orleans area and a graduate of Jesuit High School, New Orleans. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Dallas, earning degrees in history and politics. After graduation, Jason returned to Jesuit High to teach English and assist in campus ministry as a member of the Alum Service Corps. He then continued to work at Jesuit High, helping coordinate a capital campaign. He enjoys collecting vintage books, duck hunting and raising chickens.
Jaden Freeze, 22, was born in Ft. Campbell, Tenn. He graduated from Harvard University in 2019, where he majored in chemistry and physics and minored in the comparative study of religion. Jaden was active in the Harvard Catholic Student Association as an altar server and sacristan and has a special interest in comparative liturgy among Christianity, Japanese Buddhism and Judaism. He spent the past year in Japan studying the Japanese Tea Ceremony. He enjoys preparing and sharing coffee and tea.
A. Marco Garcia, 23, was born in El Paso, Texas, where he attended Cathedral High School. He attended Georgetown University, where he earned a degree in foreign service. Marco spent the last year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Houston, working as a legal assistant at the Cabrini Center for Immigration. His experience at Georgetown and time with JVC led him to discern a vocation to the Society of Jesus. He enjoys painting, music and podcasts.
Beau Guedry, 26, grew up in the Houston suburbs and attended Strake Jesuit College Preparatory before pursuing a degree in biology at Saint Louis University. After college, Beau was a member of the Alum Service Corps at De Smet Jesuit in St. Louis before being hired at Strake Jesuit, where he worked as a science teacher and liturgy coordinator. His experience on immersion trips working with people with disabilities and the imprisoned led him to commit to a life of serving others. He is pursuing a master’s degree in theology at the University of Notre Dame and is interested in piano, hiking and cooking.
Fr. Max Landman, 33, is a priest ordained for the Diocese of Victoria, Texas. He most recently served as parochial vicar of Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church in Port Lavaca, Texas. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Max attended Texas Christian University before entering Holy Trinity Seminary. He enjoys golf, following the news, travel and hiking. His experience of Ignatian Spirituality led him to discern his vocation to the Society of Jesus.
Stephen Lauer, 32, grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and is an Eagle Scout. He recently received his Ph.D. in sociology at Kansas State University, where he conducted research to help farmers better manage groundwater. A 2014 convert to Catholicism, Stephen has studied abroad in Egypt, South Africa and Uganda. In 2016, his parish priest encouraged him to be more intentional in his discernment, and he began to consider a Jesuit vocation. He enjoys hiking outdoors, reading and discussing philosophy and working with difficult social issues.
Edgardo Morales Snyder, 41, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in computer information systems and worked as a project manager and application analyst and developer in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He has a private pilot’s license and is an Eagle Scout. Edgardo enjoys movies, reading and exercise and has traveled to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Panama and several places in the U.S.
Joshua Rueschhoff, 33, grew up in northwest Kansas. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in public administration. Josh never considered a vocation to the religious life until a friend gave him a copy of The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything. Ignatian Spirituality resonated with him, but he did not immediately respond to the call to religious life. He worked for the State of Kansas and as a budget analyst for the city of Kansas City, Missouri. Searching for a deeper meaning in his life, he felt called to enter the Society of Jesus.
Brandon Smith, 25, is from Anniston, Ala. He attended the University of Alabama, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. As a student, Brandon participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and was confirmed and received into the Catholic Church in March 2016. Last summer, he participated in this province’s Three Weeks as a Jesuit program, which helped to solidify his decision. He is into CrossFit and enjoys watching, reviewing and discussing films.
Nicholas (Nico) Vivanco, 22, is a 2016 graduate of Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston. He graduated in May from Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies. Nico was part of retreat teams in high school and college. He likes to play the drums, draw, read and hike. He cites as his primary reasons for joining the Society the mentorship of many Jesuits and his time at Cristo Rey, which allowed him to immerse himself in Ignatian Spirituality.
Please keep all at the novitiate in your prayers, especially these 12 men as they embark on their Jesuit vocation and discern if God is calling them to a life in the Society.