Sept. 5, 2021 – On Saturday, Aug. 21, nine men entered the Society of Jesus at the Novitiate of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Grand Coteau, La. These new novices range in age from 21 to 47, and each brings his own unique set of gifts and experiences. Together, they have embarked on a two-year journey in which they will learn about the Society of Jesus, grow in their prayer and community life and discern God’s call to serve the Church as a Jesuit.
On Saturday, Sept. 4, the nine men completed “first probation” – a time when they get to know each other and the Society. This highly structured, two-week period involved the men spending time in prayer and community, becoming familiar with the foundational documents of the Society and putting aside electronic devices. It ended with a three-day silent retreat.
These nine men join five second-year novices at the novitiate as well as Novice Director Fr. Andrew Kirschman, SJ, and Br. Larry Huck, SJ, socius to the novice director.
Their novitiate experience, grounded in a course prescribed by St. Ignatius Loyola, takes a new twist this month. On Monday, Sept. 6, the 14 novices, plus Fr. Kirschman and Br. Huck, will depart from Grand Coteau for the Jesuit Novitiate of the Three Companions in Culver City, Calif. There, they will live and study alongside the four novices of the Jesuits USA West (UWE) Province.
The decision to change the location of the novitiate temporarily was made by Fr. Provincial Thomas Greene, due to the high COVID-19 rates in southern Louisiana. The relocation will provide the best formation experience for the novices, while protecting the senior Jesuits who reside in the same building as the novitiate.
The novices and staff will return to Grand Coteau in May 2022, provided COVID-19 transmission levels are under control by that time.
The nine newest members of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province are:
Joseph Benton, 21, graduated from the University of South Carolina last spring with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He was active in FOCUS and at the St. Thomas More Church on campus. A Lafayette, La., native, Joseph was familiar with the Jesuits through reading about them as a child. His interest solidified when, on a mission trip to Haiti in 2018, he realized the importance of missionary work. He is deeply influenced by his Acadiana heritage and, in his free time, reads, travels, and sings Irish and Cajun folk songs.
Matthew Brazzolotto, 27, hails from Cropwell, Ala. After arriving on the campus of Spring Hill College in fall 2012, he was introduced to Ignatian Spirituality. After graduating in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in theology, he earned a Master of Divinity at Boston College. His decision to enter the Society follows a variety of influences and experiences, including service as a hospital chaplain intern and as a Vincentian Volunteer in England, as well as simply learning from and being around Jesuits. In his free time, he enjoys reading, traveling and following college football and the NFL.
Michael Horn, 31, is from St. Louis. After graduating from St. John Vianney High School in 2008, Michael attended Fontbonne University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biological and physical sciences. Over time, he became acquainted with the Jesuits, and is entering the novitiate after nearly a decade of service trips, teaching theology at a Catholic high school, and furthering his education with a master’s degree in theology. He enjoys running, praying and traveling.
Joe Laughlin, 22, is a graduate of St. Louis University High School and Saint Louis University. At SLU, he served as a campus ministry intern and helped create an online module to help students adjust to campus life during the pandemic. In summer 2019, he served at a migrant shelter in El Paso, Texas, and cites this experience as particularly influential in his decision to enter the Society of Jesus. He likes to run, draw, write and play board games.
José Lopez, 32, grew up in Boynton Beach, Fla. He earned an associate’s degree in the arts and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. His exposure to various Catholic thinkers, as well as professors in college, instilled in him the idea that he could build a meaningful life around a framework of service. He also worked with Catholic Charities. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies and TV shows.
Carlos Martinez-Vela, 47, was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. He entered the Catholic Church in 2002 and for several years has been an active member of Sacred Heart Parish, a Jesuit parish in El Paso, Texas. Carlos last worked as executive director for Pioneers 21, an organization whose mission is to unleash the creative and economic potential of the U.S.-Mexico border. He is interested in public affairs and urban issues, reading and conversing with friends. He completed a Ph.D. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007.
Scott McKillip, 27, is a native of Davenport, Iowa. After graduating from Truman State University with a degree in finance, he worked for Edward Jones before joining the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. For the past three years, he has worked at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver, serving in the school’s Corporate Work Study program as a training and curriculum manager and program associate. In the process, he found himself attracted to the Society of Jesus. He enjoys TED talks, hiking and skiing.
Christopher Ross, 22, is a 2018 graduate of Jesuit High School in New Orleans. Service trips to Virginia and a pilgrimage to Italy and France showed him the beauty of the Catholic faith. It is here that he began to sense a duty to assist God in works of charity. He enters the Society of Jesus after completing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology at the University of Notre Dame. He was deeply influenced by the writings of the first companions of the Society of Jesus. He likes to spend time outdoors, read, garden and cook.
Paolo Taffaro, 23, grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans, where he was homeschooled. After graduating in 2020 from St. Joseph Abbey Seminary College, Paolo spent the past year teaching freshman theology at Jesuit High School in New Orleans. A visit to the tomb of St. Ignatius and a great experience with a Jesuit priest who taught him how to discern a vocation contributed to his decision to enter the Society. He likes to spend time reading, cooking, singing and playing various sports.
Please keep all at the novitiate in your prayers, especially these nine men as they discern God’s call to generously give their lives in service to the Church and those on the margins.
Do you think God might be calling you to a life of prayer, service and community? Explore the Jesuit vocation at www.BeAJesuit.org.