August 10, 2023 – On Saturday, August 12, 2023, seven Jesuits of the USA Central and Southern Province – Matthew Brazzolotto, Joe Laughlin, José López, Carlos Martínez-Vela, Scott McKillip, Chris Ross and Paolo Taffaro – will pronounce perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Grand Coteau, Louisiana.
The profession of first vows follows two years of novitiate training, including prayer, academic study and ministerial experience in Jesuit works throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Central America. By living and serving through their unique novitiate experiences, each of these men sought to deepen their trust in God’s call and expand their generosity to give themselves to God’s mission in the Society of Jesus today.
Meet the seven men who will pronounce first vows on August 12:
Matthew Brazzolotto, 29, is a graduate of Spring Hill College and Boston College. During the past two years, he accompanied men and women returning to life in society post-incarceration, taught high school at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver and accompanied middle school students at Loyola Academy in St. Louis as they prepared to enter high school. Matthew shared the following reflection on his novitiate experience:
“I am forever grateful for my two incredible years in the novitiate. From learning what it means to be a Jesuit today to encountering all the people whom God placed on my path, these years have been deeply formative and life-giving. I have witnessed the Living God at work in our world and in the works of the Society of Jesus through so many incredible people. As I move forward in my formation, empowered by God’s Spirit, I am filled with gratitude, joy and an eagerness to follow Jesus of Nazareth as a Jesuit in our world today.”
Joe Laughlin, 24, graduated from St. Louis University High School and Saint Louis University. In the novitiate, Joe lived with migrants and refugees at the Houston Catholic Worker Community, taught middle school and high school at Belen Jesuit High School in Miami and covered the spread from kindergarten to senior year of high school at Colegio Loyola in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
“I would not trade these two years for anything! I am deeply grateful for the love of God that has been cultivated in my heart through the trustworthiness and selflessness of my formators, the intimate community and friendships fostered among my fellow novices, the ceaseless laughter erupting at the Houston Catholic Worker, the inquisitive minds of students at Belen and the trust and wisdom offered to me by colleagues and the whole community of Colegio Loyola.”
José López, 34, met the Jesuits at the Agrupacion Catolica Universitaria in Miami. Over the course of his two years in the novitiate, he accompanied middle school boys at Loyola Academy in St. Louis, taught high school at Colegio San Ignacio in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and worked at the Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Dajabón, Dominican Republic.
“During my time in the novitiate, I came to find the grace of God at work in the people I encountered while out in ministry. I found the grace of God at work in the rural mountains of the Dominican Republic among the campesino farmers, who would walk for miles to make it to Mass. I found the grace of God at work among the amazing students at our schools and in their questions seeking an authentic way to live out the faith. The witness of the people I encountered showed me how special this vocation is and how privileged is the space that we Jesuits share with the faithful.”
For Carlos Martínez-Vela, 50, born in Monterrey, Mexico, the early seeds of his Jesuit vocation were sown during a visit to a Fe y Alegría school in Venezuela and exposure to Jesuit universities and Jesuits in Latin America. He completed a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was executive director for Pioneers 21 in El Paso, Texas. During his novitiate, Carlos accompanied people experiencing homelessness at the Harry Tompson Center in New Orleans, worked at the Learning Center at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy in Detroit, Michigan, and served at the Parroquia La Natividad de la Virgen Mariain Santa María in Chiquimula, Guatemala.
“I love the story of Paul’s conversion. After being knocked off his horse, Paul is blinded, and the Lord tells Ananias to go to Paul and remove the scales from his eyes so that he can see again. This is what novitiate has been for me. I was knocked down from my horse many years ago when I first met the Jesuits, but I could not make sense of what had happened. In a sense, I was blind. A few years ago, I started to see something and that led me to the novitiate. Little by little, each one of the novitiate experiences, and all the encounters that came with them, removed the scales that were covering my eyes and changed my heart to see God’s call more clearly revealed in my life. Now I desire to work for the construction of His Kingdom as a friend and companion of Jesus.”
Scott McKillip, 29, served with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers, where he met the Jesuits while working at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver. Scott served at Good Shepherd School in New Orleans, Rockhurst Jesuit High School in Kansas City, Missouri, and at Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
“My heart is inflamed with love and gratitude as I think about the names and faces of all the people who have expanded my worldview and helped me to find God at work in all things. I found God working in a woman who, on a cold and rainy day in Seattle, helped me find a sheltered place to eat while on pilgrimage. I found God in playing four-square with the kids at Our Lady of Lourdes. I found God in hearing life stories from parishioners at Immaculate Conception Church in New Orleans. I am indebted to all the folks I have met over these two years and in a particular way indebted to my formators who worked tirelessly to help me grow. Thanks to them, I see every day as a privileged place of encountering a living and abundantly generous God.”
Chris Ross, 24, graduated from Jesuit High School of New Orleans and the University of Notre Dame. He lived in a L’Arche community in Kansas City, Missouri, taught high school at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School in Houston and accompanied refugees and asylum in Brownsville, Texas, and in Reynosa and Matamoros, Mexico.
“Through all the experiences, people and moments of the novitiate, God has been at work lavishly pouring out his infinite goodness, grace and love. In the presence of this divine generosity and the generosity of so many others reflecting it, joy fills my heart at the calling to return it: to love and serve God and his Church under the banner of the cross in the Society of Jesus.”
Paolo Taffaro, 25, got to know the Jesuits before entering the novitiate by teaching freshman theology at Jesuit High School of New Orleans. While in the novitiate, Paolo has worked with students at Cristo Rey Preparatory School in Houston, taught theology at Regis Jesuit High School in Denver and spent long hours accompanying families at a migrant shelter at Sacred Heart Jesuit Parish in El Paso, Texas.
“I am deeply grateful for the love and care the Society of Jesus has shown me over the past two years, especially through my superiors and my brothers with whom I have grown in friendship. This experience, which is a manifestation of God’s love and care, empowers and inspires me to commit my life to all who make up this company, so that, always seeking the union and love of Christ’s body, we may fulfill the mission of Jesus in the world today.”