Aug. 27, 2019 – The Jesuits of the USA Central and Southern Province and the universal Church have every reason to celebrate and to be grateful to God. Over the weekend of Aug. 9-11, 2019, the relatively quiet and sleepy town of Grand Coteau, La. – a place that has witnessed a miracle and the in-person visits of several canonized saints and blesseds – became the scene of a bustle of activity and many smiling faces.
On Friday afternoon, five excited young men arrived with their families on the grounds of St. Charles College. As they stepped out of their parents’ car, they were beaming with joy and warmly greeted by novitiate staff and fellow novices. These five were following through after a period of discernment in which they feel called by God to become a Jesuit brother or priest. As first-year novices they are beginning two years of further discernment to solidify that call. In a very real way, this annual entrance day is to the Society of Jesus as the birth of a child is to a family.
The five new novices are:
- Giovanni Díaz Jiménez, San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Jacob Jones, Birmingham, Ala.
- Richard Joubert, Dallas, Texas
- Manuel Luna Vega, Aibonito, Puerto Rico
- Joseph Seiter, Mobile, Alabama
The next day, hundreds of guests – friends and family of 12 second-year novices – arrived to celebrate another wonderful event. At a Mass in the nearby St. Charles Borromeo Church, these men pronounced their first vows, marking their official entry into the Society of Jesus. A live feed of the Mass was shared to St. Ignatius School auditorium next door.
Pronouncing first vows for this province were:
- Nicholas Blair, SJ
- Eric Couto, SJ (Antilles Province)
- Hunter D’Armond SJ
- Daniel Finucane, SJ
- John Guerra, SJ
- Justin Kelley, SJ
- Kevin Kuehl, SJ
- Sullivan McCormick, SJ
- Philip Nahlik, SJ
- Chi Nhan Nguyen, SJ
- River Simpson, SJ
- Bryan Torres, SJ
They are among 28 novices across Canada, the United States and Haiti pronouncing first vows. Read more about this class of Jesuit scholastics.
Following the vow ceremony, all enjoyed a tasty buffet which featured some of the Cajun specialties of the region, like boudin and gumbo. The newly vowed Jesuits will now begin the second phase of their formation, a period of university studies called “First Studies.” Some will study at Loyola University of Chicago; some at Saint Louis University in St. Louis; and one in Guadalajara, Mexico.
To top off the weekend, Sunday morning welcomed more guests to St. Charles College. These were colleagues, families and friends of Jesuits – men a bit older than the two groups described above. These jubilarians, as they are called, celebrated 25, 70 or 75 years of ministry in the Society of Jesus or 25 or 60 years of ministry as priests. Father Provincial Ron Mercier, SJ, celebrated the Jubilee Mass and briefly sketched the contributions of each jubilarian, expressed his gratitude and offered congratulations on behalf of the Church and the Society of Jesus. Again, after the Mass, the celebration continued in the college’s dining hall with more Cajun food and good camaraderie.
The Jubilarians celebrating in Grand Coteau were:
- Thomas J. Madden, SJ (75 years in the Society of Jesus)
- Donald J. Martin, SJ (70 years in the Society)
- Bert Mead, SJ (70 years in the Society)
- Norman B. O’Neal, SJ (60 years in the Society)
- Charles B. Thibodeaux, SJ (60 years in the Society)
- Rafael V. Baylón, SJ (25 years in the Society)
- Steven E. Kimmons, SJ (25 years a priest)
- Leo V. Leise, SJ (25 years a priest)
- Christopher W. Steck, SJ (25 years a priest)
These three celebrations, and many others like them across the other provinces of the Society of Jesus, demonstrate clearly how God smiles down on this Company and continues to bless the Church with vocations to feed and nourish God’s people. Let us rejoice and be glad!