San Lorenzo is located in the lovely Santa Ynez Valley and was well suited for
retreats. Originally designed to be a Seminary and used as our Novitiate
for a number of years. Friars here helped give retreats and offered Spiritual Direction
and hospitality for retreatants from all over Southern California.
In 1984, with smaller numbers of novices entering, the friars decided to share
part of the facilities at San Lorenzo with groups looking for a place of
solitude and prayer. The earliest groups to come here were members of AA, who
found themselves strengthened and renewed by their time at San Lorenzo. The
friars worked to create a hospitable and fraternal atmosphere, and helped out,
giving talks and hearing confessions. After a few years, other groups or
individuals began to seek time at San Lorenzo. In the 1990s a new friary was
built so that larger numbers of retreatants could be accommodated.
While San Lorenzo is still a Capuchin formation center, it had been renamed
San Lorenzo Friary and Prayer Center to emphasize the importance of the ministry
of prayer and contemplation which the friars try to share with those who come
there. In the spirit of St. Francis, the friars hope to share this beautiful
place with everyone. With the support of local benefactors and various
fundraisers help they were able to keep rates low and welcome groups from such
places as St. Lawrence parish in Watts.
In July 2011, San Lorenzo returned as our Novitiate. While San Lorenzo no longer offers retreat
programs, the community is still a big part of Sunday Mass.
History of the friars in San Lorenzo Seminary
Much of the construction on San Lorenzo, as the new foundation was called, was
done by Bros. Alexius and Irenaeus Doyle. Alexius had been in Africa for ten
years and built most of the mission houses there. Irenaeus arrived from Ireland
in 1960 and was already known as a hard worker. The two actually formed the first
community at San Lorenzo, for they lived for a while on the treeless hill,
surrounded by half finished buildings, listening to the wind whistle and the
coyotes howl. One night Alexius reports that a knock was heard on the door about
two a.m. Neither he nor Irenaeus wanted to answer it, and eventually the
mysterious visitor went away.
The house opened on September 4, 1962, although the
first novices were not scheduled to arrive until the next year. When Sebastian
Ward arrived from Wilmington and the new novices came to Santa Ynez, Cyril
decided it was time to try and cheer up the stark atmosphere of the place by
adding trees and lawns. Eugene Ludwig, from Bend, Oregon, and the first novice at
San Lorenzo, recalls having to plow the soil by hand so that the lawns could be
put in. With careful tending and hard work, the area around the novitiate became
at last green and alive.
Eugene described San Lorenzo in 1964. "The valley is principally farming and
ranching country, and on any given day one usually sees more cattle than people."
For a while the friars themselves tried their hand at raising animals. "Our own
small farm consists of a vegetable garden, a few rabbits and chickens, and a
small herd of calves which keep the community wondering how anything that size
can make that much noise that early in the morning."
(2) The attempts at farming were later given up, although once in a while the
friars still go wild pig hunting in the hills. At this time "Cappy" the dog, the
most famous resident of San Lorenzo, came to live with the friars and make life
more bearable. Although the Valley at this time was not heavily populated, the
friars there were able to find work. When San Lorenzo was founded it was
envisioned not only as a novitiate, but also as a house of prayer for the people
of the area. In the early days groups from Mission Santa Ines and other places
came out to make use of the beautiful and prayerful setting found at San Lorenzo.
The friars of the community also found work helping out in parishes in the area
as well as nearby Vandenburg Air Force Base.
© 2011 Capuchin Franciscans Western America Province All Rights Reserved.