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San Lorenzo Novitiate

Santa Ynez, CA

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 
 

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