About Us

THE NOVITIATE (2011 - present)

San Lorenzo hosts the united novitiate program of the Capuchin friars of North America and the Pacific. The novitiate is the year of formation that occurs before a Capuchin friar takes his first vows. It is a year primarily focused on the contemplative aspects of the Capuchin Franciscan charism. Novices take part in a regular schedule of communal prayer, classes, manual labor, and ministry in the local community.


Followers of "Il Poverello"

The Capuchin Franciscan friars are followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. We live together in fraternity professing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our evangelical vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.




Becoming a Friar

The process of responding to God's call and becoming a friar is a "daring adventure of love" (Capuchin Constitutions of 2013). If you would like to find out more about becoming a friar, please visit the NAPCC website and contact the vocations director for your location.



North American Pacific Capuchin Conference

The novitiate is a joint effort of the provinces of the North American Pacific Capuchin Conference. The map of our novice's home provinces can be found at the official NAPCC website.




In 2009, the inter-provincial Capuchin Novitiate in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, was not large enough for the resurging number of vocations, and the Capuchin Provincials of North America and Australia asked if San Lorenzo might be used to serve this purpose. Although the friars were sorry to have to slow down and then stop the retreat ministry, in the end it was felt that returning San Lorenzo to being a novitiate was a positive step for the future of the Capuchins and their ministry as well as a continuation of the vision begun in 1962. The San Lorenzo Foundation continued its important work of support for the friars. Br. Robert Barbato led the transition from retreat house to novitiate and he joined the new novitiate staff as the first group of novices arrived in July 2011.



In 1997, the Capuchins of the Western America Province decided to join with other provinces in a common novitiate and so the novices were sent to Allison Park, Pennsylvania (St. Augustine Province). This meant that San Lorenzo could become a full-time retreat house and prayer center. For a while, it also served as the base for the postulancy of the Western America Province. Much of the ministry of the friars focused on welcoming and working with the AA groups and others who came to San Lorenzo for retreat, including Kairos retreats from St. Francis High School and other schools. A dedicated group of friends, the San Lorenzo Foundation, continued the work of supporting the prayer ministry, raising funds and helping with the upkeep of San Lorenzo, which included not only the physical plant but also the paid staff that was necessary to keep things running smoothly. San Lorenzo became a beloved place of prayer and community.

Fr. Bobby Barbato and the San Lorenzo community at the sunrise Easter Mass. 2010.


When Br. Peter Banks came to San Lorenzo in 1982 after serving many years at St. Lawrence Parish in Watts, he was struck by the beauty as well as the isolation of the place. Since the number of novices entering annually had grown smaller, there were a lot of unused rooms. Br. Peter decided to open part of the house to groups in need of a spiritual “getaway.” As the years went on, many “AA” groups started to come to San Lorenzo for their annual retreat. In order to house these retreatants as well as the novices, a new building was added in the early 1990's. The novices and other friars provided much of the labor in the early days, but soon they also hired others to help with this important ministry. During this time many local people also started coming to San Lorenzo for Sunday and weekday masses, and helped organize fundraising events to help with the expenses.

Mass at San Lorenzo. 1977.


The Hourihan family offered the Capuchins 28 acres in the middle of their own property in the hills near the town of Santa Ynez. Although some of the friars thought the place a bit too remote, Br. Emilian Meade, custos provincial, decided the beautiful locale was the perfect spot to provide a contemplative setting for the novitiate. Construction began at the site, and the major work was done by 1962, when the new novitiate was dedicated to St. Lawrence of Brindisi (San Lorenzo), an early Capuchin saint and doctor of the Church.

San Lorenzo then began its life as a novitiate with the arrival of the first two novices in the summer of 1963. Br. Eugene Ludwig, one of those novices, recalls having to continue the landscaping work, which included pulling a plow by himself. From 1963 to 1982 the friary served almost exclusively as a novitiate, although there were occasional days of recollection for groups and a few locals—including the Hourihan Family—joined the friars for mass. Many of the friars of the Western America Province began their formation here, and provincial retreats were held annually. In 1976 the provincial cemetery was located at San Lorenzo.


In 1937, the Irish Capuchin Franciscans who were ministering mostly in the Western United States decided to open a novitiate. Due to the greater Catholic population in the East as well as the need for a stopping-off point for the missionaries from Ireland, this novitiate house was established in Wilmington, Delaware, and called St. Patrick Friary. In 1960, however, the Irish Provincial directed the friars to move the novitiate to some site nearer their main mission in California and Oregon. The search began for a suitable location. Br. Timothy Joseph O’Sullivan, pastor of Old Mission Santa Ines in Solvang, mentioned this search to a parishioner, Mr. Lawrence “Bud” Hourihan. Bud told Br. Tim Joe: “I think I have the perfect spot, come and see."

St. Patrick Novitiate in Wilmington, Delaware. 1940's.