Two begin novitiate at Saint Joseph Abbey

On Saturday, Sept. 28, two young men took the next step to become Benedictine monks at Saint Joseph Abbey.

In a private ceremony held in the Monastery Chapter Room, Chad Aubert, 23, and John Scafidi, 37, were accepted into the novitiate, a year which will be marked by a separation from the world and an acclimation to one’s new life in the monastery. The novice takes classes in monastic history and spirituality and contributes to the life of the community in prayer and work. After a year in the novitiate, the novice may petition to make his first profession.

Novice Chad.

Novice Chad, a New Orleans native, has felt the calling to become a monk since he was in high school during a trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life event.

“I had a powerful personal experience of God's love for me, and my journey with God continued to lead me in the direction of religious life, so I discerned with several communities while I was a student at Loyola University New Orleans,” said Novice Chad.

In the summer before his senior year in college, Novice Chad specifically felt the calling to Benedictine life at Saint Joseph Abbey.

During initial visits to Saint Joseph Abbey, Vocation Director, Fr. Ephrem Arcement is aware of the preconceived notions people have about monastic life, and makes it clear that life as a monk allows time for personal interests.

“Monastic life is diametrically opposed to the fast-paced, frenetic life that characterizes today’s highly technologized society.  The monastic posture is one of being more than doing.  Although we live a rather regimented life focused on prayer and work, there is space to breathe and notice the divine sharing itself at every moment. In that space, there is also time for the monk to pursue life-giving hobbies and creative pursuits that nourish the soul,” said Fr. Ephrem.

This sentiment especially rings true for Novice Chad, who was encouraged to find productive ways to use free time while developing a solid personal prayer life.

“I was attracted to the idea of being so close to home as a monk, and I have also found that the apostolates of the Abbey, particularly the seminary, made the Abbey a place where my talents could connect well with the needs of the community,” said Novice Chad.

Novice John.

Growing up in Pensacola, Fla., Novice John originally felt the call to be a diocesan priest. Although he soon learned that he wasn’t meant for that life, he still felt that there was a calling out there to religious life.

“I then began to investigate and research the Franciscan, Dominican and Benedictine orders, I even went on a come and see visit with a Franciscan order and learned that I was not suited for that life or calling. I then began to research St. Benedict and things began to click for me,” said Novice John.

For Novice John, it wasn’t just about the calm and peaceful nature of the Abbey grounds, but the open arms of his fellow brothers played a large role as well.

“I was welcomed right from the start and for me I felt like this was a family that I wanted to be a part of,” Novice John added.

Others who think they have received the calling should be proactive about it.

“A vocation to monastic life isn't something you just magically end up living. If you believe that God may be calling you to monastic life or if you feel some attraction to the life, you cannot sit back and remain vaguely interested in it. You have to make the concrete decision to make visits to the monastery and eventually start taking practical steps toward entering into the monastic life. Along with developing a good prayer life, this is how you will truly be able to know whether or not God is calling you to this life,” Novice Chad said.

To learn more about a monastic vocation at Saint Joseph Abbey, visit