Forming The Next Generation of Missionary Oblates

The calling to religious life is not a short-term endeavor. Years of discernment and formation are necessary before a man can become a Missionary Oblate priest or brother.

Helping men on this journey is a dedicated team of Oblate formators who minister at the Oblates pre-novitiate, novitiate and scholasticate communities in the United States. Here are profiles of the current Oblates involved in forming the next generation of Missionary Oblates.

Father Abraham Chimese, OMI

SUPERIOR — HENRI TEMPIER PRE-NOVITIATE COMMUNITY

Father Abraham was born in 1983 in Zambia and grew up in a family of 13 children. He joined the Oblate family in 2006 and completed most of his formation and education for the priesthood in South Africa.

Ordained in 2017, Fr. Abraham was first appointed Associate Pastor at Mary Immaculate Parish in Lusaka, a vibrant parish with a very active youth ministry. He also served as the community treasurer and as a regency coordinator at the delegation level for four years.

In May 2021, Fr. Abraham came to the United States to be a formator at the Borzaga Scholasticate Community in San Antonio, Texas. He was appointed Superior of the Henri Tempier Pre-Novitiate Community in 2023.

“I have been warmly welcomed at my new Oblate homes in America,” said Fr. Abraham. “There is just something special and enjoyable about this Oblate life, and you find it no matter where you go.”

Father Raul Salas, OMI

FORMATOR — HENRI TEMPIER PRE-NOVITIATE COMMUNITY

Father Raul was born in 1953 in Brownsville, Texas. His interest in becoming a priest began early. At the age of ten he announced he was going to convert Russia. He didn’t accomplish that goal, but since his ordination in 1980 he has been influential in developing missionaries who are today working around the world.

For 16 years Fr. Raul ministered at St. Anthony High School, the Oblates’ minor seminary in San Antonio, Texas. He then ministered as a parish priest in Texas and later started the Hispanic Ministry at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.

In 2007 he was assigned Associate Director at the Oblate scholasticate in San Antonio and the next year became its Superior. He served there for 13 years before returning to the Shrine in 2020 where he also assisted with pre-novitiate formation. In 2022 he returned to San Antonio when the pre-novitiate program moved there.

“I have been blessed to visit many Oblate missions throughout the world in my role as a member of the General Formation Committee,” said Fr. Raul. “With much need for clergy, this ministry is quite a challenge. The prayers from our friends and benefactors are greatly appreciated.”

Father Bill Antone, OMI

DIRECTOR — PRE-NOVITIATE PROGRAM, TIJUANA, MEXICO

Father Bill was born in 1952 and from a young age knew he wanted to be a priest. At 14 he entered the local archdiocesan seminary but eventually felt that ministering as a diocesan priest was not his calling. He felt a desire to be a missionary and heard about the Oblates through his brother, Fr. Tom Killeen, OMI, who was serving as a chaplain’s assistant in the Army.

Father Bill was ordained in 1980 and much of his ministry has taken place in Mexicali, Mexico. He was founding Pastor of Sagrada Familia Parish and helped build Catholic communities from the ground up, in places where there were no religious or social service program available to people living in shacks.

In 2011, Fr. Bill was elected Provincial for the Oblates’ United States Province. After serving in leadership, he returned to Mexico where he now leads the pre-novitiate program.

“I have learned so much from the poor. It has been an honor for me to share in their everyday lives, to struggle with them,” said Fr. Bill. “As Oblates we must advocate for them, we must give them a voice.”

Father Eleazar Manuel-Lopez, OMI

FORMATOR — PRE-NOVITIATE PROGRAM, TIJUANA, MEXICO

Father Eleazar was born in Mexico and as a young man his life lacked focus. He was distant from God and attended church sporadically. He joined the Mexican Army and worked to curtail drug trafficking.

After moving to the United States, Fr. Eleazar’s life changed dramatically when he stumbled across the Oblates’ Santa Rosa Parish in San Fernando, California. He got involved with the youth ministry and found his calling in serving people through Christ.

“The people at Santa Rosa welcomed me to their community in a powerful way,” said Fr. Eleazar. “I truly am a vocation created by lay people.”

Father Eleazar was ordained in 2020 and his first assignment was at the Shrine of St. Joseph the Worker in Lowell, Massachusetts. He is currently a formator at the pre-novitiate program in Tijuana, the same place where he first joined the Oblates.

Father Frank Kuczera, OMI

NOVICE MASTER — IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY NOVITIATE

Father Frank grew up in a very Catholic and religious family in a small village in the south of Poland. He began his Oblate formation in Poland but joined the Canadian Oblates and was ordained in Canada in 2001. Father Frank’s ministries have been primarily in Edmonton and points even farther north including serving the Inuit on King William Island and Baffin Island in the Arctic.

“The priesthood is about washing feet, it’s about walking and journey with the people and trying to be human, compassionate and authentic,” said Fr. Frank.

Oblate novices in Canada spend their novitiate year in the United States at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate. Father Frank became part of that novitiate team and was installed as Novice Master in 2020.

“Being an Oblate is important to me because you belong to a very specific family. It’s a wonderful community of imperfect people like me,” said Fr. Frank.

Brother George Litiya, OMI

FORMATOR — IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY NOVITIATE

The Oblates have been part of Bro. George’s life since he was born in 1983. He was baptized by Bro. John Kaplinger, OMI, one of the first Oblates to minister in Zambia. He grew up in the Oblates’ Sancta Maria Parish in Lukulu where he was an altar server. In high school he was active in youth ministries at the parish.

Brother George joined the Oblates and took final vows in 2013. His first assignment was at St. Michael Parish in Kalabo. The parish has numerous mission centers in remote villages. Brother George would spend weeks at a time visiting these villages to bring them the Word of God.

In 2020 Bro. George was assigned to the Oblate novitiate in the United States. Each year, several Zambian novices come to the U.S. for their novitiate year. At the novitiate, Bro. George teaches a class on the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Oblates.

Every day, Bro. George tries to follow the instruction of St. Eugene: “Let us bow down, listen respectfully, admire in silence.”

Brother Pat McGee, OMI

FORMATOR — IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY NOVITIATE

Brother Pat grew up as a typical Catholic school boy, serving Mass for seven of the eight years of parochial school. He was impressed by the Oblates he met because they were down to earth and friendly, ‘close to the people.’ After joining the Oblates, his vocation deepened, and he began to experience the Oblate call to proclaim the Good News to the poor with their many faces.

As a professed Oblate, most of Bro. Pat’s ministries have focused on retreat work and helping men discern their calling to religious life. He spent ten years in Recife, Brazil as a member of the formation team there. Since 2017, Bro. Pat has been part of the Oblate novitiate staff in Godfrey, Illinois.

“At the novitiate I get to accompany young men in their process of discernment and growth in commitment to life as Oblates,” said Bro. Pat. “It is a privilege and a source of grace for me.”

Father Juan Gaspar, OMI

SUPERIOR — BORZAGA SCHOLASTICATE COMMUNITY

Father Juan was born in Houston in 1977 and is the oldest of seven sons in a family of Mexican immigrants. Before joining the Oblates in 2006 he was working as a teacher in elementary schools in Houston.

“I loved teaching the children. But I felt something was missing in my life,” said Fr. Juan. “I made a promise to God that if my future didn’t become clear in a year, I would consider religious life. Well, you can’t tell God something and then back out of the deal. God has had His way on me and is still working on me.”

Father Juan’s first assignment as an Oblate priest was at Santa Rosa Parish in San Fernando, California. He then ministered at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows before becoming the Director of the Henri Tempier Pre-Novitiate Community. Last year he was appointed Superior of the Borzaga Scholasticate community which consists of Oblate seminarians from throughout the world who study at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.

Father Ron LaFramboise, OMI

FORMATOR — BORZAGA SCHOLASTICATE COMMUNITY

Young people have much to be thankful for when it comes to Fr. Ron. For 30 years, he was a missionary in Japan where he was the administrator of several schools. He also established some of the first kindergartens in the county.

After his time in Japan, Fr. Ron served as the Superior of the Oblate General House in Rome for 12 years. He then returned to the United States and has spent most of his time mentoring young men on their Oblate journey. He is currently a formator at the Oblate scholasticate community in San Antonio, Texas.

“I look with no little bit of paternal pride and much hope at the new (younger) generation in whose formation I am privileged to be a part,” said Fr. Ron. “May they be blessed with the same support I received, and may they give themselves courageously to bring the Good News and love of God to all who cross their path.”

Father Arun Rozario, OMI

FORMATOR — BORZAGA SCHOLASTICATE COMMUNITY

Born in Bangladesh in 1973, Fr. Arun’s Oblate journey has taken him around the world. After his ordination in 2002, his first assignments were in his native country where he was a parochial vicar and then Rector of the Oblate Juniorate in Dhaka. In 2007 he was assigned as a formator at the International Roman Scholasticate in Italy.

When the Oblate Superior General, Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, needed a new secretary in 2014, Fr. Arun accepted the position. At the end of his term, Fr. Lougen assigned Fr. Arun to be a formator at the Borzaga Scholasticate Community in San Antonio, Texas.

Father Arun has cheated death twice. He survived a fatal accident when he was an Oblate seminarian. In Rome, colon surgeries put him into critical condition.

“My family and the Oblates unceasingly prayed for my recovery,” said Fr. Arun. “I firmly believe God gave me a second life. It is a miracle that I am alive today.”

Father Frank Santucci, OMI

FORMATOR — BORZAGA SCHOLASTICATE COMMUNITY

Father Frank was born in South Africa, where he ministered in education, formation and parish ministries for 17 years. He was subsequently based in Rome and Aix-en-Provence, France (the birthplace of St. Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Oblates) for 20 years as he traveled the world as an Oblate charism and spirituality animator.

Today, Fr. Frank holds the Kusenberger Chair of Oblate Studies at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. The Chair is the first of its kind and is dedicated to the study and dissemination of the history, charism and spirituality of the Missionary Oblates and their founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod.

“Saint Eugene did exactly what Mary did, he received Christ in order to share Him with all the world,” explains Fr. Frank. “The Oblates continue to live their founder’s inspiration and serve as the Savior’s co-workers in bringing the hope of salvation to the most abandoned.”

Father Antonio Ponce, OMI

FORMATOR — BORZAGA SCHOLASTICATE COMMUNITY

Father Antonio is a native of Mexico. He joined Oblate formation in Tijuana and was ordained to the priesthood in 2009. In 2010 Fr. Antonio was named Associate Pastor at Santa Rosa Church in San Fernando, California. He also served as the Director of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office for the Oblates in Washington, D.C. In 2017 he became a member of the Oblates’ Provincial Council while also serving as the Superior of the Borzaga Scholasticate Community.

In 2021 Fr. Antonio became a U.S. citizen. He has been an advocate for compassionate immigration reform throughout his Oblate journey, including his time leading the scholasticate community which welcomes Oblate seminarians from around the world.

“The Oblates continue to champion immigration reform and push against harmful enforcement practices that separate families,” said Fr. Antonio. “Our faith and charism believe in the dignity of every human being, especially that of children and youth. Compassion, family unity and opportunity for newcomers from one generation to the next are foundations of this nation.”