Province: USA West
Birthday: September 27, 1986
Hometown: Northridge, California
Education: Bachelor’s degree, theological studies, Loyola Marymount University; Master’s degree, philosophical resources, Fordham University; Master of Divinity, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
1. Worked with alternative study abroad program, Casa Bayanihan, in the Philippines, accompanying students and marginalized communities in Metro Manila.
2. Taught religion, helped in campus ministry and with immersion experiences and served as chaplain for the theatre program at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California.
3. Served as chaplain at the Suffolk County House of Corrections in Boston and as a deacon at St. Michael Parish in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Post-Ordination: Will join the team of Christus Ministries in Los Angeles, which serves young adults.
Fr. David Romero, S.J., was born and raised in Northridge, California. He was an altar server and Eucharistic minister for many years in his home parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Northridge. He graduated from Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, California, in 2005 and then attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles out of a desire to pursue acting in a sitcom. God had other ideas! David first met the Jesuits at LMU and became more involved with campus ministry and the Center for Service and Action. These opportunities to live a life of faith and justice led him to study abroad with the Casa de la Solidaridad program in El Salvador, which deepened his discernment to enter the Jesuits after graduating in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in theological studies and a minor in business administration. As a novice, he volunteered as a hospital chaplain at St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, California, and at the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, worked at St. Anne’s Primary School in Kingston, Jamaica, and taught at Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles. After professing first vows in 2011, he was sent to Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, for first studies, where he earned a master’s degree in philosophical resources and helped in the campus ministry office of Cristo Rey New York High School in East Harlem. For his regency, David was sent to work for one year with the alternative study abroad program, Casa Bayanihan, in the Philippines, accompanying students and marginalized communities in Metro Manila. He was then missioned for two years to Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California, where he taught religion and helped in campus ministry and with immersions, as well as served as the chaplain for the theatre program. In 2017, he was missioned to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, where he earned his Master of Divinity degree while serving as a chaplain at the Suffolk County House of Corrections and then as a deacon at St. Michael Parish, in Bedford, Massachusetts. After ordination, he will join the team of Christus Ministries in Los Angeles, which serves young adults. (USA West Province)
What is your favorite book, movie, music, or TV show you’ve encountered since entering the Society and why do you love it?
It’s so hard to choose just one! I would have to go with Walter Ciszek, S.J.’s "He Leadeth Me," which offers a look at the spiritual learnings he experienced during his 23 agonizing years in Soviet prisons and labor camps in Siberia. I first read it during my first week of the Spiritual Exercises and it later influenced my decision to visit his grave in Wernersville, Pennsylvania for my pilgrimage. What struck me then were his reflections on Providence and his deep trust in God. Months before leaving for the pilgrimage, I had begun to expect that every moment at the novitiate should be comparable to a “light bulb moment.” My pilgrimage was good for me because I was able to experience God's gentle love and grace without it having to be a big production with fireworks. Ciszek's book helped me realize that I had been too preoccupied with looking at the novitiate and my novice brothers with my own scrutinizing eyes, telling me what I should see, instead of looking more closely with God's eyes at what actually is and discovering God's will for me in that. It was, for me, a greater call and invitation to look at the mundane and routine of daily life as a religious and to love and take delight in it as God does, trusting that each moment and person is fitting into God’s yearning for me. Over the course of my Jesuit life, this has helped me to be open and free to take a loving look at the real more often, to deeply value each moment as it is — for what it is — because I have faith that God is in some way present.
What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
I learned how to cut hair in the novitiate, and I love it! Within the first few weeks of novitiate, in order to save money, our assistant novice director asked for two volunteers to learn how to give haircuts. I figured, “Why not? New life. New things to learn.” What I didn’t realize was how much I would enjoy it! I’m a details-kind-of-guy, and so it’s a great opportunity to pay attention to detail, to grow as a better communicator by understanding and responding to different requests, to express my care for my brother Jesuits by serving them in this way and to have all sorts of interesting conversations.
David on an L.A. immersion trip with students from Bellarmine College Prep, visiting Homeboy Industries.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
During my first year of regency in the Philippines, I had the opportunity to accompany families in a very poor and marginalized part of Manila through an organization called Tulay ng Kabataan (“Bridge for Children”). I would help the teachers with whatever I could in the small classroom they had in the middle of the community. And I had a moment where I saw a child, five-year-old Hannah, crying, and felt her longing to be recognized and held in her pain.
The staff and I had just finished lunch, so I walked outside of the center to see what games the kids were playing. When I looked over, I saw Hannah (who was always the very meek, sweet and more quiet one) sobbing as she was standing behind her older sister, who was playing a game with some of the other kids. I saw that Hannah was also holding a huge rock in her hand, ready at any moment to smash it over her sister’s head. I didn’t see what happened to Hannah to provoke her, but the scene was that of a volcanic eruption. As this was going on, many of the other kids were practicing a new dance and song routine. But Hannah just stood behind her sister, crying and holding the rock with a gripping intensity. I knew that the kids there could be fairly tough with each other, but this was a whole new ballgame.
What was confusing to me, though, was how Hannah’s sister turned around to see Hannah crying and holding the rock aimed at her, but did not seem scared at all — she didn’t even flinch. The other kids noticed, as well, but no one was doing anything about it. No one was responding to Hannah.
All of this was happening so quickly, and my immediate inclination was to run over and solve the problem by taking the rock from her hand and then trying to cheer her up, mostly out of my own sense of feeling uncomfortable with the whole situation. But before I could move I made eye contact with Hannah, and we just stared at each other.
It was one of those moments where everything around us seemed to stop. I felt connected to her in a way, as if I could feel her sharing her whole vulnerable self in that moment. I felt like I was likewise baring my whole self to her through an expression of loving sadness and compassion, which I hope she felt. I couldn’t imagine what pain she was feeling to get her to that point. She probably just wanted others to notice her pain.
Even still, I could also see how she didn’t have it in her to actually throw the rock. I was nevertheless incredibly nervous about the whole situation and needed to respond. Rather than trying to fix things with a “come on and cheer up” attitude, I calmly walked over and kneeled down beside her, gently held the rock with her with one of my hands and rubbed her shoulder softly until she let go of the rock…it seemed like an eternity.
I don’t think Hannah’s pain was taken away at that moment by any means, or even began to completely heal shortly thereafter. It felt like God was calling from that place: “Do you notice me here? Will you be with me in this place and hold this pain with me?”
I don’t know if my default fix-the-problem-attitude would have worked. If I chose that option, I think she might have heard: “How you’re feeling right now is not important. You need to feel differently.” She would have heard me not acknowledging how she was feeling, but instead, my own need to “fix” her so I could feel better. But — and this is the reminder I need to hear over and over — it’s not about me. It’s about the unique and unrepeatable gift in front of me. She wanted to be acknowledged, to be embraced; not fixed.
As I held that rock with Hannah, I could feel my heart breaking open and expanding. And somehow through that could also feel God holding the both of us, wanting that divine life to live in us, in the depths of our reality, and to have the last word.
Adapted from my article on The Jesuit Post: https://thejesuitpost.org/2015/07/hearts-in-need-practicing-presence-embracing-reality/
Family photo during David’s sister's wedding.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
Desire to love and be loved.
How might you explain the Jesuit motto "ad maiorem Dei gloriam" to someone who’s never heard it before?
I would say that it's a call to have everything we say and do in life point to God, the loving creator and giver of life. Instead of doing something great that communicates to others, "Look at how good I am," it's the disposition to say and do things that acclaim, "Look at how great God is!"