David Romero, SJ shares his decision to enter the Society of Jesus, his experience in the priesthood, and go-kart racing.
David Romero, SJ is a Jesuit scholastic from Northridge, California studying Philosophy at Fordham University on the Rose Hill campus. David received his undergraduate degree in Theology from Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit university in Los Angeles, California. After studying abroad in El Salvador through the Casa de la Solidaridad Program during his junior year, David began to seriously consider entering the priesthood. He chose to apply to the Jesuits because of his connection with Ignatian Spirituality and appreciation for the room the Jesuits allow for being involved in other disciplines such as art, philosophy, science, and technology. Currently in his last year at Fordham, David will graduate in May and then be sent by his formation director to complete his Regency where he will be immersed in the work life of a Jesuit. David enjoys coming to Praise and Worship every Wednesday night on campus. His hobbies include doing impersonations and professional go-karting.
When did you know that you wanted to be a priest?
At the very end of my study abroad experience I was at this final goodbye mass with our community members – so about 300 Salvadorians were there – and I was asked to be an altar server by a Jesuit from California who had been my professor and spiritual director. During the mass, during the sign of peace, you know everyone gives the sign of peace to everybody else there which was awesome. So, I was doing that and then I noticed two lines forming: one of older Salvadorians and one of kids and one woman said to me “La paz, Padre” which is “Peace be with you, Father.”
I was like oh my gosh, they think I’m a priest, oh man! And so I said okay, this is weird but it’s not a bad thing, I guess. Well, after the mass ended, everybody was walking up the stairs and then when I was hanging up the alb, this old Salvadorian man walked up to me. He had a cane and just a really worn face like he had probably been working in the fields his whole life and he just had tears welling up in his eyes. He began to share with me how he lost everybody, all his family, in the civil war: his wife, his kids, his parents. Then, he just said “Can you bless me, Father.”
In that moment I didn’t want to say sorry, I’m not a priest. So, I just put my hand on his shoulder and I quietly prayed for him and then when I let go he just looked up at me and he had this smile and tears running down his face and he just said, “Gracias” and turned around and walked away.
What made you choose the Jesuits?
I got to know a lot of Jesuits at LMU and through the Casa Program, obviously. I thought I seemed to be more attracted to the kind of work they do. Ignatian spirituality was a big draw for me; I thought it matched my life and my personality really well. And in my interactions with the Jesuit priests I just thought that these are really human men not just figures we put on a pedestal. They are really vulnerable and that really human, raw quality about them I found attractive because I just thought I could really be myself and that there’s room for me. A Jesuit can be an artist, teach theatre, be involved in architecture, biology, philosophy – it was just this vast world of possibilities and I thought I could see myself be a part of that.
What steps did you take to become a Jesuit?
After that moment in El Salvador, I went back to LMU and talked with a very close Jesuit friend of mine and I told him what had happened and said that I wanted to discern this more seriously. He referred me to a spiritual director, a Jesuit, there and we would have conversations about the focus of discerning this life. Then they introduced me to the vocation director for the province who I would just have conversations with every once in a while and he helped to provide me with materials to read over, different books, a lot of books from James Martin, SJ about discernment, other spiritual reading, and information about the Jesuits. Also we had to do a four day silent discernment retreat and I did that in the spring of my junior year right when I got back from El Salvador.
In my senior year, I spent the whole year applying. I had to write a spiritual autobiography, which had to be 8 pages single-spaced that’s just looking at where God has been in your life, in the ups, the downs and leading you to be where you are now. Once that was done there’s four interviews with Jesuits.
Then you do a psychological exam in which you answer over a thousand questions to see if you’re at least balanced. Then you talk with the psychologist and he asks really intense questions about sexuality, past experiences, current experiences, and to see if you’re okay to enter right now.
Was there any point in those exams where you felt uncomfortable and thought maybe this isn’t what you were expecting?
Not to the point of thinking I don’t want to continue going through this and needing help to put me back on track. But, there were moments when I thought this is really intense and it’s going on for a really long time and what if it doesn’t work and what if I’m not accepted. I didn’t find out that I was accepted until two to three weeks after graduation so I graduated not knowing anything. And I only applied to the Jesuits. So yeah, I was trusting but what I thought was, what if they say no? Which was scary and is scary for any senior.
Why do you think men drop out of the Jesuits?
From each of the guys I’ve known who have left it’s always been for a different reason and yet – this is my own personal experience – it’s never been because of the Jesuits. I think they either find through the course of the time, no matter how long they’ve been in and then leave, their relationship with God grows. Sometimes, maybe, they had a blind spot and just through the course of Jesuit formation they saw something they didn’t before and it might open them up to say, you know maybe there’s something else out there and I have to look into that whatever that might be. Sometimes, you just find that this is the reality of life. It’s just like if you’re in a relationship for a long time and you have a sense of what it might be like with this other person knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly, its just that you get a sense of that.
Which of your vows do you struggle with the most?
You know what’s funny? Most people, generally speaking, or most people will say to me that especially my age, being very young that it’s got to be chastity and yeah, there’s times that I struggle with it but it’s not the one I struggle with the most. I find that, and older Jesuits have said this to me too, that the longer you’re in the Jesuits, the more that you tend to struggle with the vow of obedience. It’s not like day to day things, but like I said I’m in this time where I’m transitioning into the next stage of formation and there’s this wide variety of things I could do and I share where I’m at and where I feel God and my experience and prayer is calling me and my superiors could take that into account but they know the needs better than I and they could say actually, we think that’s a good desire that you have and you should keep it but right now we need you to go do this which may not be what I thought God was leading me to. So that sense of obedience, you know, I want to have it. I mean the root word in Latin is to listen well and so it’s like how am I listening well to my superiors who St. Ignatius says you should look to as if they are Christ himself. So when my superiors want to mission me somewhere, it’s Jesus through them saying I want you to go here and I will be with you. I want to trust that and I do but it doesn’t mean its not difficult.
I’ve found that the Jesuits have all these special talents and skills and interesting quirks about them. Do you have anything like that that you do for fun?
Well I do impersonations of people so I like doing that in terms of entertainment. I wanted to be an actor on television originally, in a sitcom. So I like entertaining people and making them laugh.
But also another random thing that I love to do is professional go-kart racing. It’s not like bumper car racing. There’s a track and you have to put on the fire suit and the helmet and you go like 50 miles and hour and they have the flags and all that.