Become a Jesuit
So much of Jesuit formation happens outside a classroom.
David Kiblinger, SJ, loves to learn; he loves to read and enjoys studying. For the past two years, he has been on the other side of the classroom as a middle school math teacher at Colegio San Ignacio, a Jesuit school in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He has been struck by how much he has learned during this time.
“I’m so grateful to the Society of Jesus for this opportunity to be in a different culture,” the Missouri native said. “My Spanish has improved immensely, and I’ve learned so much about the culture – the music, literature and lifestyle. It’s been a great opportunity for growth.”
One of the things Kiblinger has learned about is his island home of the past two years. A territory of the United States, Puerto Rico has been burdened by economic recession since 2006. The island has overwhelming debt, which has forced the government to cut services while increasing taxes. Prices have risen and unemployment is high. The island has lost 10 percent of its population over the past decade as people – especially educated young adults and young families – leave to find jobs on the mainland.
Last year, Congress passed a law that allows territories to in effect file for bankruptcy. This spring, the Puerto Rican government filed for protection from creditors. The economic situation is bleak.
Puerto Rico’s financial crisis and its toll on its people have been “front and center” in Kiblinger’s Jesuit formation.
“The crisis on the island is reflected at the school,” he said. Enrollment has dropped not only because families find it harder to pay the tuition, but because of the declines in population. But the students, family and staff who remain are committed to Jesuit education. Among other innovations, Kiblinger introduced a Marian Sodality, with many of the young students participating. He hopes this spiritual core will promote a pervasive spiritual presence in the school.
Kiblinger also is involved in the vocations team on the island and has been gratified by the number of discerners who have reached out to him. This differs from his own vocational path; he found the Jesuits online.
“I am a product of the Internet age,” he says. “I had a lot of experience with religious communities, but none spoke to me until I found the Jesuits.”
In addition to extensive online research, Kiblinger’s discernment included weekly meetings with the director of campus ministry at Truman State University. A former Jesuit, Fr. Bill Kottenstette influenced Kiblinger simply by sharing his views on the Church, the priesthood and priestly ministry.
Kiblinger’s next stop is the University of Notre Dame, where he will do a year of special studies in philosophy. As one who loves teaching and research, Kiblinger hopes to complete a doctorate and work in higher education.
As he prepares to leave Puerto Rico, he says, “I am excited for the next steps, but I will miss the students above all.”
By the time he is ready for priestly ordination, his students will be preparing to graduate from Colegio San Ignacio. “I’ve already told my eighth graders that their senior trip should be to my ordination.”