By Jerry Duggan
When Jeff Miraflor, SJ, was in middle school, parishioners would sometimes joke that he “looked so holy up on the altar” he would make a good priest. He laughed comments like that off for several years before he got to Jesuit High School in Tampa, where he got a new perspective on all that a priest could be. Years later, he is in the midst of his Jesuit formation process, convinced he made the right decision to follow God’s call.
During his time at Jesuit Tampa, Miraflor got to know a number of Jesuits, including the school’s president, Fr. Richard Hermes, SJ. He also was taught by Jesuits Fr. Doug Hypolite, a seasoned Jesuit educator, as well as Fr. Eric Ramirez and Fr. Randy Gibbens, who were regents – Jesuits in formation assigned to the school to get ministerial experience. He was struck by their authenticity.
“The Jesuits that taught me in high school all seemed so real,” Miraflor explained. “I never felt like they were putting on an act. They seemed to really believe everything they taught, and also to believe in the mission of the school and the Society.”
He was also impressed by their smarts.
“When people think of a priest, they immediately think of theology, but these guys were well versed in other subjects as well,” he said. “They were educated men about much more than matters of faith.”
In Miraflor’s junior year, he went on a Kairos retreat where, in accordance with tradition, he received several letters from people he knew. One of them was from Fr. Hermes.
“He wrote that, out of all the students at Jesuit High, I was one of a small group who he felt really took ownership of my faith, and that he was deeply moved whenever he saw me praying in the school chapel,” he recalled. “He added that he couldn’t help but think that I would make a great Jesuit someday.”
Many men, especially at that age, might be startled by such a suggestion, but Miraflor was consoled by it.
“I started thinking about it, and it immediately filled me with joy,” he said.
After attending several discernment events, Miraflor decided to enroll at the University of Central Florida and complete at least a few years of a college degree before making a lifelong vocational decision.
His discernment process continued throughout his undergraduate years, and, following the completion of his third year, he made the leap of faith and entered the Society of Jesus.
He was immediately struck by the degree of camaraderie he found in his Jesuit brothers.
“I knew brotherhood was a big part of Jesuit life, but to experience it firsthand and be a part of it was another thing altogether,” he said. “I was surprised to find how much joy that sense of community brought me.”
After completing two years as a novice, Miraflor was missioned to Fordham University for first studies. He found it fascinating to apply the foundational lessons of prayer taught to him in peaceful Grand Coteau, La., in bustling New York City.
“Enjoying all that the city had to offer but keeping those foundational lessons of prayer, and learning how to balance being a contemplative and a man of action in my faith was a fascinating balance to strike,” he said.
He recently began his own regency assignment, teaching math at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.
“I was, in many ways, formed by the Jesuits who taught me at Jesuit Tampa, not just in terms of my vocation but intellectually, too,” he said. “To be able to go into a similar high school setting and be that presence for today’s young men is a tremendous gift. I want to be as good of a teacher, mentor and companion for those young men as the Jesuits at Jesuit Tampa were to me a decade ago.”