Altared Course: From Jesuit Student to Jesuit Priest

When Carlos Esparza walked through the halls of Jesuit College Preparatory School more than 15 years ago, he never imagined he would one day join the religious order for which the school was named.

“The first thing that I remember about Jesuit is the community feel there … I really did believe there was a sense of brotherhood,” Esparza said.

Today, Esparza, class of 1998, has been a member of the Society of Jesus, a worldwide order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic church colloquially called Jesuits, since 2004.

The Jesuit order requires members to take four vows: poverty, chastity, obedience, and obedience for worldwide missions. But unlike many orders, Jesuits aren’t confined to a diocesan life. Members can go on to serve other roles in the Church and society, such as in medicine or law.

A top student, member of the National Honor Society, and manager of the basketball team all four years, Esparza’s high school career prepared him for a life he initially thought he wanted.

“I felt like all I wanted to do with my life was to go to a top school, I already had a job, work for a few years and plan my trajectory for what I want with my life,” Esparza said. “Big house, money, family.”

After leaving Jesuit, Esparza attended and graduated from Harvard. In his junior year at the collegiate level, he felt he had a call to consider priesthood. At this time he started evaluating his high school experiences beyond the academic and social levels; from community days he described as reflective, to a silent retreat his senior year, which was a particularly prayerful event for him.

With a degree in computer science, Esparza worked for the Department of Defense for two years. During this time he struggled with the feeling he was meant for a different vocation.

“In the back of my mind, I had this calling,” Esparza recalled. “Everything I had planned of what I thought I wanted was being shaken up.”

One piece of advice Esparza received from multiple Jesuits — including former Jesuit teachers — and couldn’t shake, was to follow his own desires.

“God planted desires within me,” Esparza said. “I needed to pray about with it, think about it, experience the world.”

Finally, Esparza took the necessary steps, including quitting his job, to become closer with his faith. His journey has taken him all over, from El Salvador, to the Bronx, to Houston, to California.

Along with serving the community, and learnng the basics such as how to preach and say mass, he was given the opportunity to earn a masters degree in philosophy from Fordham University, a masters degree in statistics at Columbia University, and later a masters degree in theology from the Jesuit school tied to Santa Clara University.

All the while, his roots in Jesuit remained a part of him. For the past four years, he has served on the school’s board of trustees, making sure the school continued to run “in tip top shape.”

In June last year, Esparza was ordained a Jesuit priest. Since then he has been working at an elementary school in Denver, waiting for his next orders.

“I really feel like I’m where I’m at because I went [to Jesuit],” Esparza said. “They have helped me become the man I am today. I still think the school is doing great work there.”

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