Moving into Creighton’s Swanson Hall during the university’s annual Welcome Week, the freshman student was excited to finally be free from living with his parents.
And though he was no longer living down the hall from Mom and Dad, he was surprised to see that there was a “father” living on his floor — a Jesuit priest.
“It was my first or second year on the honors floor,” the Rev. Ross Romero, SJ, assistant professor of philosophy, said. “I could tell he was horrified living across from me. His mother seemed to like the idea a lot.”
Eventually, the freshman student and Fr. Romero became friends.
Fr. Romero is one of six Jesuits who live in Creighton’s residence halls. Though he used to physically live on the floor with students, he now lives in an apartment on the first floor, right by the welcome desk.
“I don’t engage in disciplinary stuff,” Fr. Romero says. “I’m just here to be present. If I can encourage good choices, I do it.”
Living in a residence hall has made life come full circle for Fr. Romero, for he had a Jesuit living in his residence hall as a student at Loyola University New Orleans.
“He was one of the main reasons I decided to become a Jesuit,” Fr. Romero says. “I wanted to live in a residence hall to become closer to students and give back some of what I had received.”
For students, having a priest as an instructor is one thing, Fr. Romero says, but seeing them in the residence halls allows for more personal relationships.
Oliver Alonzo, who graduated from Creighton in the spring, lived in Swanson Hall for three years and said he would often stop to chat with Fr. Romero.
“People are always afraid to talk to priests,” Alonzo says. “They put them on a pedestal. For students to have that personal connection their freshman year with a priest, I feel like it allows them to make better connections with Jesuits throughout their college career.”
Fr. Romero, a native of New Orleans, hosts students for jambalaya nights in his apartment. He also offers Mass and adoration each week in Swanson’s on-site chapel.
When he lived on the ninth floor, he promoted lighthearted fun with the students.
For instance, Swanson Hall has two elevators, and Fr. Romero would challenge students to switch elevators if both opened at the same time, and follow the second elevator wherever it took them. They then had to write a description of the event.
“On the basis of that, I gave out a ride on the ‘golden elevator’ (an elevator in Creighton Hall exclusively for Jesuits),” Fr. Romero says. “Little things to try to make their lives a bit stranger.”
Whether it’s a game of cards, or a need for a mentor, most students like having a Jesuit in residence.
“These years are so developmental,” Alonzo says. “I think it’s beneficial in many ways to 18-year-olds who are trying to find their way in college.”
There’s benefit for Fr. Romero, too.
“It helps me feel more fulfilled in my vocation to be present.”