“Men and women with and for others”: strong Jesuit presence blesses Verbum Dei with clergy, faculty, staff, and volunteers

By Kawika Smith, Staff Writer

Verbum Dei High School, a Jesuit high school in South Central Los Angeles, has been educating scholars for more than 50 years. The Jesuits are members of a religious order known as the Society of Jesus.

In 1534, the Society of Jesus was initiated by its founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and eventually formed with the help of six other Catholic faith members. The Jesuits are one of the few orders to have both many grade-level schools and colleges across the contiguous United States of America.

The order is known for its long tradition of servicing the community for the greater glory of God, so much so that even today the Jesuits tradition continues at Verbum Dei High School, the only Jesuit school in South Los Angeles.

Verb has Jesuit clergymen and lay staff and educators who are themselves affiliated as volunteers with Jesuit service organizations and/or who are Jesuit-educated.

Vowed religious members of the Society of Jesus include Fr. Steven Privett, SJ,  the school’s president, and Fr. George Teodoro, SJ, who serves as a history teacher and is recognized widely as the man with the deepest voice on campus, and Fr. Roger De La Rosa, SJ, who serves as VDHS’s Chemistry teacher and yearbook co-moderator.  Frederico Gianelli, SJ, is a Jesuit Scholastic in Regency and serves as Director of Adult Faith Formation

Lay volunteers include Molly Fruland, member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Francis Argueta, member of the Ignatian Service Corps also serve VDHS as staff.

Jesuit education and community involvement extends to those who are outside of the Catholic faith and even to those who are not a part of the order but are of the shared Catholic faith.

Jensen Fluellen, “Coach Flu” to most of the students, is an alumnus of Verbum Dei, Class of 2005, and currently serves as an SAT teacher and moderator in the Black Student Union.

“I graduated from a Jesuit school [Verbum Dei] and learned principles that I apply in my life,” said Fluellen.  “Even though I am not a Jesuit myself, I have been able to apply what I’ve learned into my daily life. It is only right for me to invest back into the community and help ensure the success of those who are to come.”

Having met as they attended Santa Clara University, volunteer math teachers Dan and Sue White are Jesuit-educated longstanding contributors to the VDHS community.

Verbum Dei’s head soccer coach, Oscar Rosa, is Jesuit-educated and now coaches for a Jesuit school.

“The Jesuits practice teaching the whole self,” said Rosa.  “This is essential: to educate the physical self as well as the spiritual self; [working here] is my way of paying it forward.”

With the representation of alumni and volunteers, the Jesuit tradition of “being men and women with and for others” seems to hold true at VDHS.  Jesuit-educated individuals return to do the work necessary while “finding God in all things.”

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