By Jerry Duggan
What first convinced Fr. Daniel Tesvich, SJ, to pursue a Jesuit vocation was Ignatian Spirituality. More than two decades after entering the novitiate, he has found sustenance for his spiritual journey in a different avenue: education.
Now in his sixth year of teaching at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo., Tesvich employs a compassionate approach to his work because he knows from his own experience that students at that age don’t have it all figured out.
“I was baptized in the Catholic Church but didn’t really practice the faith growing up,” Fr. Tesvich said.
During his time as an undergrad at Louisiana State University, Fr. Tesvich developed a close relationship with a professor who gradually guided him toward the faith. It was while serving as a sacristan at the Catholic Student Center on campus that he began to consider a religious vocation.
“The seeds of my faith were planted at LSU,” he said. “It is on that campus that I received the rest of the sacraments of initiation and developed the foundation for my eventual religious vocation.”
Father Tesvich started out at a diocesan seminary but, in time, felt called to the Society of Jesus.
“The more I found out about Ignatian Spirituality, the more I fell in love with it,” he recalled.
Following his priestly ordination, Fr. Tesvich served as associate pastor at three parishes in his home state of Louisiana: Holy Name of Jesus and Immaculate Conception parishes in New Orleans and St. Charles Borromeo in Grand Coteau.
He remained open to this and other ministries but felt a strong desire to work with young people, particularly high school students.
“I remained open to whatever God might call me to but also expressed an interest in working with high schoolers,” he said.
Father Tesvich enjoys his current ministry because of the critical stage of development of his students.
“High schoolers are at that age where they aren’t little kids anymore, but they’re not quite adults yet, ready to be making their own decisions,” he explained. “It is a critical stage of life for development, and this holds true when it comes to development of faith, too.”
Father Tesvich’s desire to educate was solidified by his regency (ministerial assignment) at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, where he taught theology from 2006 to 2009.
“My students at Jesuit Dallas were always honest with me, and I appreciated that because it helped me to be a better teacher,” he said. “If I wasn’t making any sense or presenting the material in a way that they could digest, they made it clear.”
At Rockhurst High, he engages in campus ministry and serves as a local vocation promoter in addition to his teaching duties.
“I have conversations with guys in our school community and also the broader Kansas City metro about a Jesuit vocation,” he said. “I also help plan Masses, retreats and other campus ministry programming in addition to writing prayers for our school community.”
He considers all of these responsibilities to be an extension of his broader role: that of an educator.
“It’s my responsibility to educate my students through rigorous academics, but also to provide them with that hands-on spiritual formation,” he said. “It’s such an important age, and the need to impart meaningful lessons upon my students is what keeps me going day in and day out.”