When Jesuit Father David Shields returned to his native Milwaukee in 1996 after teaching and ministering on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for 22 years, he had an idea to create an affordable, accessible place where the Latino community could gather to pray, talk and learn.
His idea resulted in Casa Romero, an urban, bilingual spiritual renewal center he founded in Milwaukee 11 years ago. Since then hundreds of families and young people have flocked to the center on their own journeys of self-reflection and discovery, reports the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
The purpose of the center is to form and renew individuals and to strengthen families, thereby building community, according to Fr. Shields. One family program aims to deepen the bond between parents and teens through various activities that include sharing cultural and faith values. Another program is a bilingual retreat for teen girls and their moms.
The center has also expanded its programs to serve beyond the Latino community. There’s an “Urban Plunge” community service retreat for suburbanites and those from rural areas who want an urban experience.
Fr. Shields says the “Plunge” is becoming increasingly popular. “It’s an educational hands-on mission trip where individuals serve at the Saturday meal program at Gesu Church, visit with the homeless at Repairers of the Breach, or go to a homeless shelter,” he said.
“I think there’s a real concern in the heart of people,” Fr. Shields said. “They’re surprised when they meet homeless people and learn they’re ‘just like me’ and realize that they could be a couple of paychecks from that situation,” he said.
Casa Romero is housed in a former convent that had been vacant. The building was purchased for $100, and gifts and donations helped renovate it.
“There was no big plan,” Fr. Shields said. “We have no reason to exist, except by the grace of God.”
To read more about Fr. Shields and Casa Romero, visit the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel website.