Jesuit Lorenzo Herman’s life is anything but predictable. Prior to joining the Society of Jesus in 2007, Herman – known for his nerves of steel – worked an in-flight refueling specialist aboard a KC135 Stratotanker, a flying gas station. After leaving the Air Force, Herman turned his attention to nonprofit work, spending the better part of a decade helping African-American and Latino HIV and AIDS patients navigate the healthcare system. This week, the Cleveland native takes the reins of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association. Not bad for a kid raised a Baptist.
So how did Herman, now studying transformational leadership at Seattle University, end up joining the Society of Jesus? You can thank St. Ignatius for that. Herman’s parents decided that St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, known for its strong academics, would be the perfect place for their son. Here, Herman encountered the Jesuits for the first time.
“When I was a senior, the Jesuits invited me over to their home for dinner to discuss Jesuit vocations,” he recalls. But, Herman says, he didn’t yet understand what a vocation meant. The next year he headed off to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., and became a Catholic.
After a year at Spring Hill, Herman joined the Air Force and was assigned to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash. From 1994 to 2000, he worked as an in-flight refueling specialist, traveling all over the world with his flight crew to refuel aircraft in midair. While at Fairchild, Herman became involved with AIDS advocacy, volunteering as a case worker. He also reconnected with the Jesuits. While acting in community theater, he was part of several productions directed by Jesuit Father Jack Bentz, currently the director of vocations for the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus.
Herman moved to San Diego in 2001 to assist family, and he continued his work with HIV/AIDS patients. He also worked with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pass HIV/AIDS legislation through the California State Legislature.
In 2007 he answered the call the Jesuits had asked him to consider back in high school. When he applied to the Society of Jesus, Herman said, “I didn’t feel like I was giving up on something that I was so attached to. I knew at that moment that I would not look back on the decision and say I made a mistake.”
Since joining the Society, Herman completed his bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and African-American studies at Saint Louis University, where he was introduced to the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association. Founded in 1968, the association currently has 60 members, and Herman will serve as its president for the next year.
“As a Jesuit, I’ve been able to revisit all the things that I’ve done. I continue to do the HIV/AIDS work; I continue to do theater. The thing that makes it different for me is now God is working through me in all these things,” says Herman.