David A. Kiblinger, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Was vested by his father, who is a deacon, at his diaconal
- Completed an eight-day retreat in Jerusalem.
- Served with the Outreach Team at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.
Will do a pastoral year at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Belize City, Belize.
David Kiblinger, SJ, is the oldest of five children. Born and raised in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, he attended Catholic schools through high school. He studied math and physics at Truman State University. After completing a spring-semester math program in Budapest, Hungary, David spent the summer backpacking in Europe. Through God’s providence, he was led to Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he felt the call to deepen his faith. Upon returning to Truman, he started discerning the religious life. Not quite ready to enter a novitiate after undergraduate studies, David decided to pursue a master’s degree in theology at Villanova University. He was welcomed into a discernment community by the Augustinians, with whom he lived and prayed for a year. David reached clarity about his religious vocation during that time, and he found he was more drawn to the Jesuits through Ignatian spirituality and the apostolic life of the Society. Since entering in 2011, he has been blessed with many formative experiences. He has pursued both Spanish language and philosophy studies. During novitiate, David celebrated the election of Pope Francis with Mayan Catholics at the Jesuit parish in Santa María Chiquimula, Guatemala. He studied philosophy at Saint Louis University and returned to a Spanish-speaking context in regency, teaching middle school math at Colegio San Ignacio in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There, he also coached soccer and chaperoned a trip to the Ignatian sites in Spain and World Youth Day in Poland. David did coursework in philosophy for another year at the University of Notre Dame before moving to Boston to complete his theological studies and formation for the priesthood. He enjoyed serving as a deacon at St. Cecilia Parish in Boston. His first assignment as a priest is a pastoral year at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Belize City, Belize.
Bachelor’s degrees, physics and math, Truman State University; Master’s degree, theology, Villanova University; Master’s degree, philosophy, Saint Louis University; Master of Theological Studies, moral theology, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry; Licentiate in Sacred Theology, moral theology, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
What is your favorite movie you’ve encountered since entering the Society?
Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” depicts the life of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, a husband and father from a small village in Austria during the time of Nazi Germany. He was a conscientious objector to the war waged by Germany and refused a call to serve in its army. He had undergone a deep conversion and sought to live his life wholeheartedly devoted to God.
Malick’s film is meditative and visually stunning. It uses the actual words from Jägerstätter’s writings to give a glimpse into the interior life of the man. After seeing the movie, I have from time-to-time read and prayed with these writings. This movie, and Jägerstätter’s example in general, showed me the importance of cultivating a deep interior life. He embodies what I imagine St. Ignatius meant by “reverencing” God in the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises. It is clear that no social pressures, whether from family, friends, prelates or compatriots, could cause him to deviate from what he knew in conscience God was asking him to do. The result was his martyrdom.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
During the pandemic, I’ve taken up running. I played lots of sports growing up, but I never ran consistently. I like it for several reasons. It keeps me in shape, relieves stress and helps me feel healthy. It’s a wonderful way to get to know the place where you live. I’ve enjoyed running around Boston. I have several routes I use, each stretching a different direction from my community. I’ve noticed small businesses, schools, monuments, parks, trees, etc., that I never would have just driving everywhere. Perhaps the most important reason that I run was one I did not expect when I started. Thanks to Strava (a social network for runners and cyclists), running has become a means of community and support. Most of my family posts runs and comments on one another’s. There is a lively group of Jesuit runners in my community, too. We will frequently swap training tips and encourage one another. The social aspect of running has been a surprising grace.
Who is one important mentor who has accompanied you on your journey? What made them a good mentor?
Fr. Bill Kottenstette was the chaplain at the Catholic Newman Center at Truman State University. When I started discerning the priesthood during college, he and I would meet weekly just to talk. It was not spiritual direction necessarily, but a conversation between friends. This was long before I thought about the Jesuits. In fact, I was thinking about entering a different order at the time. Fr. Bill and I rarely talked about specific orders or dioceses, and I don’t know exactly how he felt about the Jesuits. He had been a member of the Missouri Province Jesuits for over 20 years but was dismissed before his final vows due to his struggle with alcohol. When I told him I was entering the Jesuits, he was undoubtedly happy for me.
What made Fr. Bill such a good mentor for me and for countless other Truman State students was his profound humility. For almost his entire 40s, he was out of the active priesthood. His alcoholism controlled his life. He would work odd jobs during the day to pay for his alcohol for the evening. I remember him telling me that the turning point for him was when he lost all his teeth. For whatever reason, that particular event was the crack which finally allowed God’s grace to enter. He eventually got sober and was incardinated into the diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, working as chaplain for the last 20 years of his life.
His homilies had an uncommon authenticity about them. He knew what it was like to be found by God in a place of absolute brokenness. His main message was about the goodness of God’s grace. For him, though, this grace was never abstract. It was present and concrete in daily life. He continually exhorted us to do an “examination of consciousness” to see how God was loving us that day. Looking back, he was clearly formed by Ignatian spirituality, even if he refrained from much of the Ignatian lingo. In addition to counting him as a mentor and friend, I can attribute my own introduction to this spirituality to him. I was blessed to attend his funeral while in philosophy studies. The Newman Center was jam-packed with hundreds of students, alumni and local parishioners. It was a visible sign of the great potential we have to affect the lives of others once we truly surrender to God’s grace.