Damian G. Torres-Botello, SJ
Province: USA Midwest
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Was a founding member, and is a current member, of the Jesuit Antiracism Sodality leadership team.
- Worked with the Detroit Mercy Theatre Company during regency.
- Saw God’s hand in how he was loved, cared for and accompanied by the Jesuits when his mother passed away in 2014.
Will serve as parochial vicar (local pastor) of Bellarmine Chapel at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Bachelor’s degree, theatre, University of Saint Mary; Master’s degree, social philosophy, Loyola University Chicago; Master of Divinity, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Damian G. Torres-Botello, SJ, was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. His parents, Sandra and Manuel, insisted on Damian having a Catholic education and sacrificed much to be sure a Catholic education would be possible. Damian attended the Christian Brothers high school, Archbishop O’Hara High School, followed by Saint Mary College (today the University of Saint Mary) in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was the first in his family to graduate college. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in theatre in 2001, Damian returned to Kansas City and co-founded Full Circle Theatre Company, became a founding resident artist with the Fishtank Performance Studio, and freelanced as a playwright, actor and director. In 2009, Damian moved to Chicago and was special events manager for the Civic Federation. It was in Chicago that he met the Society of Jesus. Damian entered the novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2012. As a novice he did apostolic work in Minneapolis, Detroit, Omaha and Lima, Peru.
After professing first vows in 2014, Damian attended Loyola University Chicago for philosophy studies. In 2014 his mother, Sandra, lost her battle with diabetes. He was sent to the University of Detroit Mercy for regency and served as outreach and audience development coordinator for the department of performing arts and Detroit Mercy Theatre Company. While there, he created a devised theatre project with theatre students titled “American Privilege,” adapted and directed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and produced a vignette about campus sexual assault and harassment for new student orientations, among other ventures. Damian was sent to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry for his Master of Divinity. He served as deacon at St. Katharine Drexel Parish and the Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Throughout his formation, Damian has held this quote from St. Francis de Sales close to his heart: “Be who you are and be that well. So that you may bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork you are.”
What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? (Ask someone.) Do you agree with his or her selections?
I’d never thought to ask anyone this kind of question; it was fascinating to think about. So, to answer this question I surveyed some of the closest people in my life. And one, Fr. Aaron Malnick, SJ, offered six words, all of which summarized what all of my loved ones shared: streetwise, organized, authentic, hospitable, recollected and dauntless. For the word “hospitable,” Aaron said the following: “You make people feel like they can be 100% themselves when they are around you; you put on no airs, so people don’t feel a need to wear any masks.” What Aaron said moves me greatly; what my family and friends said filled my heart.
What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
An interesting fact not everyone would know is that I co-founded a theatre company with one of my best friends, Jeremy Lillig, in 2004. We called it Full Circle Theatre Company, and it existed “as a company of activists and artists who work towards and present matters of social justice to defend the rights and dignity of the individual.” It was one of the most formative experiences artistically, professionally and spiritually.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
My favorite saint is the holiest and greatest saint: Mary the Mother of God. I have a devotion to her through the rosary and have consecrated my life to her. Women have been major influencers in my life, from my mom, to my grandmother, to my Aunt Niecie, my goddaughter Rebekah, my cousin Laura, and two of my best friends, Miranda and Elizabeth, and many, many others. Mary permeates through all these relationships. She is love and comfort, she is the first disciple, the most faithful follower of her Son, educator, first to the cross, agent of Christ’s Word, and Mary offers her hand and her heart to bring us to her Son and to the Father, a kind of love and model that I need.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
There are two meaningful experiences that are related. My second year in the novitiate my mother became sick. This turn in my mother’s health prevented my family from attending my first vow ceremony on August 9, 2014. My three best friends who I knew from high school and college respectively, attended, but there were reservations for 25 people to celebrate the day at a restaurant. At that moment I saw God’s hand, in the form of a pointer finger, gesturing to show me that I have a family, a family of Jesuits that God has given me. I asked these men I “sort-of-knew and didn’t know” if they wanted a free meal to commemorate the special day. And everyone I asked said yes! Maybe it was the free meal that motivated their yes, but I feel it was God inspired. My mother passed away on December 6, 2014. Again, God reminded me of who was around me, who to lean on, who to turn to. Jesuits in my community, some of whom have become best friends, and my Jesuit superiors all surrounded me with support and love and accompanied me with deep compassion. All of this was not part of the official formation process; it was unexpected, but it was quite formative and absolutely transformative to my vocation and to my life.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
If I had eight words I would say: “I thought I couldn’t, and God saw differently.”
Where has your Jesuit vocation taken you that you never thought you would go?
It’s no surprise that education is a huge part of the Jesuit identity. I entered with one bachelor’s degree in theatre from a small school not many have heard of: Saint Mary College in Leavenworth, Kansas. And now I carry two more higher level degrees than when I entered. And, let me tell you, it was a struggle getting those degrees! But here’s the thing: In my Jesuit academic journey I discovered spiritual direction, a ministry that accompanies people in their spiritual life. I had no idea where I would go in my Jesuit vocation, I still don’t, but I didn’t realize that I would find something that fits me, that taps into my personality, my strengths and parts of my own identity. In all of the challenges I faced in my education, a seemingly simple act of listening to others talk about their burgeoning relationship with God is somewhere I never thought this vocation would take me, not in the least.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
I’m not certain if “change” is the word I would use when thinking about my spirituality. Change implies something was wrong or incorrect, but what I would say is that my spirituality has evolved since entering the Society. This evolution has reoriented my spirituality to one that is more embodied. The Society introduced me to Ignatian spirituality, and this discovery showed me how God communicates with me. Part of this communication has me in tune with my body: Am I fidgety, am I relaxed, am I tense, am I calm? What is my body saying to me and could this be God communicating? Being aware of this tangible form of communication opened me up to pay more attention to how God communicates in unique and particular ways to me, and it has made all the difference.
Imagine you could travel back in time and meet yourself the first day you entered the Society of Jesus. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself?
If I were to travel back in time to meet myself the first day I entered the Society of Jesus, I would offer these words: You are going to compare and despair a lot in the next 11 years, and it’s going to hurt you, so be gentle with yourself. This notion of “comparing and despairing” is the act of setting oneself side by side against another person, measuring skills, talents, knowledge, experience, you name it, anything and everything that demonstrates you are not good enough. I did this over and over again throughout formation, and so I would tell myself that you ARE worthy, you ARE capable, and what you bring to the table may be different, and it sure is unique, and it is all worth embracing and owning and loving. So be gentle, little Damian, be patient to yourself, be kind to yourself and have faith, and lean into the Lord a little more, you will be fine, you will make it, and everything is okay.
What brings you joy?
I LOVE seeing people offering their talents to the world. By this I mean, people who sing, dance, play instruments, paint, take photos, whether professionally or amateurly, or even badly, the bravery and audacity and hope it brings to see someone step out into the world in such a way brings me so much joy! Witnessing people open their hearts through their talents, showing a part of themselves in such a way is so vulnerable, and that is amazing to see. It excites me and it ignites my heart.
What does Jesuit community mean to you? What’s one example of this lived out?
Jesuit community means to me a community of Jesuits united together on one mission. It is true that Jesuits living in the community are all doing different jobs, but in the end, we are united as companions of Jesus. How this companionship manifested for me was during regency, living at Lansing-Riley Hall, the Jesuit community on the campus of University of Detroit Mercy. At the time, prior to COVID, the Archdiocese of Detroit biasedly pursued the LGBTQ+ faithful. The Jesuit community gathered together to pray and discern how we should respond to the archdiocese in support of the LGBTQ+ faithful. Our prayers centered us and our response with Christ, and our conversations informed us how we as companions of Jesus would stand with the LGBTQ+ faithful in Detroit. This moment showed me what it meant to be a Jesuit community.