The following comes from a February 22 story on three apologists by Jim Graves in Catholic World Report.
A dozen years ago, an injury forced Jesse Romero to retire early from his job as a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy. He decided to begin a career as a full-time lay Catholic evangelist. Romero speaks publicly and through a variety of communications media to promote the timeless teachings of the Church.
Romero is bilingual, and can communicate with ease to both English and Spanish-speaking audiences. He also preaches the Faith with vigor; “I don’t merely teach the Bible, I preach the Bible,” he says. “And, I do it with a passionate power.”
Although the Faith permeates his life today, Romero was once a self-described “secular humanist” who had little interest in religion.
Romero, 49, was born in San Fernando, a suburb of Los Angeles. A first-generation Mexican-American, he grew up in the most violent and crime-ridden community in the region. Romero remembers as a teen seeing police-tape strung up at homicide scenes throughout his neighborhood. A fatalistic humor developed in his family, he says. “We’d sit at home and wonder who was going to get killed over the weekend,” he recalls. “It’s what we knew. We thought it was normal.”
Much of the violence in Latino communities in the United States, Romero believes, is due to a lack of identity among Mexican-American youth. Family in Mexico looked down on him as a “half-breed” and not truly Mexican, while in America he was considered a “wetback” and not really American. This lack of identity can draw Mexican-American youth to “Brown Power” movements such as MEChA, which Romero describes as anti-white and racist.
His conversion to Catholicism opened up new possibilities. “The first-generation Mexican-American wonders ‘Who am I?’ When I found out that I was a child of God, with God as my father and Jesus as my brother, the scales fell from my eyes. I was liberated. I realized I was made for heaven,” Romero said.
Although his family was culturally Catholic and he went to Catholic schools, Romero and his brothers were never interested in growing in their Faith; he says their only interest was in martial arts, which became his “pseudo-religion.”
Martial arts did keep the Romero boys out of trouble. “God used the martial arts to take my brothers and me out of the barrio during our wild teen years,” Romero explained. “It taught us respect, discipline, and mind control. While other kids in the neighborhood were doing drugs, drinking beer, listening to music, and being promiscuous with women, we’d be preparing for our next karate tournament.”
Romero did attend Mass to keep the family happy, but he saw the Catholic faith merely as a “women’s religion.”
In his 20s, Romero underwent a conversion. His parents attended a Cursillo weekend to revitalize their struggling marriage. The weekend had a profound influence on them. His dad, who had been an alcoholic and absentee father, stopped drinking and started reading the Bible. His parents joined the Legion of Mary and a charismatic prayer group. Friends would come over to pray.
Romero remembered, “It showed me that someone not practicing the Faith could turn on a dime. My parents have been living a vibrant Catholic Faith for over 30 years now.”
At age 21, Romero joined the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Putting criminals in jail appealed to him, and his martial arts skills seemed well-suited to law enforcement.
Five years later, a fellow officer and Evangelical Christian, Paul Clay, asked Romero about his relationship with Christ. He encouraged him to study the Bible. Romero did, and his attitude toward the Catholic Faith changed: “I remember looking at a picture of the Sacred Heart, crying, and telling Jesus, ‘I want to know you like Paul Clay,’” he said (Clay would later become Catholic through Romero’s influence).
Romero gave up drinking and swearing. To the surprise and delight of his wife, he started praying.
His pastor suggested he attend a Catholic Answers seminar led by apologist Karl Keating. In 30 hours of seminars, he learned more than he had in all his years in Catholic schools, Romero said. He told his wife, “I’m home. Jesus started the Catholic Church and we’re going to the Catholic Church for the rest of our lives.”
When he wasn’t on duty, Romero began volunteering at his parish, Santa Rosa Catholic Church in San Fernando, teaching Bible studies and Confirmation classes. As a police officer, martial arts expert, and athlete, he was well respected in the community.
“I loved it. People told me that when I taught from the Bible, I preached with conviction,” he noted. “To God be the glory, but I brought energy to the parish.”
Terry Barber of St. Joseph Communications learned of Romero’s story and asked to make an audio recording of it for national distribution. Today, Romero records a weekly SIRIUS Satellite Radio program with Barber, Reasons for Faith.
“Jesse has been an amazing partner on Catholic radio, because of his knowledge and love of the Catholic faith,” Barber said.
St. Joseph Communications distributed 10,000 cassette tapes of Romero’s story, and invitations for him to speak to Catholic groups soon came in from all over the country.
A hip injury at age 37 ended his career with law enforcement. In an exit interview, Romero said, “I want to be a preacher.”
Today, Romero hosts a radio apologetics program, leads Bible studies, offers individual counseling and spiritual direction, and does a weekly podcast. He also keynotes at Catholic conferences. Twice monthly he offers a Bible study in Hollywood for those in the entertainment industry.
Romero’s pet project at the moment is the establishment of a new School of Evangelization to train others to share the Catholic Faith as he does. He wants to open it under the auspices of the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez. “I want to create an army of soldiers for Christ to go out and be missionaries,” Romero said.
“I’m writing my eulogy right now,” he said. “When I’m gone, I want my kids and friends to say, ‘That guy loved Jesus and his Church.’”
To read entire story, click here.
My only regret is that Jesse and Anita Romero do not live in San Diego. I could listen to him every day.
We offer his CD’s from Lighthouse Media on all sorts of subjects and he has changed lives. I love the Catholic Belief CD and I give them away to anyone who will take them. Once they hear the CD, they know why they are Catholic ! And can defend their faith.
Jesse spoke in San Diego last year to a full house at St. Ephrem’s. On Secularism. One of the very best lectures I have heard in a long time.
Thanks for all that you have taught me Jesse !
He is really good! We enjoy listening to his talks in person at the National Family Catholic conference. It’s OK if Jesse doesn’t live in San Diego, he is not too far from us and we have Tim Staples and Catholic Answers here in San Diego, so we are blessed either way!
God bless Jesse and I hope he reaches out to our youth more…..our youth need more good role models who will motivate them especially since many do not listen to their good Catholic parents.
Jesse is a wonderful speaker and my fiance has heard him speak at the Men’s Fellowship conferences. The only concern I have is that Jesse tends to bring in some Protestant practices into his lectures, such as altar calls. From reading that he has had some evangelical influences from Paul Clay, I wonder if this is why he does that.
I would like to hear that Jesse is staying more on the orthodox Catholic track, then watering down Catholicism with evangelical practices.
Candace he does not water down Catholicism at all! He is more Charismatic from our Catholic Charismatic element of the faith….he is very devout to the traditions of the faith….I am grateful for his style….we all have our gifts and he sure uses them and I know he reaching out to those who have fallen away….
The “protestant” practices do not all originate with the protestants. They adopted them from Catholicism. What the protestants lack are the six Sacraments after baptism. Since Romero is not saying Mass, why would there be any problem with his altar call? If there is no altar, then it’s an “altar” call only to the mind of those who need to be brought into the light of a real altar, which apparently people are discovering through his preaching.
Yet another reason that LA needs conservative Catholic radio; Jesse! I’ve heard him online for EWTN.
Convert, we do have conservative Catholic radio in Los Angeles, only it is broadcast in the Spanish language.
Jesse conveys well and is very conservative and has a neat style in delivering God’s message and teachings of our beautiful faith….I am grateful for him and I pray for him to continue fighting the good fight in Jesus!
During these trying times, I am very grateful to be a Catholic Christian. It is a grace given to whom wishes to embrace and a gift that many take for granted. With so many lies being spread out today and many leaving the faith or with many staying to do great harm to promote their own agenda’s…..one has to look to the heavens and thank Jesus for saving us, for giving us our faith and to continue to pray for those who do not see the gift in the faith right in front of them.
It is very difficult to be Catholic and to some it is also hard to stay Catholic because of what we are having to endure…our faithfulness is tested daily. I told my husband the other day…..just because some decide to change and turn away from our faith, it does not mean that we do the same just to get along….that is when we realize how difficult it can be to continue doing the right thing while receiving much grief and pressure to bow down to the secular god.
With speakers like Jesse and many others as well, like Father Casey, Father Shannon Collins, etc etc…..we are grateful that they continue staying humble and not giving up spreading the good news, encouraging many to stay on the good path etc. We must support them and they too need our edification!
These are great times folks…it is when it is most difficult and our faith is tested, that are great times to live our faithfulness and to appreciate our faith even more…..because right now the only thing saving us….is Jesus and His truths! AMEN!
There are many things I miss about living in L.A., including the Catholic Resource Center and Jesse Romero. He is a great speaker.
Laura you can make a small trip up and enjoy whatever they have to offer. We have our family road trip and head up there to their functions including their National Family Catholic conference.
Thrilling story of a really good life being lived for Jesus. I hadn’t heard it before and am delighted to know of it.
Thanks, California Catholic Daily! You bring us such great articles, and I am personally grateful for them all.
Maryanne I agree with you, I am thankful too that they wrote an article on him….I hope they also write one on Fr. Bill Casey from the Fathers of Mercy…he is an awesome reverent speaker! I enjoy when he speaks too, he sure educates us and has an angelic voice. : )
God bless Jesse Romero and his whole family. This is a great, uplifting conversion story. I really like to listen to him because he is very orthodox and at the same time upbeat. His enthusiasm for the Lord shows.
Anne T I agree with you.
I know Jesse well, the last time I saw him was at a “Defense of Religious Freedom Rally” at Angel’s Stadium, Anaheim. He gave a powerful talk there as well. We both agree “Viva Cristo Rey”!
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
Mr. Fisher you are blessed to be surrounded with good men that are passionate about the faith!
Amen! Jesse ‘s passion for Our Lord is refreshing and invigorating! Thank you Jesse!
Jeanie I agree and it surely reaches out to our youth…my kids love how he grabs their attention….tell two people that!
At least with Jesse he is actually putting to good use the gifts in which our Lord has given him. While still growing in humility and holiness….may we continue to keep him and others in our prayers as they go out and spread the word, for the devil loves to taunt all who do God’s will, the spiritual war is real folks…keep all in your prayers for God’s protection.
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
I have heard Jesse speak many times at the Family Conference in Ontario, Sacred Heart Chapel and Riverside Bible Conference. He stands firm on Catholic beliefs and really hits home. You won’t fall asleep when he’s speaking as he is dynamic! He is truly an evangelizer for Jesus Christ!
Yes Carolyn I agree…Praise Be Jesus Christ!
Catholic churches up and down California would be packed if priests were preaching and teaching like Jesse Romero. His intense love for the Lord and his dyed in the wool loyalty to the Church and her traditions always shines through. No one would ever fall asleep at Mass.
If Jesse were a priest, he would be tucked away in a obscure parish.
Tracy you make a point that is valid..after what we have seen from many of the stories we read about the saints.
Father you are correct….I noticed that many who are good speakers like Jesse, that they take the time to learn the faith and it’s traditions with a zeal and they do not take for granted but how come I don’t feel that way about some of our priests?
I was so impressed with the pastor from St. Mary’s in Escondido. He is so knowledgeable about the faith and from what I have heard and seen about him, he really conveys well and puts into practice the truths not only Biblical but as a whole from the faith, it’s truths and traditions with today’s goodness. The last two Sunday’s I visited St. Mary’s and attended Mass when their pastor was there….He really is a good teacher and not only did I receive my Lord in the Holy Communion but I also received Him through their pastor’s teachings as his homilies were very well conveyed. What a big difference it makes when a priest is gifted in preaching well to lift up Christ’s flock in Christ. Too bad I don’t live near by or I would make that my parish but I am thankful that I can visit.
God bless you and your work, Jesse! Thank you for coming down to San Diego county and speaking at St. Ephrem’s! Now many of us look forward to any event where you are speaking. Your radio programs are full of useful and practical ideas, all surrounded by faith and sound reasoning. Come back soon!
I pray that God will help those who are doubting about their Catholic faith to realize their gift in the faith and to take away any doubts that they may have and that our Lord will help them increase in faith…..
May our Lord use more like Jesse to bring back those fallen away Catholics. God have mercy on us all.