Father David Shields, Founder and President
Fr. David Shields, SJ is the Founder and Executive Director of Casa Romero. Born in Iowa, he grew up in Milwaukee. After graduating from Marquette University High School in 1961, he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
He earned a BA in Philosophy and Letters from St. Louis University in 1967, and in 1970 his MA in Classical Languages (Greek major) also from St. Louis University. After earning an MDiv in Theology from the University of Toronto in 1973 he was ordained. Fr. David was assigned the following year to Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, SD.
He spent the next 18 years on the Pine Ridge Reservation among the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). During that time he functioned as high school teacher, bus driver, district pastor and also worked for one year at the Sioux Spiritual Center. In 1990, Fr. Shields took a position as Associate
Director of the Family Life Office for the Diocese of Rapid City.
In 1995, he left South Dakota to pursue new ministries among the Latino community in Milwaukee. In 2001 he founded Casa Romero on Milwaukee’s south side. Fr. Shields began giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1972 and has continued directing or preaching retreats throughout his career.
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Michael Coffey, Executive Director
Michael has lived most of his life in Milwaukee, attending Marquette University High School and UWM. He holds graduate degrees from Loyola University of Chicago (Pastoral Studies) and National Louis University (Education). Informally he’s been a lifelong student of Ignatian spirituality.
For decades, Michael has worked to help organizations find guidance from their faith traditions to become effective in their missions. Leadership and administration of nonprofit organizations, strategic planning, ministry formation and the teaching of pastoral theology have become his specializations.
He served Interfaith Older Adult Programs for over a decade as Associate Director. He taught young people, from elementary level through high school, for fifteen years. Michael led the mission and identity efforts of Pius XI Catholic High School for seven years and, most recently, worked at Cardinal Stritch University leading the continuing theological education of the 2500 Catholic School teachers of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
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DeAnn Cortés, Associate Director
DeAnn Cortés currently serves as the Associate Director of Casa Romero, a position she has held since 2001. DeAnn's entire professional career has been dedicated to serving the Latino community both in Milwaukee and around the world.
After graduating from Cardinal Stritch with a degree in Theology and Youth Ministry Certification, DeAnn was assigned to work in two Latino parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Her internship offered practical experience and would prove to be life-changing.
DeAnn continued to work at Our Lady of Guadalupe from 1988 until 1995 at which time she accepted a position at St. Francis de Sales Seminary as the Coordinator for Pastoral Formation. In this role DeAnn's focus was providing bilingual education and formation to Spanish and English speaking lay leaders. In 1999 DeAnn took a leave of absence after the birth of her fourth child. On her return she accepted a position at Casa Romero Renewal Center as Associate Director, where her responsibilities include training facilitators, evaluating programs and ensuring program quality through evaluation and continuous improvement.
DeAnn has also helped to create a new model for Casa Romero's signature mother and daughter Quinceañera retreats. DeAnn has been married for more than twenty years and cites her family and marriage as the most insightful learning experience regarding Latino culture and ministry she has ever been blessed to experience.
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Patty Link, Communication Manager
Patty has worked with Casa for over 10 years. During this time, her job duties have changed and currently holds the position of Communication Manager. Patty oversees the overall communication of Casa Romero. She assists in maintaining the donor data base, the website, other social media, and marketing materials. She also helps the programs staff in development of program and publicity materials. In addition, Patty also manages retreat reservations.
She grew up in the neighborhood around Casa Romero, and has fond memories of running through the building when it still was a convent occupied by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
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Carlos Beltran, Retreat Coordinator
Carlos Beltran got his first glimpse of Casa Romero when he was a junior at Marquette University High School. Initially, he only participated on Immigration focused Urban Plunges where he would share his own personal story. During his senior year he became involved in helping facilitate the middle school boy’s Knight’s Quest retreats for his community. When he graduated, he graciously accepted a position at Casa Romero as an all-purpose intern. Now, a junior at UW-Milwaukee, Carlos’ role as retreat coordinator includes him coordinating and leading the Knight’s Quest retreats for middle school boys, helping out with coed retreats, the EMMAUS program for high school seniors, and last year he piloted Casa Romero’s first ever week long soccer camp. Although his current major is officially Pre-Law, the experiences and memories he has gained on his journey at Casa has made him question the direction his life is going in. His love and passion for empowering our youth has helped him realize that he wants to continue working with those in need to whatever extent he can.
Sr. Jean Ellman, SSND, URBAN Plunge & Volunteer Coordinator
Sr. Jean has been involved with the Latino community in Milwaukee for more than 30 years as principal and/or teacher at Bruce-Guadalupe, Nativity Jesuit, and Notre Dame Middle School, as well as a brief stint as parish coordinator of Hispanic ministry in Delavan and Whitewater.
A Milwaukee native, she graduated from Pius XI high school and then entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She earned a BA is in elementary education from Mount Mary University, MEd in reading and bilingual education from UW-Whitewater, and principal’s license from Marquette University. She participated in a Third World experience in Honduras, studied Spanish in Mexico, and completed the Spiritual Mentoring Program from Casa Romero.
Sr. Jean’s roots at Casa go way back—for nine years she lived in that building when it was an SSND convent. Sr. Jean joined Casa Romero as a staff member in early 2016 and is delighted to be a part of it. Her ministry involves leading groups of high school and college students in an urban plunge, an immersion experience in the city of Milwaukee that opens eyes and transforms the lives of the participants.
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Andrea Lira, Art Program Coordinator
Andrea Lira is a community-focused Milwaukee designer with experience in art and design, creative environments, and leadership development in the urban youth community. An accomplished Milwaukee-based artist, Andy's mosaics have been featured in the SWAN Day exhibition at the Urban Ecology Center for the past several years. Additionally, her design work has been on display at Walker's Point Center for the Arts' Día de los Muertos Exhibition. While in the graphic design program at MATC, Andy worked simultaneously as the Graphic Designer for the Spanish Journal. Upon completion of her degree, she came to work at Casa Romero as the Assistant Art Club Coordinator, aiming at empowering young women of color through the arts. Andy now serves the urban youth community at Casa Romero as the director of the Center's arts programming.
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Cynthia Rivera-Garcia, Family Retreat Coordinator
Cynthia has grown up in the Milwaukee South Side area where she has been given many experiences and memories. Experiences that now she will be able to share in her role as a Family Retreat Coordinator at Casa Romero. She was the first in her family to graduate high school and college with a bachelor degree in Business Administration. Being part of Mount Mary University has helped her grow in leadership and community service. She has been involved in many community organizations such as Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Her goal is to be able to help teens and families in their personal and spiritual growth. She is hoping to meet many more people and to be able to create a difference in the community.
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Guisela Dominguez, Comunidad de Amigos Program Coordinator / Retreat House Manager
Guisela Dominguez has worked with music and children in the Milwaukee south-side community for over 10 years. Serving as the Coordinator of St. Patrick's Parish's six-week summer camp for 8 years, she planned and carried out enriching summer activities exploring music, art, science, reading and math for over 100 children each summer. An accomplished musician, she also served as the Director of the Children's Choir at St. Patrick's for 8 years. Today, she directs Casa Romero's Comunidad de Amigos Latin Music Program, focusing largely on the training of youth leaders to teach traditional Mexican music to the younger children in the community. This year, Guisela will be taking over Casa Romero's summer music camp, again, enriching the lives of children in the community through music.
In addition to her work with children, she leads a band comprised of family members that provides entertainment for weddings, Quinceañeras and community events for more than 5 years.
In addition to her programming duties, Guisela also serves as Casa Romero's Retreat House Manager, ensuring Casa Romero is maintained as a safe and vibrant space for community members to come together.
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Valencia Laws, Program Support
Valencia is a Milwaukee native, living part of her childhood on the Northside and mostly raised on the Southside. She has had a passion for working with youth from a young age, helping with catechism classes at neighborhood churches and summer programs for several years during high school, college, and post-college. Aside from working with youth, Valencia is passionate about culture and cultural heritage having received her dual Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Africana Studies from Marquette University in May of 2011 and her Master’s degree in Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in December of 2012. Her undergraduate and graduate studies have allowed her the opportunity to study people of diverse backgrounds specifically Latinos and AfroLatinos throughout the Americas. During the fall of 2013, Valencia also worked as an intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, DC where she was able to witness the planning of the 2014 Folklife Festival and sit in on meetings with international delegates from Kenya and China. Valencia has had ties to Casa Romero for 5 years starting as a Manresa Scholar Intern from 2010-2011 and continuing as a volunteer until being hired as Youth Programs Director in Spring of 2014. She loves leading middle school retreats, the IGNITE Youth Leadership Program, and Art Club because she feels energized and invigorated by the ideas and energy of the youth she works with. She love being in a place that combines her loves of youth ministry, cultural heritage, and the discovery of identity.
Valencia stepped down as Youth Programs Director in March 2019 to dedicate more time with her growing family. She now works part time as program support for Casa.