The curtain rises for Reverend Rico Monge, a new professor at the University of San Diego. The 37-year-old Los Angeles native, Dodgers fan, and former punk rock bass guitarist has officially joined the faculty in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies.
Monge isn’t what one might expect when picturing a theology professor. Though he did grow up with an eclectic religious background, his passions extend to many other areas of study and culture — in the 1990s, his punk rock band played along side the world-famous band P.O.D.
Monge was born into a Roman Catholic family but throughout his lifetime has practiced three branches of Christianity: Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Greek Orthodox. His family converted to Evangelical Protestantism in grade school. Then in his early twenties, Monge became a Greek Orthodox. Religion has always been a large part of his life but it has not always been what he believed his “calling” would be. Like his younger brother, Professor Monge thought that he would go into a scientific field. He began his education at Pomona College on a path to receiving a major in biology. Soon thereafter, he had a change of heart. Monge missed studying the humanities and decided to major in English.
After college, Monge’s first job was teaching English at a private high school. For Monge, he quickly learned that teaching was more than a job. “When you see your students go on to do great things you can look back and know you had some small part of that,” he said. His students would often tell him that they were getting more theological knowledge out of his English courses then they were out of their theology courses. That is when he knew that he wanted to study theology on a deeper level.
Monge still loves English and literature today. His favorite book, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, seems to sum up Monge’s view on God and why he chose to study religion and theology.
His favorite quote from the novel is: “Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love” — and seems to embody Monge’s passion for language and for the deeper meaning found in words. The book, Monge explains, ties together “philosophical and theological themes, the problem of evil and the meaning of life.”
When Professor Monge isn’t in Maher Hall teaching classes, he can be found enjoying time outdoors, as he loves to hike and spend time in nature with his wife and two young sons, Pablo and Diego. Being new to San Diego, Monge and his family are trying to take advantage of the opportunities that San Diego offers, especially activities for kids, the parks, and the beaches. “The mix of the beach and the city is perfect here, a great mix between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara,” said Monge. “I may have to try and adopt the San Diego Chargers as a home team since Los Angeles doesn’t have one,” he says while laughing at himself, not sounding entirely convinced.
Professor Monge’s presence will not go unnoticed here at the University of San Diego. It is clear that his passion for his work and his love for teaching will be nothing but a great addition to the campus.
– Mallory Barnum ‘14