Each year, our office places missionaries in every parish of the Archdiocese. Priests, religious, and lay missioners bring the stories of the missions here to enliven our faith and encourage prayerful, material support of the mission Church.
Parishioners in Divine Mercy, Quincy, St. Theresa, North Reading, and Most Holy Redeemer East Boston Parishes, as well as the Seaport Catholic and Haverhill Catholic Collaboratives will host speakers from Rostro de Cristo (RdC) this year. Here's an introduction to their history and great work.
In 1988, Father Jim Ronan arrived in Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, to serve as pastor in a local parish as a member of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle. He witnessed families struggling to access food, shelter, education, and health care. Father Ronan also saw a deep faith, an abiding commitment to family, resiliency, generosity, and gratitude.
Having worked in higher education before entering the seminary Father Ronan knew that young adults from the United States would be deeply impacted by serving in local ministries and spending time with those Father pastored. In 1991, the first volunteer arrived; many more followed. Today, over 250 young adults have spent a year or more in mission in Ecuador with Rostro de Cristo, the program Father Ronan founded. In addition, over 4,000 students have participated in RdC's retreat program.
The genius of Father Ronan's vision comes from the conviction that Christ is at the center of the encounters between young people and our Ecuadorian brothers and sisters. Hence, the program took on the name rostro de Cristo, meaning "face of Christ" in Spanish.
Over the years, RdC has been greatly influenced by the parable of the mustard seed. Like a mustard seed, Rostro de Cristo is small, but its impact is great. A seed planted while living the Gospel with the disenfranchised in Ecuador grows in each participant's heart over a lifetime. Today, RdC alumni are sowing the seeds of hope in a world desperately in need of it as educators, health care professionals, lawyers, and religious, among other professions.
On June 5, Father Ronan celebrated his 40th Anniversary as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston as well as, after 18 years, his final Mass as pastor at St. Mary/St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown. The parable of the mustard seed is also an apt description of Father Ronan's ministry -- one with a missionary heart seeking to see the face of Christ in each person he meets, serving them with humility and respect, and planting a seed of hope in their lives. Gracias, Padre Diego!
Evan Cuthbert is Executive Director of Rostro de Cristo, Inc., Braintree, MA, and Guayaquil, Ecuador.