The Bicycle Disciple
By David R. Aquije -- Photos by Sean Sprague
A Maryknoll priest lives the Gospel, serving the sick and the poorMore »
MARYKNOLL, N.Y., June 21, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- Father Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry can trace his calling to the priesthood to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City 10 years ago. The event changed the course of his life and led him to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, the overseas mission society of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.
Ordained on June 4 at the Maryknoll Society Mission Center in Ossining, New York, Father Ulloa-Chavarry soon will depart for mission in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Mass and ordination ceremony at Maryknoll's Queen of Apostles Chapel was celebrated by Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick and it included 73 concelebrants from the Maryknoll Society and other religious orders.
The ordination of Father Ulloa-Chavarry was held during a special moment in the history of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. This year, the Society celebrates its centennial.
Blessed by Pope Pius X on June 29, 1911, the Maryknoll Society is commemorating its centennial with a theme of The Gift of Mission -- The Maryknoll Journey. The missionaries will celebrate the gift of mission as they continue their journey into the next 100 years to share God's love and the Gospel in combating poverty, providing healthcare, building communities and promoting human rights.
Maryknoll follows Jesus in serving the poor and others in need in 28 countries that include the U.S. All Catholics are called to mission through baptism, and Maryknoll's mission education outreach in parishes and schools throughout the country engages U.S. Catholics in mission through vocations, prayer, donations and as volunteers.
Call To Priesthood And Maryknoll
Father Ulloa-Chavarry emigrated with his family from Guatemala when he was 18, bringing with him an interest in soccer, airplanes and languages. His passion for aircraft and desire for higher education led him to join the U.S. Air Force.
While stationed in South Dakota, Father Ulloa-Chavarry pursued a bachelor's degree in computer science at National American University in Rapid City. Studies were interrupted following the September 11 attack, and he was immediately assigned to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
"I had the joy of meeting a U.S. Air Force chaplain, Father David Czartorynski," said Father Ulloa-Chavarry, who added that the chaplain helped him prepare for the sacrament of confirmation and became a role model. "He said to me 'This is my life. I'm not only a Father, but also a brother, a cousin, a nephew.' I thought that was very human."
After earning his degree in computer science and completing his military obligation, the call to priesthood persisted for Father Ulloa-Chavarry. He soon entered Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. While in the mid-west, he listened to a homily about mission that was delivered by Father Peter Chabot of Maryknoll. Curious to learn more, Father Ulloa-Chavarry soon visited Maryknoll's Mission Center in New York.
"I was in their library and saw many videos of mission," said Father Ulloa-Chavarry. "I started learning about places like Mozambique, Bangladesh and Kenya. That had a great impact on me."
The more he learned, the more Father Ulloa-Chavarry felt the same fire of adventure that had drawn him to the U.S. Air Force. Maryknoll added the spiritual dimension to travel and meet people from different cultures and to share the Gospel.
After four years of preparation with Maryknoll, Father Ulloa-Chavarry left for Cambodia for his Overseas Training Program with the Society during 2001. In Phnom Penh, he immersed himself with the people and the country's poverty. His ministry included coaching soccer and teaching music to children.
"Some might say that's not exactly what mission should be," said Father Ulloa-Chavarry, "but, in my opinion, it was a great mission. To be able to teach children who have never heard the sound of a flute -- many of them suffering from AIDS -- to play some notes was something beautiful."
As he made his final preparations for his ordination, Father Ulloa-Chavarry echoed the sentiments of his Air Force chaplain.
"Now I have many families," said Father Ulloa-Chavarry. "By being a missionary, you meet many, many people, and the families of such people become your own. Graces and blessings are multiplied."
At his ordination, Father Ulloa-Chavarry joined more than 2,000 men who have been ordained and sent forth as Maryknoll priests and Brothers since the first Society class of missioners traveled to China during 1918.
"I feel honored to be part of this history, rejoicing for the 100 years of foreign mission," added Father Ulloa-Chavarry. "Maryknoll has opened its doors for me as a Hispanic and I want to be a door for other Hispanics."
Learn more about Father Ulloa-Chavarry on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjPuLeJuWvg.
Learn more about Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers at maryknollsociety.org. Follow the Society on Twitter at twitter.com/MaryknollNews and Facebook at www.facebook.com/maryknollsociety.>