When our founder Fr. Thomas Judge first visited the town of Loíza on the island of Puerto Rico he didn’t speak a word of Spanish! However, this small hindrance did not stop him. His desire to reach out to the poor and abandoned people he found there transcended the existing language barrier.
Since 1934, Missionary Servants priests and Brothers have had a presence in Puerto Rico. In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s we served in Coamo, a municipality located in the southern region of the island as well as in the capital of San Juan. Father Christopher Reilly (92 years old!) continues to minister in Coamo. By the early 1990s, our priests and Brothers had moved to Canóvanas, an agricultural zone where sugar cane was cultivated and produced, and to the suburbs of El Comandante.
These days, our missionaries — Fathers Vicente Pasqualetto, Marco Antonio Sanchez, Jesus Palomares, and Mariano Fernandez — serve parishes in the newly established Diocese of Fajardo-Humacao where we oversee the sacramental needs of the thousands of Catholics living in this area.
Fr. Judge had a vision of every Catholic being an apostle — a missionary. Perhaps the most significant legacy of our decades of service in Puerto Rico has been the empowerment of the laity. In all of the parishes we have served, the lay men and women have a deep understanding of themselves as missionaries, as apostles.
Encouraged by the Second Vatican Council and more recent teachings of the Church on the important role of the laity in the life of the parish, they have accepted the role of being missionaries in their own lives. They are involved in their parish and their communities, and always ready to reach out to those in need. The island has also been generous with the Missionary Servants: four men from our missions there joined the Congregation and became priests!