A JOURNEY OF FAITH
In February 1988 I first stepped off a plane into the hot and humid Ecuadorian night. I was with a group of 10 other high school students and our school chaplain, a former St. James Missionary. The experience was transformative and pre-Rostro. We lived in the rectory of La Parroquia Santa Marianita in Durán Centro. On the final night of our experience, I stood on the roof top patio of the rectory and shared with my good friend that I would be back. That promise came true as a participant in Rostro de Cristo in June 1990 and the promise has been repeated multiple times since night on the patio of the rectory.
I have been blessed to serve as one of the first-year long volunteers and an adult leader of retreat groups for high school and college students with Rostro Cristo multiple times over the last 30 years. Each experience is unique, and each experience is centered on a profound encounter with Christ amongst the people of Ecuador. As a volunteer I spent a good deal of time among the people of Cerro de las Cabras, “Goat Hill.” This settlement area was destitute and the first home to Rostro de Cristo. I have distinct memories of Lucho circling around me with boundless energy as I struggled to make the climb and the pride of Mario when he replaced his house built from sugar cane with a home built of cement blocks. I also reflect on the moments of heartache and grief - when Julia’s mother was hospitalized and when the community came together with Deacon Segundo to mourn the passing of a friend and neighbor.
During my second visit to Ecuador, I was also fortunate to encounter Fr. Jim Ronan, founder of Rostro de Cristo. His ministry and energy had a profound impact on me and prior to leaving we spoke about the possibility of returning to Duran for a longer period of time. During my year in Ecuador my relationship with Fr. Jim grew deeper. We lived a few steps from the rectory and our community of two volunteers had many contacts with the priests of the parish.
Today, I am 25+ years into a vocation of serving and leading in Catholic education. My experiences in Ecuador have continued to guide my work. A large tapestry of Mt. Chimborazo, purchased at the end of my year, has accompanied me in each position I have served in the world of Catholic education. Heeding the words of Pat McTeague, spoken when our group visited Nuevo Mundo in 1990 - I seek to ensure the decisions I make are building up our work and positively impacting the people of Ecuador who have powerfully formed and informed my faith journey.
Today as a husband and dad of four - one who has participated in Rostro - and the Head of a Catholic school the experience of Rostro is carried on. I am honored and humbled to follow Fr. Jim as the next Chair of the Rostro Board. In many ways this work continues to fulfill that initial promise made in February 1988 on the rectory patio. The mission and ministry of Rostro is integral to addressing the challenges and divisions faced by our world and our Church today. The young people of today and our world are in desperate need of Rostro. The powerful encounter that Rostro provides is transformative and deepens the capacity for empathy, compassion and a faith seeking justice.
As we continue our journey and carry on the vision of Fr. Jim, we are grateful for your support and look forward to working together to develop, enhance and strengthen Rostro in its mission to form faith based and culturally relevant change agents who work for equity and justice fueled by their encounter with the face of Christ amidst the people of Ecuador.
Ed Hardiman, PhD.