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Nov 23, 2016 | Paulette E. Martin

Born to be a Missionary

[Diolog Magazine] His call to ordained ministry began at the age of seven, when he served as an acolyte in a congregation that his parents helped to plant in the living room of their home in Guatemala.

 “It was important for me to see we were a small group and we started something really big where there wasn’t a presence of the church,” said the Rt. Rev. Héctor Monterroso, Bishop of Costa Rica, as he recalled his first notion of church.

Bishop Monterroso never imagined God’s plan would mean he would abandon a mechanical engineering career to attend seminary and eventually plant churches in a foreign country that had very few Episcopalians.

It was an arduous task, but oddly enough, soccer turned out to be a helpful aid. He credits the sport with allowing him to become visible among the community and for attracting youth.

“I inherited some of my father’s skills. He was a professional soccer player for the national team in Guatemala and whenever I played soccer with him, people would recognize us,” Bishop Monterroso said. “People were fascinated to see a priest who could play soccer really well.”

Bishop Monterroso was ordained a deacon in 1986 and a priest in 1987 in the Diocese of Guatemala. On June 7, 2003, he became the Bishop of Costa Rica.

Three years ago, a partnership between the Dioceses of Costa Rica and Texas was formalized, and every year the bond between the two groups of Episcopalians has grown stronger.

“I think the Dioceses of Texas and Costa Rica have a common perspective,” Bishop Monterroso said. “When I speak with Bishop Doyle I can see his vision of a church. It’s a reflection of the same vision I have.”

St. Martin’s, Holy Spirit, Trinity and Palmer Memorial in Houston are some of the churches that have participated in the long-term relationship with the Diocese of Costa Rica.

“Sometimes these relationships are challenging because of the long distance, or language barriers. However, thanks to the different gifts people from both places have, we have managed to push those barriers aside and learned to work together,” the Bishop said.

Those who participate in a mission trip to Costa Rica not only help with construction projects but also take part in a spiritual journey intended to strengthen their faith while serving others.

“When we help our brothers and sisters, we are connected with the Gospel and we become missioners,” Bishop Monterroso explained.

Current projects at the Diocese of Costa Rica include day care for single mothers who work or are going back to school, bilingual formation for clergy, and establishing a clergy faculty to strengthen lay ministry and guide those who aspire to become priests.

These projects have a very specific goal. “They need to respond to human needs and they have to contribute to the transformation of people’s lives,” the Bishop added.

Even during his free time, Bishop Monterroso is loyal to his full-time job. He enjoys reading books and articles so that he can learn more about teaching and formation. He recently finished reading the English version of A Manual of the Book of Common Prayer.

Bishop Monterroso describes himself as faithful, cheerful, positive and hardworking.

“I always have a lot of enthusiasm. I like challenges. And I like to see how God helps with the goals we have for the Church,” the Bishop said.

Monterroso is happily married to his wife, Sandra, of 30 years. They have two children: María Beatriz, 27, and Héctor, 23.