By Fr. Ronald Gonzales, SJ
Deacon Carmelo Rivera Martinez has been serving the Parroquia San Ignacio community in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for more than 60 years. Starting at age 24, Deacon Carmelo – as he is known throughout the island – worked for the Jesuit community at San Ignacio serving food. Realizing the fulfillment that these simple acts brought him, he took his experience in food service to the broader parish community, eventually being asked to become sacristan. He considered the invitation a great honor; he still feels privileged to serve in this way.
Deacon Carmelo’s work as a sacristan expanded to cleaning the parish when San Ignacio moved to the current church building after its construction. Planting and maintaining the outside gardens became a joyful responsibility for Deacon Carmelo, who wants the church to look its best as a part of the Archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico.
At 84 years old, Deacon Carmelo (who has been married to his wife, Luisa, for nearly six decades) continues to serve the San Ignacio community, now assisting the sacristan. He still cleans the church, empties the trash, blows leaves from the walkway and helps count the weekly collection.
I have never met a man like Deacon Carmelo before. He lives each day to serve and loves his life and God’s many blessings. He is truly a servant of the servants.
Humility, gentleness, and service continue to be the hallmarks of Deacon Carmelo’s faith into his old age.