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A Maryknoll Father Reflects on “Playing a Mission Song"

Disciple Profile: Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa M.M.


Tell me about your role as vocations director for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

I have been in the Vocations office since September 2019 and became vocation director in June 2020. My job is to meet, engage and accompany young men who are discerning their call to be Maryknoll priests or brothers.

How has becoming Director of Vocations impacted you spiritually and practically as a leader?

I’ve learned that good leadership requires ready strategies, tools, and mechanisms in order to produce fruits. Coming from a family with many artists, I draw a lot of spiritual strength from biblical art and use thes  e images to encourage young folks to trust that God supports them all the way when making a lifetime commitment. Two of my favorite images are the Three Magi and The Annunciation. Both involve angels who instruct the Magi to return home along a different route in a dream and announce to Mary that the power of the Most High will overshadow her. These two stories involve encountering God’s will in ways or those we least expect.  A missionary is always open to this encounter and seeks to bring it to others.

How did you meet and decide to become a priest with the Maryknoll Missionaries?

After serving for four years in the United States Air Force, I learned of the Maryknolls’ missions in Bolivia after listening to a homily given by Fr. Peter Chabot, who spoke at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Indiana.   The word ‘mission’ intrigued me. I wondered what it would be like to be a missionary priest. After sharing my curiosity with my peers, spiritual director and rector, the rumor reached our bishop's, now Cardinal Cupich’s ears.  During his visit to Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, Winona, Minnesota, where I was a seminarian,   Cupich told me, “Finish your year and if mission is where God is calling you, I will transfer you to Maryknoll.” 

When have you been the most inspired and most challenged in your ministry?

One of the biggest satisfactions in my mission is bringing people to Jesus! Think of Andrew, the apostle who brought Peter to Jesus. Andrew also brought the boy carrying five loaves of barley and two fish to Jesus. Or consider the woman at the well who after meeting Jesus, went back to her own village to spread the news of Jesus’ presence among them.  My biggest challenge is witnessing the rejection of our message, the Good News. B  ut we move on and continue the good work God entrusted us.

What ministries does Maryknoll offer to the laity?

Maryknoll welcomes different callings; one of them is the vocation of a Lay Missioner. A lay person can expect to be formed, sent and transformed to serve and make a difference in someone’s life journey of faith. The Maryknoll Lay Missioners serve in Bolivia, Haiti, Kenya, Cambodia, El Salvador, South Sudan, Tanzania and the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Where do you see the Maryknoll Missionary’s place in the global church.

Our church needs people who understand who God is and what is God calls them to. Young people are looking for security, for sureness, they want to be grounded and rooted.   Maryknoll is grounded and rooted in apostolic foundations. For 112 years, it has sent missioners to the peripheries of this world to help people get grounded on Jesus Christ and rise to a new hope.    

Any closing message for those considering missionary work?

Anyone interested in making a lifetime commitment as a missionary confident that Jesus leads and sustains us every step of the way, should consider contacting Maryknoll. Missionary work is not about telling people what to do; it’s providing ingredients for a Christ-centered life through our witness and service. Patience is crtical when it comes to playing a mission song.  If a Maryknoller was an instrument, we would be the flute because it is mobile, flexible, and easy to transport.  If someone is willing to be mobile, ready to go, flexible and adaptable to minister Christ’s love to the world, even under challenging circumstances, Maryknoll may be a fit for them!

Fr. Rodrigo moved from Guatemala to the U.S in 1999 with his whole family. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he felt called to be a priest while deployed to the middle east shortly after 911. Rodrigo is the director of vocations for the Maryknoll Missionaries.

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