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 | By Marissa Nichols

A Servant Leader’s Journey Comes Full Circle

When missionary disciples entrust themselves to God's Providence, an amazing faith-filled journey often leads them into the heart of the Holy Spirit. It also can sometimes lead them full circle, back to where they began. For Santa Cruz native Rosio Gonzalez, Chief Operations Officer for the Diocese of San José, life has been an adventure serving the Catholic Church that has taken her all over the country and led her more deeply into the Catholic faith that lies at the heart of her leadership role. During her time away from California she amassed a wealth of experience in various leadership roles within the Church before her recent homecoming in 2019, when Bishop Oscar Cantú hired her for her current position at the Chancery, the central administrative office of the diocese.

Rosio’s journey first took her to St. Louis, where she obtained a master’s degree in social work, followed by a position that took her to Boise, Idaho, where she served as the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Idaho. From there she went to San Antonio, Texas to become the Department Head for Pastoral Offices for the Archdiocese. Finally, while residing in Washington D.C., she became the Deputy Director of Catholic Charities and then the President of the Consortium of Catholic Schools before returning to California. She now again resides in Santa Cruz County, where she and her four siblings were raised by their grandmother, to whom she credits her faith.

The Servant’s Heart

Rosio believes the heart of her God-given vocation is serving others by helping them grow in their spiritual, emotional, and social well-being. Her former practice as a social worker launched Rosio into administration, where, through the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, she has significantly impacted the lives of thousands of people. Along the way, Rosio has actively served in each parish she has joined, as a lector, Eucharistic Minister, homeless shelter volunteer, Catholic crisis pregnancy center volunteer, and in other ministries.

Love Finds a Home

Through social work, Rosio and her husband Will met their daughter Mayra, whom they adopted when Mayra was ten. Mayra is now 35 and recently gave birth to her second son. Rosio speaks with joy and a deep sense of her responsibility to share her Catholic faith with her two grandsons, Alessandro (6) and Leo (3 mo.). “During our visit, right after Leo was born, I invited my daughter to Mass. She was happy to go and to bring the new baby. It was wonderful to share that moment with Jesus and with my daughter and grandchildren!”

Reflecting on the challenges and struggles her daughter has faced in her faith journey, Rosio’s following words resonate with all Catholics who have non-practicing family members. “I worry about my family. I worry that our youth and young adults are following paths that take them away from Jesus Christ and the Church. Every Catholic with family members who no longer worship or believe knows it is a challenge to your ability to love and hard to invite them to Mass and share the importance of receiving the sacraments. It is difficult, but we are called to evangelize our families.” Those acquainted with Rosio know that such sentiments stem from a deeply rooted empathy for others which characterizes her leadership style.

A Unique Role

As the Chief Operating Officer, Rosio now fills a role traditionally occupied by a priest, which coincides with Pope Francis’ recent call for the expanded inclusion of the laity amongst Church leadership. With Bishop Cantú, Rosio shares a vision for the spiritual renewal of the diocese anchored in the synodal and pastoral planning process initiated two years ago. “Bishop Cantú has said the central aim of the synod is to understand how to bring more people to Christ. We want the voices of the faithful to be heard and reflected in the long-term planning process.”  Rosio recounted experiencing a sense of hope during the recent diocesan Synod Assembly weekend held in January, where nearly 200 delegates met at Santa Clara University to pray, discuss, discern, and vote on future initiatives. “It was a wonderful opportunity to learn through listening to others to understand what is important to them."

Rosio considers a personal commitment to deepening her faith as a critical foundation for her role in the synodal process. “I went on a retreat as we began the synod process because, since we are asking people to deepen their relationship with Christ, it is important for me to examine how I am doing that, personally.” Rosio acknowledges that she expects more from herself as a leader. “I recognize the Holy Spirit has given me a significant role in the diocese. Part of that responsibility is working continuously to discern and deepen my faith. How can I be a better servant of God if I am not deepening my faith?”

While Rosio gives as a leader,  she also receives, as a disciple. “I was so excited to be a part of the Synod Assembly. It was a beautiful example of Bishop Cantú’s vision for our diocese and how Pope Francis has called us to engage at a greater level in the synodal process.  I hope to assist in developing and executing a pastoral plan reflective of the delegates’ voices. I pray they gained as much as I did during that weekend.”  In addition to diocesan-wide events like the Synod Assembly, Rosio also finds daily spiritual nourishment at the Chancery. “I can attend daily Mass at work. Where else can you do that?”  At this point, she beams.

Full Circle: A Spirit-Led Journey

During her journey, Rosio’s willingness to serve others led her to a deeper appreciation of the Church and its mission to align with the poor, suffering, and needy. She believes the Church can and must do a better job at making known its impactful successes and opportunities for service at various levels in society. “We do not talk enough about what the Church does in the world. What brought me to serve the Church was its social mission, and from there, my faith only deepened.”

Rosio continues to deepen her faith through a structured prayer life. “I recently attended a Jesuit retreat. Since then, I do the nightly examination of conscience. I also have discovered a few beautiful Catholic apps and podcasts. Every morning, I listen to the Hallow app. It is awesome. I just love it because it fills my spiritual cup every morning.” She chuckles. “I now must begin my day by praying and listening to Jeff Cavins’ reflection on the gospel. I also started Father Mike Schmitz's Catechism in a Year podcast. Part of our spiritual life is ongoing learning and study. There are so many aspects of our faith, and thankfully we also have many opportunities to learn more constantly, online and in parishes!”

As a missionary disciple, she is the first to humbly recognize that coming home full circle is both a blessing and a challenge, as she is not who she once was. “Coming back is so different. Ten years ago, I would not have even known to use the word ‘vocation,’ but now I see my role so differently: Church administration is so much more than a career; it is a vocation.” A lifelong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe sustains and continuously inspires her. “In a way, it drives everything I do. She inspires me as a woman, a mother, and now as a grandmother.” She would not have it any other way in her current role. “I never imagined working in the Church as a lay leader. Yet, trusting Providence, I have followed the path He put before me. I find myself surprised and amazed every day to be blessed with my role in serving the Diocese of San Jose!”