Father Ronald Gaesser, former pastor of Ithaca’s St. Catherine of Siena Parish, is staying busy in retirement by spreading good works in St. Catherine’s sister community in the Dominican Republic.
Father Gaesser, who retired from the diocesan priesthood in 2003, lives in the poor Caribbean country most of the year. One of his many fundraising efforts will benefit a convent he is attempting to have erected for four Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy. The sisters operate a parish center as well as a school for remedial education of children in San Juan Bautista Parish in Don Juan.
“They at present live in a rented, far too small house which leaves a lot to be desired. Their generous commitment and the self-sacrifices which they so easily and readily made are definitely inspiring,” Father Gaesser noted by e-mail. “This convent would also be their headquarters here and training place for future vocations. They already have one young woman in their novitiate such as it is.”
Tax-deductible donations can be sent to El Portal de Belen Foundation, c/o Greg Galvin, treasurer, 51 Waterview Heights, Ithaca, NY 14850. Or, donations should be sent to St. Catherine of Siena Church, 302 St. Catherine Circle, Ithaca, NY 14850. Donations should be marked “Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy Convent Construction in Don Juan, Dominican Republic.”
Father Gaesser noted that St. Catherine of Siena — which has supported the Dominican people for several years through fundraising and mission trips — has already pledged more than $30,000 to the convent project. He hopes to raise an additional $70,000.
He added that living conditions in his area are very humble. “Every day we lose electricity from about 11:00 … maybe there’s water, maybe there’s not,” he remarked, noting that such examples take tolls on his patience: “I came from the land of instant everything.”
But the Dominican people more than offset these inconveniences. Father Gaesser described them as “so welcoming, so grateful for what you do for them with such generous smiles and warm hugs. It always buoys my spirit and renews my dedication to them.”