Retired priest's blog details Dominican missions - Catholic Courier

Retired priest’s blog details Dominican missions

Local supporters of a child-care facility and two schools in the Dominican Republic can now keep up to date on the progress of more than 500 schoolchildren via a blog recently launched by Father Ronald Gaesser.

The blog, at http://frrongaesser.blogspot.com, provides photographs and commentary by Father Gaesser, 72, former pastor of Ithaca’s St. Catherine of Siena Parish, who was drawn to serve these children and their families in his retirement. Father Gaesser, who retired from the diocesan priesthood in 2003, lives in the poor Caribbean country most of the year. The children are students at El Portal de Belen child-care center/remedial school in Monte Plata and a new school in Don Juan. Father Gaesser noted that these facilities are located in areas laden with drugs, prostitution and extreme poverty, with many of the children coming from broken families. They are provided with child care, early education, medical assistance in a clinic and nutrition. In fact, for nearly all, the school meal is their only full meal of the day.

The child-care center was founded in 1988 by three women religious with $595 and borrowed space. Father Gaesser, who served at St. Catherine of Siena from 1987 to 2003, learned of the initiative and connected the school with his parishioners. Their support helped to build and operate a permanent facility for what now totals 128 students.

Contributions also support operation of the new school in Don Juan for 340 children, many of who have learning and psychological disabilities, as well as a convent for the teaching staff of three sisters. One more similar school is planned. El Portal de Belen Foundation was formed in Ithaca to direct donations to these efforts, and Father Gaesser now has a total of four parishes enlisted in the support network.

According to Father Gaesser, supporters have fully funded the operating and capital expenses of El Portal de Belen for the past nine years and enabled a $300,000 endowment. Now, the foundation seeks to expand its endowment to $1 million to provide a permanent source of operating and capital funds. Donations may be sent to Greg Galvin, treasurer, El Portal de Belen Foundation, 51 Waterview Heights, Ithaca, NY 14850.

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