Rojas, José Ramón

views updated


Franciscan missionary, defender of the rights of the Church, known as El Padre Guatemala; b. Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, Aug. 31, 1775; d. Ica, Peru, July 23, 1839. An older priest brother was his first teacher. In 1794 he entered the Franciscan Order at the Mission College of Cristo Crucificado of Guatemala, made famous by Father Margil. He was ordained there in 1798. The period from his ordination to about 1820 he spent for the most part in the missions of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, either as simple missionary or as superior. Two reports written in 1813 and 1814 attest his zeal and farsightedness. In 1819 he founded the Mission College of León in Nicaragua and there received into the Francisan Order Juan José de la Trinidad Reyes, later the founder of the present University of Honduras. Several villages begun by Rojas have grown into thriving centers. The emancipation of Central America brought with it the attempt of the new rulers to dominate the Church. Rojas, as official theological consultant to both the archbishop of Guatemala and the bishop of León, was quick to resist these efforts, especially the plan to intrude the priest José Matias Delgado as bishop of Honduras without the consent of Rome. For his resistance he was once sentenced to be shot and was twice exiled, the last time on April 15, 1831. Peru gave him refuge and Jorge Benavente, Archbishop of Lima, became his close friend. Rojas built the chapel of Guadalupe in Callao with an annexed hospital for sailors, and a retreat house in Ica. For his kindness and zeal he is still known in Peru, and each year the faithful gather to celebrate his memory.

Bibliography: e. d. tovar y ramÍrez, El apóstol de Ica, fray José Ramón Rojas, el Padre Guatemala (Lima 1943). j. v. cora, Oración fúnebre (Lima 1839).

[l. lamadrid]