A leader who helped Hispanic ministry make strides within the United Church of Christ is being celebrated for his convictions and his legacy. The first Latino on the UCC national staff, the Rev. Alfonzo Román, died on Saturday, June 4.
"Alfonzo was a fearless speaker of truth to power and a voice for those unheard. I appreciated his presence, spirit and laughter on the (former) Local Church Ministries Board of Directors," said the Rev. David Schoen, a former UCC staff member.
Román was at the forefront of the Hispanic movement in the UCC, particularly through the UCC Council for Hispanic Ministries — a group of pastors and lay leaders within the denomination that promotes its work among Hispanics, Latinos and Latinas in the Western Hemisphere.
The Rev. Edward Rivera, pastor of Iglesia Evangélica Unida de Puerto Rico, wrote that Román was “an architect of great struggles in Hispanic movements within the United Church of Christ… He was a champion of social justice, community transformation and educational commitment. He was a man of deep conviction and a strong defense of its principles."
Román was also a tireless fighter for freedom and human rights in Puerto Rico, while embracing solidarity with the people of Latin American and the Caribbean. During one trip in 2007 to Chiapas in Southern Mexico, Román was part of a delegation that observed coffee cultivation to learn more about Fair Trade and the lives of small-scale coffee farmers. The group met with local church leaders and participated in a coffee harvest at a local cooperative, while staying in the home of a coffee grower. When he returned, he urged UCC conferences and associations to promote equal exchange programs that were more equitable for trading with small-scale farmers, and encouraged the church to advocate for immigrants from Chiapas.
"That particular visit was a profound and heartening experience," he commented, "especially, when most of us slept on dirt floors and had 'tortillas y frijoles' for breakfast, lunch and dinner."