Since the age of 14, Roberto O. Gonzalez, OFM, has known that his life's work would be in service to others through God and the Catholic Church. Today, many years after he first joined the Franciscan Order as a boy, he serves as Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, young Roberto would leave the city where his mother was raised and move to Puerto Rico, the native land of his father. There he would attend grammar school before returning to the states. After graduating from Siena College with a Bachelor's degree in English, he pursued his Master's at Washington Theological Union, professed solemn vows as a friar, and was ordained a priest. His first assignments were in the Bronx, while he worked toward a Ph.D. in Sociology at Fordham University.
His service to the church would later be recognized by his appointment as auxiliary Bishop of Boston at age 38, becoming the youngest Catholic bishop in the United States for six years. In 1995, he was assigned to Corpus Christi, Texas. Last March, he was appointed by Pope john Paul II as the new Archbishop of San Juan. Most recently, he has made news in peaceful protests to United States military exercises on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Among his many responsibilities Archbishop Gonzalez has served the national Church as chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs. He chaired the bishops' Committee on the Church in Latin America, served as a consultant to the Committee on Liturgy, and was a member of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Communications until March 17, 2000 when his successor was installed.
A reporter for The New York Times, in an article about possible successors to Cardinal O'Connor, noted, "Gonzalez struck me as the kind of leader whom New York's Catholics would spontaneously embrace. It is not that he is Puerto Rican, though that is important. It is not that he is fully bilingual. It is not that he is a modest man. It is that he is a listener - a man who seems to want not only to teach his people, but also to hear what they have to say."
Siena College recognizes Archbishop Gonzalez with an honorary degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology.