During the annual Mass and Dinner for Religious Brothers of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, participating brothers always take some time to single out a fellow brother who serves others selflessly each and every day — and this year’s March 6 gathering was no exception.
Brother Stephen de la Rosa, OH, was honored for his “outstanding witness to Christ’s healing love through his compassionate and dignified ministry to the poor, sick and elderly of the archdiocese.”
Fellow brothers, and family and friends of Brother Stephen were on hand at St. John of God Retirement and Care Center in Los Angeles for a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar, followed by dinner and an award ceremony, when Brother Stephen received a plaque for his decades of devoted ministry.
Brother Stephen, who entered his religious community in 1969, said he felt a calling to join the Brothers of St. John of God at the young age of 19, a calling that stemmed from his proclivity for hospitality and healthcare.
“In order to pay for my [college] tuition, I would work in the county hospital, so I started seeing the needs of the sick,” he recalls. “And then one day I was thumbing through a magazine that was published at the time called Guidepost, which had a list of all the religious orders in the Church, and I saw the Brothers of St. John of God, and that they were involved in healthcare.
“I entered in 1969, and from there, it was a matter of different opportunities, different passages opened up,” continues Brother Stephen, who has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and two master’s degrees in applied spiritual theology and bioethics. “Meeting different people confirmed the vocation.”
After serving the order over the years in a myriad of leadership capacities, today Brother Stephen focuses his energy on fundraising for the healthcare facilities for the sick and elderly.
“Healthcare comes from a variety of resources; there’s never really enough to care for everybody,” he explains. “Especially keeping up a facility that exemplifies the dignity that we would like to see in its passage for the sick and elderly. That requires looking for resources other than the California Public Department of Health.”
Brother Stephen also emphasizes the concept of “mission integration” in his fundraising efforts, which entails “conveying the values of our order to our coworkers.”
“We want to see a continuity in the way service is offered to seniors and people who are dying,” he says. “Many people … in healthcare have God-given gifts that are grounded within them. [I focus on] how to raise that consciousness to a level of understanding, raising awareness of the values of hospitality.”
Brother Stephen’s selflessness in his service to others, including serving as spiritual advisor for a weekly prayer group, has caught the attention of his fellow brothers.
“I admire his humility and how he cares for and goes out of his way to help other people who need help, especially the elderly, with small things,” says Brother Larry Moen, a Claretian Missionary who was the event moderator. “Sometimes, it just takes small things. Getting a glass of water or something they can’t get for themselves. He’s always there for them. And that’s a really important quality.”
After being presented with the award by Brother Larry, Bishop Salazar and St. John of God Brother Pablo Lopez, OH, Brother Stephen commented on what he refers to as the “mystery of service,” and how hospitality, as it applies to hotel and comfort services, is one thing, but hospitality of “freeing people to be better than they are by entering their lives and comforting them” is a whole other challenge entirely. He also spoke of the challenges that the brotherhood faces in this day and age.
“It’s really more of an acknowledgement of the role of brotherhood in the Church,” says Brother Stephen of his award. “I’m very honored to accept it on behalf of a lot of brothers in my own community, because we’re in a time in which everybody is wondering what the future will hold.
“Many of us have been around for quite a while, and there aren’t many new vocations coming in,” he continues. “So for me, this is a moment for acknowledging everybody, to say ‘Your ministry is of value to us. Stay with it. Trust in God.’”
Upon taking the time to sit and discuss the current state of religious brotherhood following the ceremony, Brother Stephen referenced a recent Oscar-winning film.“I recently saw ‘The Revenant,’ which is a beautiful film about facing obstacles and then realizing that it was really all up to God,” shares Brother Stephen. “Similarly, with a vocation you go through many challenges. Some of them are very happy moments, and there are many defining moments. People often worry, ‘How do we get more vocations?’ Tonight is about encouraging our fellow brothers not to worry so much about that. To, as it says in St. John’s Gospel, ‘trust God alone.’”