Our Community - Father Robert Raszkowski - "Father and Friend to San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 34            August 30, 2001

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Father Raszkowski with graduate

Many Sanpedranos, people from other parts of the country and those from abroad who have adopted San Pedro as their home for some time now have heard of Father Robert Raszkowski. This gentle and caring priest has been loved by this community for over four decades. The San Pedro Sun has recently been informed by Father William T. Oulvey of the Jesuit Community of Belize that our beloved Father Raszkowski will today leave Belize. The following article was contributed by Father Oulvey and the San Pedro Sun is honored to include this biography as part of "Our Community."

    After 56 years of service to the People of God in Belize, Father Robert Raszkowski is moving to St. Louis, Missouri for health reasons. Father Raszkowski will join the Fusz Jesuit Community in St. Louis at the end of August.

    Father Raszkowski was born March 4th, 1914 in Berlin, Wisconsin, USA. He entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) on September 1st, 1933 and progressed through the usual course of studies.

    In 1940, as a young scholastic, Mr. Raszkowski, S. J. was sent by the Jesuits to British Honduras to teach Latin and English at St. John's College. At the time, the college was housed on the grounds of Holy Redeemer Cathedral. For three years he labored in the field of education and grew to love the people and land of Belize. His first trip to Ambergris Caye was made in 1942 when he, along with a number of other Jesuits, spent their holidays there.

    From 1943 until 1948, Father Raszkowski was away from Belize preparing for priesthood and his Final Vows as a Jesuit. In 1948, he returned to St. John's College and became the Head Master. This post he held until 1956. In 1958, he became Superior of the Jesuit Mission and served in that capacity until 1963. From that point on, he has been a teacher of Literature, History, English and Religion, first in the high school division and more recently at sixth form level. In 1952, Father Raszkowski initiated the sixth form program at St. John's College. From this beginning, the entire country's Junior College system was developed.

    Two of the great loves of Father Raszkowski's life are being a teacher and  being Pastor of San Pedro Roman Catholic Church. Not long after he returned to Belize, Father Raszkowski began his labor to bring the Word of God to the people of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. He performed his first baptism in San Pedro on June 7th, 1949. The lucky individual was Pedro Gonzalo Heredia. The first wedding he performed on the island was between Meraldo Seliciano Gomez and Aurora Vasquez on May 27th, 1950. The year 1955 saw Father Raszkowski named Pastor, a position he held for nearly 40 years. His last regular pastoral visit was made on July 6th, 1997. He was last in San Pedro on November 14th, 1999 to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Abel and Martha Guerrero.

    In the time he served the people of the cayes, his mode of transport between Belize City and San Pedro changed dramatically. For many years he traveled by fishing vessel under sail, taking from six to twenty hours to complete the one-way journey. Later, powerboats were introduced and Father Raszkowski used this faster means of transportation. Lastly, the introduction of air service meant that Father Raszkowski could quickly move between his two great loves: St. John's College and San Pedro.

    Always a teacher and educator, Father Raszkowski sought to bring spiritual enlightenment to those he served. He encouraged the development of the Lay Ministers who today carry on much vital work in the parish. From baptisms to weddings, funerals to regular masses on Sunday, Quince Años to Easter Celebrations, Father Raszkowski strove to bring Christ's message of peace, forgiveness and love to all he met: old and young.

    The Jesuit Community of Belize asks your prayers and good wishes for Father Robert Raszkowski, S.J. as he begins his new life as a member of the Fusz Pavilion Jesuit Community in St. Louis. Anyone wishing to write to him in St. Louis may do so at the following address: Father Robert Raszkowski, S. J., Fusz Pavilion, 3601 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108, USA.

   The San Pedro Sun joins the community of San Pedro in wishing Father Robert Raszkowski a safe trip and the best in his new home. Although he will now be a little bit further away, his teachings will always live on in us. Thank you Father Robert Raszkowski and May God Bless You.

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