At age 21, Randy Tejada has accomplished more in the last five years than some do in a lifetime. When he was only 16, two years before he could legally drive a car, he became the pastoral coordinator of the Savarona chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Caguas, which is an immigrant community in Caguas facing many challenges, including drug addiction, crime and unemployment. With a team, he has led the chapel’s restoration in the last five years, with scarce resources.
He became secretary of the parish council three years ago. Of the parish’s five chapels, Randy has served in each. At the diocesan level, he helps coordinate youth ministry.
He works easily with many age groups. Residents call Tejada the “soul of the community.” He wants to engage all laypeople to serve migrants, children and other marginalized sectors of society. One of the ministries of the Church, under his supervision, is its social outreach. “The Church must not be alien to the social suffering of the poor; it must be its mission,” he said.
With the recent devastation of Hurricane María, Tejada is helping recovery efforts at the Chapel of Savarona and at Sweet Name of Jesus Cathedral. In the storm, the chapel was filled with three feet of water and the cathedral lost its roof. The day after, Tejada was the first to arrive at the cathedral to see the devastation. Tejada and a group of priests collected the pieces of the roof, scattered about the historic area of Caguas, and offered solace to the surrounding community.
When Tejada arrived at the chapel post-hurricane, he found parishioners outside the door who had lost everything in the storm and had come to the chapel to seek comfort. He welcomed them into the church and prayed with them. He understands the significant role that parishes play in Puerto Rico as a source of support and inspiration.
The community is now in the process of rebuilding the hurricane-ravaged pastoral center of the chapel. The center is where many humanitarian services take place, including preparing food for the homeless and providing a clothing bank for the poor.
Tejada is a master’s student of social work at the University of Puerto Rico and wants to continue working with the poorest of the poor. He believes the Church should defend those who have no voice and walk with the suffering and helpless.