Ven. Aloysius Schwartz
Born Aloysius Philip Schwartz on September 18, 1930, during the great depression, in Washington D.C, “Father Al” decided at an early age that he wanted to be a missionary priest among the poor. After his ordination as a diocesan priest in Washington D.C. in 1957, he petitioned to be sent to South Korea during the Korean War and was formally accepted by the Diocese of Pusan, South Korea. He spent the rest of his life embracing a life of poverty and changing the course of Korean history for those most in need.
Once in South Korea, Father Al was immediately faced with the stark reality of extreme poverty among children there orphaned because of the war. He witnessed people surviving by picking through garbage dumps for what little they could eat, sell, or repurpose and he immediately decided to begin a charity program to provide some relief in his new community. After returning to the USA for a few years due to illness and spending that time raising funds and support for his mission in Korea, he returned to pastor St. Joseph Parish while also establishing the Sisters of Mary Religious Congregation and, years later, the Brothers of Christ to aid in his work. Of this work, Fr. Al said,
“To serve the poor in the name of Christ is not a game. It is not play-acting, nor is it child’s play. It means constant pain, discomfort, humiliation, suffering, and sacrifice. In a word, it means the Cross.”
Together with the Sisters and Brothers of his orders, he went on to establish Boys-towns and Girls-towns to serve the orphans and street children of South Korea. He also built hospitals and hostiles for many different demographics of Koreans in need. During his vocation, he chose to live in poverty among those he served, often going without electricity, or running water.
In 1985 he expanded his charities and founded the Sisters of Mary, Manila in the Philippines and in 1989 they also expanded to Mexico. Soon after, his health deteriorated due to ALS and he died in 1992 in Manila, hearing confessions, preaching, and going to daily Mass right up until the end even though the disease confined him to a wheelchair.
His legacy of humor and joy is carried on by those still in the Sisters of Mary and the Brothers of Christ as they continue to serve populations in Korea, the Philippines, Central and South America. To this date more than 170,000 children have graduated from their schools and have been elevated out of abject poverty through jobs, self-employment, and vocations. Pope Francis named Father Al Venerable on January 22, 2015.