Maryknoll Lay Missioners is pleased to announce the appointment of its new director of mission, Elvira Ramirez. Ramirez will succeed Marj Humphrey in this leadership role, effective the Monday after Easter, April 18, 2022.
Although she will officially begin her new role that day, Ramirez has already participated in crucial Maryknoll Lay Missioners gatherings, most importantly its Extraordinary Mission Assembly, which concluded at the end of February.
Maryknoll Lay Missioners is one of the U.S. Catholic Church’s oldest and most experienced global lay mission programs, with 46 missioners currently serving in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Initially founded as a joint lay mission program of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers as well as the Maryknoll Sisters, it is today a separate but interdependent entity within the Maryknoll family.
The director of mission shares responsibility for the leadership of Maryknoll Lay Missioners with the executive director. The position oversees all missioners and their ministries in nine different countries — Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, El Salvador, Haiti, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and at the U.S.-Mexico border.
For Ramirez, her new responsibility is a return to Maryknoll because from 1982 until 1993 she served as a Maryknoll Sister. For eight of those years she worked in Tanzania, primarily with youth and young adults in various capacities.
“Maryknoll has been one of the most formative and transformative experiences that have made me who I am today,” Ramirez said. “As I immerse myself in the concerns, the goals, the hopes, the vision and indeed, the mission of Maryknoll Lay Missioners, I am filled with much excitement, respect and anticipation for what God has in store.”
Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Ramirez’s family immigrated to California when she was 5 years old. She and her six siblings grew up working in the agricultural Central Valley, which, she said “became a great motivator for all of us to finish college! My deep Catholic roots and strong faith grew over the years with hues of social justice and an awareness that God cares about all the people who are left out. Thus began the journey of my lifetime.”
Since her departure from the Sisters, Ramirez has maintained a commitment to mission, holding various roles that reflect a heart for service, a deep concern for those who live on the margins and a belief in the gifts of the laity in the church. She has served as a social worker in Baltimore, a religious education coordinator and faith formation leader in the Diocese of Sacramento, and, for the past 15 years with Catholic Charities in Stockton, California, 13 of those as executive director.
At Catholic Charities, Ramirez provided leadership and oversight of an agency of 11 social service programs and 37 different services delivered in the five counties encompassed by the Diocese of Stockton. The agency serves seniors, immigrants, low-income individuals/families and veterans with an annual budget of $7.6 million.
Her extensive participation in collaborative relationships with community partners, foundations, federal, state, and local funding agencies, as well as local donors, has been a cornerstone of her work in Catholic Charities and will serve her well in her new commitment.
Ramirez’s commitment to the common good and the preferential option for the poor has been nurtured throughout the diverse experiences of her life and continues to grow as a response to God’s love in her life.
Ramirez is married to John Rieschick; they have two daughters, Maria and Grace, and one grandson, Elijah.
Ted Miles, executive director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners, said, “We welcome Elvira into the Maryknoll Lay Missioners community with much excitement and hope. Her passion for mission and compassion for the world were evident throughout her interview process.”
For more information on Maryknoll Lay Missioners, visit mlkm.org.