Hope arrived 16 years ago when Sergio Valverde was chosen as the parish priest of a slum located in Southern San Jose, one of the most dangerous boroughs of the capital city. This priest came to this town to leave marks in the community.
Nothing was easy in the beginning. He was continuously receiving death threats for trying to rescue people from drugs. He was also a victim of blue collar crime and physical assault. Despite this, he never gave up. He stayed firm and won over the heart of people of all ages, especially children.
Father Sergio is currently feeding around 52 thousand kids in Costa Rica day by day. He is also taking care of seven African children who are now in the Holy Spirit Works Association shelter, an organization of his own.
- When men decide to dedicate their lives to a priesthood, they usually renounce fatherhood, but your case is totally the opposite. How did you assume fatherhood in your life?
You are not called “father” by chance. As the Bible says, according to Paul the Apostle, you beget faith, when you preach, when you baptize, but above all, when you are a father while preaching and during the catechesis. In my case, that principle is completely fulfilled with all the children that God has given me. I assume it with sacrifice, joy, and commitment. You receive when you give. Today, I have a thousand children and that makes me a very happy father.
- How many children do you have?
It’s very difficult to count them because the number is high, but I think I have around 52 thousand kids only in Costa Rica, but I also have children in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba and in other countries.
- Why do you help so many children in need? Why did you decide to adopt so many abandoned kids?
I’ve taken it up with humility. It’s a God’s gift. I received that calling from Him. I wouldn’t be able to love so much. I wouldn’t be able to choose the most beautiful thing; he told me that the best part of my calling was the kids. I found it and it is a hidden treasure today. I gave up on everything since the first day I am with the kids. I don’t want anything else, I found everything. Helping children and assisting the poor are the perfect combination for me to be happy on Earth.
- A father has happy and hard times. What moments have been the most important for you?
When one of them is sick, when someone is terminally ill and we can’t do so much, when a kid has been physically mistreated and sexually abused. My heart goes out to those kids when I see and hear such things. When a kid is taken out of our refuge to another one. Also, when we notice that some parents are not interested in their education. You feel frustrated in those moments. In those moments, you would like to be almighty not to allow them to take the kid to a horrible place. However, we have to respect the law, but we have to say the law does not always favor the children.
- Have you cried for your children?
I think I cry every day, not only have I cried for sadness, but also when I’m happy. When I see them and they run to me and call me “daddy”, “father daddy” and when I receive letters from them. The letters I receive, for example, on Father’s Day. Perhaps, I’m the father with most letters in the country or in the world! And the things that they write me in those letters, words of love and gratitude. I should thank God for everything.