Franciscan friar trades a field of dreams for an empire for the poor

(CNS) His Boston Red Sox baseball hat is almost as big a part of him as his brown Franciscan habit. Anywhere Franciscan Father Flavian Mucci goes in El Salvador, he’s known not only for his love of baseball, but more importantly, for the only thing he loves more than the game: the poor.

Fifty years ago this July, Boston native Mucci arrived in El Salvador with one piece of luggage, much in the same way his Italian grandparents first arrived in the United States, the country where he was born. Though the U.S. is where he grew up and received his formation in the Order of Friars Minors for the Province of the Immaculate Conception in New York, “my heart, my mind, it’s all here,” said Mucci, referring to El Salvador, the country to which he has devoted five decades of his life.

In those five decades, he’s built what amounts to an empire of social and public services called the Agape Association of El Salvador. Known in the country simply as Agape, the Greek word for love, it includes clinics, a soup kitchen, a home for the elderly, a nascent university and other educational centers for children and adults, as well as a restaurant (named after his mother), a hotel, and TV and radio stations.

Through war, natural disasters, and now the rampant gang violence that plagues the country, Mucci has remained steadfast to his vision to serve the poor of El Salvador. [More]