In Memoriam: Archpriest Ernesto Rios

15 Dec 2020 • In Memoriam

With faith in Christ and hope in the resurrection, we share news of the repose of Archpriest Ernesto Rios, 79, who fell asleep in the Lord on December 15, 2020. Father Ernesto died of pneumonia after contracting COVID-19.

Father Ernesto was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on January 28, 1941. His family moved to New York City, where he would eventually attend Eckerd College and serve in the Air Force. During this time he married his wife, Marta Gladys (Rosado). He would work as an air-traffic controller after leaving the Air Force. 

Raised as a Roman Catholic, Fr. Ernesto converted to the Orthodox Faith and attended St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) from 1978-79. He was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in 1979 by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius at St. Andrew Church in Dix Hills, NY, where he briefly served.

In 1980, Fr. Ernesto was installed as rector of St. James the Apostle Church in Port St. Lucie, FL, by His Eminence, Archbishop Dimitri. His work expanded the community, and they moved from a small geocentric sanctuary to beautiful facilities completed in 2011. In 1995, Fr. Ernesto was appointed as the dean of the South Florida Deanery. Father Ernesto served at St. James for thirty-three years and was loved and respected by a diverse congregation including many converts to the Orthodox faith. He retired in 2014 but continued to serve the Church tirelessly, traveling from Port St. Lucie over 200 miles to Pine Key to help plant a mission church there. After a hurricane wiped out Pine Key, he continued to serve as a fill-in priest for the various Orthodox jurisdictions of South Florida.

 “Father Ernesto had a ‘bigger than life’ personality and a warmth of soul, depth of compassion, and joy that radiated the beauty of Christ and the Kingdom,” said Diocese of the South Chancellor Fr. Marcus Burch (SVOTS Class of ’97). “He embraced all those whom he met with the fullness of that joy. He will be missed.”

Father Ernesto will be remembered for his warm affection, kindness, sense of humor, and selfless love which he had for his spiritual children and all who came across his path. He labored tirelessly for over thirty years, building up his beloved St. James the Apostle Orthodox Church and faithfully serving God in the Orthodox Church of America.

He is survived by his wife, Madracita Martha, three sons, one daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  

The Burial Service for a Priest will take place Friday, December 18 at 7 p.m. at St. James the Apostle Church, Port St. Lucie, FL. His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander will preside at the Divine Liturgy on Saturday, December 19 at 10 a.m. Both services will be live-streamed on the parish’s Facebook page.

May the memory of Archpriest Ernesto be eternal!

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(This article was adapted from OCA.org