The “Backpack Bishop” Brings Hope to the Dominican Poor

Last year, Cross Catholic Outreach partnered with Bishop José Grullón Estrella in the Dominican Republic to build six water systems to serve disadvantaged communities throughout the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana.

Working with Bishop Grullón and his social outreach organization, FUNDASEP, has been a joy. He is a legendary figure in the region, beloved for his ability to inspire and mobilize the poor, and well-deserving of his nickname, “Backpack Bishop,” for his many visits to the most remote corners of his diocese, traveling by donkey and sleeping on dirt floors. Even at his advanced age, he still occasionally does overnight visits in the communities, and the people receive him with open arms.

Bishop Grullón told us, “Everything we do for the poor, God is going to reward us in health, in welfare and above all, in spiritual peace, and one day we can all come together in the kingdom of God.”

Bishop Grullón knows the importance of quenching physical and spiritual thirst in rural parts of the Dominican Republic.

We recently got to join the bishop for the dedication of the completed water system in the rural village of Yacahueque. The families who live here had been relying on a shallow stream for drinking and washing. The filthy water often made them sick, and there was never enough. But now, by God’s mercy, their need for clean, abundant water has been met!

The event also included a Mass held under a tent on the site of what will soon be the first Catholic church in the area. The Mass was celebrated by Father Christian, a local parish priest who has been working with the community.

“A year ago, this community had little faith. They didn’t pray. They didn’t practice their faith and they didn’t even have a church,” Fr. Christian said. “Now, this village is a deeply spiritual community.”

This project is just one example of the transformation that is possible when Catholics support the Church’s many dynamic poverty relief and development projects around the world.