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Father Ronald R. Saucci Dies; Maryknoll Missioner to Hong Kong, Journalist and Publisher

Contact: Mike Virgintino, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, 914-941-7636 ext 2219

MARYKNOLL, N.Y., Sept. 6, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ -- Father Ronald R. Saucci, M.M., of Brooklyn and East Meadow, Long Island, New York, died at Mission St. Teresa's Residence, Ossining, New York, on September 1, 2016. He was 81 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 51 years.

Father Saucci first joined Maryknoll on September 6, 1956 at the age of 21. After ordination on June 12, 1965, he was assigned to Maryknoll's Mission Region in Hong Kong. After learning Catonese at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Father Saucci served as assistant pastor in Star of the Sea Parish in Chai Wan. Most of the parishioners were refugees who had fled from Guangdong. During this same time, Father Saucci celebrated Mass on board U.S. Navy ships that anchored in Hong Kong and served as a chaplain and guide for the sailors on shore leave.

Father Saucci was recalled to the United States during 1969 to serve in Maryknoll's New York City Development House. Befriended by an NBC television executive, Father Saucci was invited to appear on a weekly television talk show. Maryknoll World was broadcast every Sunday for more than 12 years on WNBC-TV New York and regional cable stations. Father Saucci served as host for the first 10 years of the program.

The Maryknoll World radio program hosted by Father Saucci was heard on more than 700 stations across the country and his weekly newspaper column of the same name appeared in many newspapers. During this time, Father Saucci also became a member of the board of The Christophers, an organization founded by Maryknoll's Father James Keller, M.M., that encourages people to use their God-given talents to provide a positive difference in the world. Father Saucci served on the board until 1999.

Father Saucci was named assistant director of Maryknoll's social communications department during 1974. Among his duties was the production of films about the church's work in mission. The most prominent film and a recipient of a New York Film Critics Award was The Faces of My Brother that documented hunger, poverty, sickness and starvation in developing nations.

During 1978, Father Saucci became acting director of Maryknoll's social communications department and acting director of The Christophers. During that same year, as a Non-Governmental Organizations' (NGO) representative to the United Nations, Father Saucci was elected to a two-year term of office on the NGO governing board.

Catholic Publisher and Director

During 1980, as a member of Maryknoll's U.S. Region, Father Saucci was assigned to Hong Kong as the Asian correspondent for Maryknoll magazine. He also served part-time as assistant executive director for the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), described as Asia's most trusted independent Catholic News source. He was appointed UCAN director and executive editor during 1983. Two years later, Father Saucci again was assigned to Maryknoll's Hong Kong Region and remained with UCAN.

During 1987, Father Saucci returned home and was assigned to Maryknoll's U.S. Region as director of the social communications department. In this position, he served as publisher of Maryknoll magazine, Revista Maryknoll and Orbis Books, Maryknoll's book publishing unit. Father Saucci also produced several documentaries about mission work for network television. The documentary Hong Kong: On Borrowed Time was broadcast nationally during 1994 and 1995.

Father Saucci was reassigned to Hong Kong during 1993. He was appointed deputy executive director of UCAN and executive director of the Servicemen's Guides Association (SGA) that provides hospitality and guidance to visiting sailors. At this same time, he also worked at St. Joseph's Church, serving the Filipino community in Hong Kong.

In regard to this portion of his lifelong work in mission, Father Saucci had stated: "The most enjoyable part of my week is preaching homilies at St. Joseph's Church. The vitality of the Filipino community as they pray together and sing at the top of their lungs has encouraged me to work harder on the homilies I give."

Father Saucci returned to Maryknoll, New York, during 2015 and was assigned to the Maryknoll Senior Missioner Community.

Following Father Saucci's death, in a tribute on the UCA News website, a fellow Maryknoll priest, Father William Grimm, M.M., published the following:

    "Ron was incredibly multi-talented. He hosted a popular TV program in the United States for years. He was a publisher, a film producer, a pastor and port chaplain in Hong Kong, an artist, a cook, a martial arts black belt, a businessman on behalf of the apostolate. He set up contemporary China's first Catholic printing plant. He was one of the early directors of UCA News and for decades kept this Asian church news agency alive through his ability to garner financial contributions for its operations…He was a common man. He had the foibles common to us all. But, he used those foibles for the sake of his vocation as a priest and missioner. He could touch and teach the common man in everyone, no matter how 'uncommon' they might appear to others, or even themselves."

Brooklyn Roots
A son of a Brooklyn pizzeria owner, Father Saucci never forgot the everyday hardworking people from his youth. He knew political, social, cultural and financial leaders around the world, but his happiest relationships were with waiters, parking lot attendants, gardeners and old men sitting on benches in Hong Kong.

Father Saucci was born on February 24, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, where he attended Public School 215 and graduated from Lafayette High School during 1952. He completed one year at St. John's University College of Pharmacy in Brooklyn before he was called into the U.S. Army. Father Saucci served in Germany for two years and was honorably discharged as a corporal. He entered the Maryknoll Junior Seminary (Venard) at Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, during 1956. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy (1960) at Maryknoll College, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and his Bachelor of Divinity degree (1965) at Maryknoll Seminary, New York.

Father Saucci is survived by two brothers, Eugene Saucci of North Massapequa, New York, and Andrew Saucci of Baldwin, New York, and his sister, Mrs. Irene Pappas, of Bay Shore, New York.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be concelebrated on September 7, 2016 at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Chapel at 11 a.m. Father Saucci had requested cremation following the Mass.

Memorial donations in Father Saucci's name may be made to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, New York 10545.