Bienvenido Rosario used to spend his Saturday nights on the streets of North Philadelphia. At 4 a.m., he often found himself walking the neighborhood, looking for anyone else who was still awake.
“I just needed to go and hug on some people,” said Rosario, a patient representative at Temple University Hospital and a pastor at Calvary Vision Church in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. “I needed to give them the human touch.”
Every week, a homeless man named Tony waited for him at the corner of Orkney and Cumberland streets. Tony often smelled, Rosario said, and he lived in old, abandoned houses.
“I would always hug him,” Rosario said. “At first he would push me away and say, ‘I smell,’ but I would say, ‘No, give me some love.’”
Years later, he encountered Tony again, now clean-shaven and well-dressed, conducting a “Worship in the Park” ceremony.
At first, Rosario didn’t recognize him.
“[Tony] was clean,” Rosario said. “He was no longer living in an abandoned house, he was transformed. Tony was forever changed.”
Senior Nicole B, an intern with the patient relations department, said Rosario has impacted many lives other than Tony’s. She said through his work as a patient advocate and as a pastor, Rosario—who goes by the nickname “Ben”—is an asset to the North Philadelphia community as a whole.
“[Rosario] really advocates for people and their needs,” B said. “He embodies Temple’s whole mission to be engaged with the community, be really hard working and just give of yourself to others.”
As a member of the patient experience department, Rosario ensures proper treatment and a positive experience for patients at TUH. Rosario often works with victims of trauma or those dealing with difficulties in their family life.
“I believe that it’s actually heaven-sent, and it was really meant for me,” Rosario said. “I believe that some of the feedback that they have sent me from the family is positive, and not that you look for that, but it reinforces that.”
“You give them that seed, and eventually that seed will give birth, and they will blossom,” he added.
Rosario, who considers himself a planter of sorts, has sowed many seeds in a variety of soils. From prisoners to church-goers, Rosario is willing to share his testimony with anyone willing to listen.
In his teens, Rosario underwent a 30-day rehabilitation program for substance abuse, and afterward he said he made many life changes, like his conversion to Christianity. Rosario began preaching when he was asked to translate a sermon into Spanish for inmates at Graterford prison.
Rosario’s listeners grew as he began to travel and preach. One Sunday, chaplain Paul of the Dallas State Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania informed Rosario there would likely be no more than 10 attendees, due to a popular local football game.
Hundreds of people came to hear Rosario’s sermon that day—so many that the church had to employ a few extra security guards.
As Rosario’s work in preaching gained momentum, he also enrolled in a teaching program through St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, where he trained in ambulatory pediatrics in preparation for his current position at TUH.
“When people think of Temple Hospital, I think that Ben’s name is synonymous to it,” B said. “That’s how well known he is in the community, which is amazing.”
B said she met Rosario when he led a tour of TUH as part of the volunteer orientation. She has volunteered for two years now, and said Rosario is “a champion of social justice” in the Temple and Philadelphia community.
“It seems to be a calling, especially in this area, for this community that I dearly love,” Rosario said. “‘Nightline’ called this area ‘the Badlands,’ but there’s great people in this community. The same people that go to church are the same people that come into this hospital, and that go to the grocery stores. I feel a connection.”
Rosario’s work with the community extends beyond the church and hospital walls. Rosario recently stepped down as the commissioner of the Paulo K.O.H.L. football team, and he has managed four teams within the past four years that have worked with young men who can no longer utilize federal programs intended for those under 18 years of age.
“They’re my kids,” Rosario said. “They’re my boys.”
Although Rosario doesn’t like the title of ‘pastor,’ out of fear that he “might lose one” by sounding too authoritative, he believes that religion plays a large role in the many life changes he has facilitated.
“My church is the field,” he said. “My church is the community.”
“I’m not a police officer, I’m not a doctor,” Rosario added. “Each has a great responsibility, which I highly respect, but what’s needed is god. … As humbly as I can, without throwing religion down their throat, but in the name of love, let’s make a difference.”
This story has been updated to reflect the name change of Nicole B.
Jenny Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.