In 1962, Father Francis O'Leary began his groundbreaking missionary work establishing a series of hospices across the world in some of the most economically deprived communities where basic health care services were inadequate or non-existent.
With little money and often in difficult local circumstances he went on to found 12 hospices in Asia, South America, Central America and North America.
All of these hospices now operate independently and are managed and supported locally by a variey of organisations.
In 1962, Father O’Leary realised the need for a hospice when he tended to a dying woman near the railway track. By 1964, he and FMM Sister Dolores, from Spain, had established the pioneering Rawalpindi home and registered it as a non-profit organization under the Pakistan Donor Welfare Agencies Ordinance.
The Rawalpindi Hospice was the first hospice established by Father O'Leary and it now operates independently. The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) lead this small, dedicated and close knit community which continues Father O'Leary's work.
Father Frank Smith worked as a missionary priest in Ecuador for around 35 years. Por Cristo staff and volunteers first met Father Frank in the 1980s when he was located in the barrio of Suburbio, one of the many slum communities that make up the sprawling city of Guayaquil.
In the early 1990s, Fr. Frank moved to the fledgling Isla Trinitaria, which was one of the newest squatter communities of the city. It was in Isla Trinitaria that they encountered both the challenge and the opportunity to help a growing population living in very poor conditions, mostly in cane housing with no running water, sanitation, electricity or paved roads.
Father Frank helped to establish a clinic to treat the many children suffering from the effects of malnutrition. The clinic is now managed by Fundasen, an Ecuadorian charity that is run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Guayaquil.
Father O'Leary opened a small hospice in Guatemala City in 1990 to care for the most needy in that area. Very soon, the building became too small and inadequate. Not only was the hospice caring for people with end of life illnesses, but also for a number of orphaned children that were either children of patients who had passed away or babies that had been abandoned in the area.
In 2003, a grant from the Guatemalan government enabled it to have a new larger unit built on the outskirts of the city in Santa Lucia. This centre can care for up to 20 terminally ill adults, but is also home to 70 orphan children, sadly all suffering with the HV virus. They also offer a "hospice at home" service, which cares for up to 200 people each month in their own home.
The former Hospicio San José, in San Pedro Sula, now operates independently as a specialised centre of the OSOVI Foundation, a catholic charity in Honduras which aims to improve the living conditions of the country's most vulnerable people.
The centre was built 25 years ago on Catholic Diocesan land, following the dreadful HIV/AIDS epidemic that spread throughout Central America. It was this situation which lead Father O’Leary; Spanish missionary, Father Antonio Quetglas; and a team of volunteers to build it.