Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with deep sadness that we inform you that our sister, Rev. Ruth Ocera Cortez, died on June 9, 2021. She was born on November 4,1935 in San Fernando, Pampanga to Gerardo de Ocera & Elisa Razon Ocera. She was married to Rev. Nathanael L. Cortez, who with Ruth was a beloved and respected elder of The United Methodist Church.
Deeply grounded in her Methodist roots, Ruth began her Christian service in the Philippines in young people’s ministry. She was a principal of the Bethel Girl’s High School in Manila, an English professor at several colleges and universities including the Philippine College of Commerce, and the Manila & Union Theological Seminary, Dasmarinas, Cavite. In 1974 she joined her spouse in serving in leadership with the Asia Pacific Region of the World Student Christian Federation based in Bangkok and later in Hongkong, he as the Executive Director and she as the administrator. All who experienced Ruth and her spouse’s work knew them as those who served as equal partners. In 1979, Rev. Nathanael and Ruth returned to Manila and co-founded the Institute of Religion & Culture of the Philippines which still exists to this day.
Ruth was a life-long learner. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas, a Master’s degree in English Literature from the UP Dilliman school. After the death of her beloved spouse she returned to school and completed the work for both a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and a Master’s in Divinity at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA. She then attended Drew University, Madison, New Jersey and enrolled in the Doctorate in Theology and Divinity program. While just a few credits from earning her degree, she felt called to return to California to serve the local church.
As a student pastor, Ruth served Grace United Methodist Church in San Francisco. She served as Pastor of the following churches in California: Melrose-United in Oakland, Christian Fellowship in Fresno, and South Hayward in Hayward. She then was invited to the Cabinet by Bishop Melvin Talbert to serve as the Shasta District Superintendent becoming the first person of Filipino descent to serve on the Cabinet in the California-Nevada Conference and the first Filipino woman to serve as a district superintendent in the United Methodist jurisdictions. She retired in July of 2005. She was deeply connectional and served on many connectional bodies and was well known, respected, and loved throughout the connectional United Methodist Church.
Upon learning of Ruth’s death, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) released a public statement in her memory that we share in part:
The NCCP mourns the passing of one of the treasures of the ecumenical movement, Rev. Ruth O. Cortez…she was the co-founder of the Institute of Religion and Culture (IRC), which helped raise the awareness of church people on the issues of the poor and marginalized…she was one of the leading lights in the formation of the Philippines Solidarity Task Force of the UMC-California Nevada Conference. The said Task Force organized Pastoral Solidarity Visits to the country since 2007 to accompany Philippine churches in the struggle for human rights and the protection of God’s gift of human dignity. She also contributed to the strengthening of the Churches Witnessing With Migrants during its pivotal 4th International Consultation in New York in 2013. The NCCP extends its heartfelt prayers and condolences to Ate Ruth’s family, friends, and colleagues. She will be greatly missed.
Our beloved sister and colleague in ministry, Ruth Ocera Cortez was indeed an energetic, dedicated, humble, giving, loving and talented servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. For women in ministry, she was a model of what it means to say Yes to God’s call.
Ruth is survived by her children Mark O. Cortez and Melissa “Mitzi” Garcia, both of the Philippines, and her son Noel Cortez of Texas, daughters in law Aurora, Kimberly and Susan, son-in-law Frederick, grandchildren, Eric and Jen, Layla, Margaux, Aldrich, Luis and Reg, Kyna and Edgardo, Raniel, Derek, great grandchild, Cammie, and by her nephew Rev. Elmar De Ocera. She was predeceased by her husband Rev. Nathanael Cortez, her son Jonathan O. Cortez, and grand-daughter, Carissa.
An online Memorial service in Ruth’s memory will be held on Monday, June 21, 2021, at 6 am Pacific Time / 9 pm Manila time. The service will be live-streamed via FACEBOOK.COM/RUTHOCORTEZ.
The family requests that gifts in memory of Ruth be sent to your favorite charity.
Let us continue to give God thanks for Ruth’s life and witness and hold her family close in prayer. In our living and in our dying, we belong to God! (Romans 14:8)
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
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