“My only wish is to serve the cause of Our Lord Jesus Christ”:
An interview with Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodríguez
He’s a pastor who has loved every assignment he’s ever had, a professor who is passionate about sharing the Gospel, and he’s a Mexican-born priest who expresses a deep appreciation and love for the growing Hispanic Catholic community in this archdiocese. And now, he’s our Auxiliary Bishop.
The Vatican announced early Thursday morning that Pope Francis had appointed Father Jorge Rodriguez, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colorado, as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver.
Bishop Rodriguez, 61, has served as the pastor of Holy Cross 2014, and before that he was the Vice-Rector at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
In this interview, the Denver Catholic asks Bishop Rodriguez his first impressions of this mission and new role in the archdiocese.
Q: Father, an episcopal appointment is a life-changing event! How did you learn that you had been named Auxiliary bishop of Denver, and what has been your reaction?
A: One Monday, Aug. 15, the day of the solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, I was doing some work in the Vicar for Clergy’s office when I received a call from the Apostolic Nuntiature in Washington. I was told that the Holy Father Pope Francis had named me to be the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver. Honestly, while he was telling me, I felt distressed, like “this cannot be happening to me!” “I love my parish, my community, our projects…” “No, I am not the right person nor I have the skills…”
It is that kind of experience when lots of ideas and feelings crash and fuse in your heart in an instant. In fact, my first reaction was: “Thank you, Monsignor, but I am leaning to decline, I am not the right person…” I asked for some time to pray about it, and he kindly accepted a later answer. I was not allowed to share this information with anyone. I was very distressed and I looked for refuge in our Lord the rest of the day. Only in Jesus I could find the strength to forge the answer.
Q: You will continue to serve as the pastor of Holy Cross for the time being. What are the differences you expect to see in your life in the coming months as you split your time between being a pastor of a parish, and being an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese?
A: I do not know the answer to this question now because we still need to work on the details of my responsibility as auxiliary bishop. I know that the parish requires all my attention and time so I can presume that new duties may demand a readjustment in the use of my time. It is my understanding that I will continue as pastor of Holy Cross parish. I have a wonderful team of parishioners that I am sure will support me and help me even more given these new circumstances. As auxiliary bishop for sure I will have to attend “ex officio” some meetings and eventually help with the celebration of the sacrament of confirmation. I will keep myself available for what Archbishop Aquila eventually will ask me to do.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about being a pastor? Has there been a favorite assignment of yours?
A: As a priest I enjoy celebrating sacraments for the people of God and teaching about Jesus and his Gospel. As a pastor I enjoy working with people who are very committed with the Lord and the mission of the Church: they really edify me. I think that as a pastor it is amazing to team with lay people excited about their faith. I can say that in each one of my assignments there is something that makes each one of them my favorite.
I loved working in the missions. I enjoyed the essentiality of bringing the good news to the poor.
My parish in Italy was my favorite in what regards the great concern for the poor and social issues. Forming seminarians, was my favorite because it is full of hope and helps me to renew my priesthood when I see the freshness and enthusiasm of the young men becoming priests. My parish in Thornton is my favorite because of their loving and welcoming spirit. They challenged me to join them in their excitement for Christ and holiness!
Probably I meant to say that all of them are my favorites!
Q: As a pastor of a parish with a large Hispanic community, you see first-hand the needs of this growing Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Denver. Could you share with us some of your experiences with this community?
A: The growing Hispanic Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Denver is a providential reality we need to acknowledge as God’s sent gift for the archdiocese. It is not only about numbers, but about the vitality and live expressions of their Catholic faith. The challenge for us is to help them integrate into the Church in the United States without losing the values of their cultural and Catholic religious identity. Just considering numbers, yes, they demand more sacraments, more religious education programs, accompanying and support of their apostolic and spiritual movements, and more personal attention, etc.
I could give a set of experiences behind each one of these traits that describe the Hispanic community, but on account that our space here is limited I will offer only a brief summary of my experience. My experience with this community is that the faithful have a great love for the Eucharist; a tender devotion to the Mother of our Lord, Our Lady of Guadalupe; show sincere support for the Holy Father and the priests; they are very generous in whatever the church needs, and their faith is sincere and uncomplicated. This is what I witness every day in the Hispanic community at Holy Cross.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: I would like the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Denver to know that my only wish is to serve the cause of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to serve them according to this new mission and grace I am about to receive. It is the Lord’s work and not ours, even less mine. So the best support—and this is what I beg from them—is to keep me in their prayers. I would like to add also—paraphrasing Pope Francis words in his interview to the Corriere della Sera newspaper in 2014—that Father Jorge Rodriguez, the Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver, is nothing else than “a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person,” but that is about to receive a grace from our Lord Jesus Christ that is for you! I just want to give you this grace for your sanctification and eternal life!