‘You belong to the Father,’ Archbishop tells Bishop Rodriguez at ordination

Aaron Lambert

It was a joyous day for the Archdiocese of Denver Nov. 4, when new auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez was consecrated to the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Cardinal J. Francis Stafford.

Watch the full ordination of Bishop Rodriguez here.

Watch highlights and hear Bishop Rodriguez reflections of the ceremony here.

Over 200 priests and deacons, 10 bishops, one abbot and countless friends, family and laypeople filled Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for the occasion. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, was also in attendance and read Pope Francis’ apostolic mandate dated Aug. 25 appointing Bishop Rodriguez to the episcopal office.

“Beloved son, as we place this responsibility upon you, it is our fervent prayer to the Lord that you zealously serve the faithful in the Mile High City so very dear to us and who are under the protection of the blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception and the paternal intercession of St. Francis of Assisi,” the Holy Father wrote in the letter.

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 4: Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriguez supplicates himself before the altar during his Episcopal Ordination Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on November 4, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriguez prostrates himself before the altar during his Episcopal Ordination Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Nov. 4. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

During his homily, Archbishop Aquila recounted meeting Bishop Rodriguez 18 years ago in Rome, as the rector of the newly-opened St. John Vianney Theological Seminary looking for new faculty.

“Neither you nor I and that point in history knew what God’s plan would be for our lives, and little did you know that almost two decades later, you would become the auxiliary bishop,” he told the new bishop.

Archbishop Aquila urged Bishop Rodriguez to heed closely the prayer of Jesus from the Gospel of John (Jn 6, 14-19) read at the ordination Mass and recognize that it is a prayer that extends to his ministry as the auxiliary bishop of Denver.

“Listen to the prayer of Jesus in the Gospel you have chosen for today,” Archbishop Aquila said. “That prayer is prayed not only for the disciples, but it is prayed by Jesus for you today. You belong to the Father.”

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 4: Bishop Jorge Rodriguez thanks the assembled during the Episcopal Ordination Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on November 4, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Bishop Jorge Rodriguez thanks the assembled during his Episcopal Ordination Mass. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

He added, “Let the words of Jesus penetrate your own heart, for it is he and the Spirit and the Father who consecrate you today as their bishop.”

Archbishop Aquila told Bishop Rodriguez he would be a “tremendous blessing” for the Latino community in northern Colorado, where 60 parishes offer Masses said in Spanish and over 50% of Catholics come from a Latino background.

For his concluding remarks, Bishop Rodriguez expressed his gratitude to the Lord and to all who have supported and prayed for him as he enters into the episcopate. He was especially grateful to the faithful he has served during his 10 years of service to the Archdiocese of Denver.

“I love you all,” he told the congregation. “You cannot imagine how important you’ve been in my life. The most important gift I have received are the people in the pews.”

COMING UP: Father Jan Mucha remembered for his ‘joy and simplicity’

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When Father Marek Ciesla was 11 years old, he encountered a priest in his hometown in northern Poland who was visiting his parish on mission.

“I was impressed,” said Father Ciesla. “A couple of my friends and I were talking about how energetic, how wonderful this priest was. I think in this way he inspired us a little bit to follow the call to the priesthood.”

The priest was Father Jan Mucha, and little did Father Ciesla know that decades later and an ocean away, he would reunite with the man that inspired him and his friend to pursue the priesthood.

In 2010 when Father Mucha was retiring from his role as pastor of St. Joseph Polish Catholic Church in Denver, Father Ciesla was sent from Poland to the Archdiocese of Denver to take his place.

The priests spent two days together, and Father Ciesla was struck by the familiarity of Father Mucha.

“For some reason, the way he was talking and the words he was using, something rang a bell,” he said. “I asked him if he remembers visiting my parish. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I had it on my list. I remember.’”

Father Ciesla was amazed that the man he was there to replace was the same one who had impacted his life all those years ago.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Father Ciesla. “I never thought I would meet him again.”

Father Mucha passed away March 21 after serving the archdiocese for 40 years. He was 88 years old.

Father Mucha was born March 16, 1930 in Gron, Poland to parents Kazimierz and Aniela Mucha. He was one of five children. Father Mucha attended high school in Kraków and went on to study philosophy and theology at a seminary in Tarnów.

Father Mucha was ordained December 19, 1954 in Tarnów by Auxiliary Bishop Karol Pękala. He served at St. Theresa Parish in Lublin, Sacred Heart Parish in Florynka and as a Latin teacher at Sacred Heart Novice House in Mszana Dolna.

He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Denver on April 20, 1978. Before he was granted retirement status in August of 2010, he served at St. Joseph Polish for nearly 40 years.

“Father Mucha was dedicated to his people and there was a joy about him,” said Msgr. Bernard Schmitz, who had known Father Mucha since his own ordination in 1974 and more recently within his former role as Vicar for Clergy.

“I admired his joy and simplicity,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He seemed to have no guile and what you saw is what you got. He was very proud of his Polish heritage and was unafraid to be Polish.”

Father Mucha’s move to the United States came about after he visited St. Joseph Polish while on vacation. The pastor at the time was sick, and parishioners asked Father Mucha to stay.

After receiving approval from his superiors in Poland and the archbishop in Denver, Father Mucha did stay, and ended up serving the parish for nearly four decades.

“He was happy to serve here,” said Father Ciesla. “All the time, he was a man of faith. He kept his eye on Jesus.”

Msgr. Schmitz believes Father Mucha’s faithfulness and tenacity as a priest will leave a lasting impression on those he served.

“He was dedicated to the priesthood and didn’t want to retire until he was sure his people would be well taken care of,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He could come across as tough, but really he was a compassionate person [with] a heart open to the Lord’s work.”