Bishop-elect Rodriguez through his family’s eyes

When Bishop-elect Jorge Rodriguez was six years old his parents took a trip to Mexico City, and when they asked their son Jorge what he wanted as a gift, he asked them to bring him a crucifix.

“That was the first sign of his embracing Christ,” his older sister Ligia Rodriguez told El Pueblo Católico.

The bishop-elect is the fifth of six children: Jose Ramon, Nery Beatriz (Betty), Pilar, Ligia, Jorge and Maria del Carmen (Carmina). El Pueblo Católico was able to speak with his family, who all reside in their hometown of Merida, located on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.

Ligia recalls that, as many children who feel called by God at a young age, “Jorgito” played Mass, and in particular he liked to celebrate the sacrament of matrimony. She also noted that all the children were taken to catechism class, “but he was the only one who finished the course!”

Jose Ramon spoke about Jorge’s solidarity with the poor: “My parents gave to the poor, but [Jorge] did what he could to make sure the help arrived to the poorest of the poor. If given the opportunity, he would give away his new shoes. I had the opportunity to accompany him and I met some of the families he helped. He was very quiet and did not keep track of what he did. Many times we didn’t even know until much later.”

Despite being a pious young child, Jorge surprised his family with the news that he was going to study to be a priest. “We thought that he had already forgotten,” Beatriz recalled.

“When he told us that he wanted to be a priest, it gave me such joy because out of all of us he was the one who was choosing the best path,” Ligia recalls. Nonetheless, his sister, who is three years older, said she missed him a lot because “he was the one who accompanied me to parties and dances.”

In 1987, Jorge was ordained to the priesthood in Rome as a priest of a religious congregation (the Legionaries of Christ). Four of his siblings traveled to Rome for the ordination. Carmina note that during the Mass she, and another sister, felt the presence of their father, who had died five years earlier. “We are confident that this was the presence of my father, who accompanied us from heaven.”

Carmina will be the only sibling to not attend the episcopal ordination in November, as she will stay to care for their Neri, who for health reasons and age (97 years), is not able to travel. “But we will be there in our hearts,” Carmina said.

When asked for a little insight into the person of Jorge Rodriguez, Ligia said that she is someone she admires, because he is “very strict and very firm in his convictions, yet is very cheerful and likes to joke.”

Jose Ramon admires “the affection that surrounds my brother”: “It must be very difficult detach oneself from one’s family, but he has a much bigger one now,” referring to the faithful that Jorge attends to daily in his priestly ministry.

His five siblings agree that the bishop-elect knows very well how to combine his affable and joking nature with firmness in his convictions and character.

Pilar told the Denver Catholic how they all went to the beach once as a family, and they had brought her 12-year-old grandson with some of his friends: “My grandson wanted to confess to him, and soon all of his friends were making a line. All of this because [my grandson] told them [Father Jorge] was ‘cool’ to confess to! To this day, those boys continue to ask for Father Jorge, and they are now 20 and 21 years old!”

Bety related that her brother is a “a man of integrity”: “He does not like things done half-way, and he is very charitable. He is very dedicated and happy in his vocation,” and she added that when she learned that he had been appointed auxiliary bishop of Denver, “I started jumping up and down with excitement!”

After speaking by phone with all the siblings of the future bishop, El Pueblo Católico received a voice mail from Father Jorge’s mother, Nery Novelo: “I congratulate Jorge very much on his appointment. May God help him very much. Here I wait for him.”

COMING UP: Should the Church talk about money? If we follow Christ’s teaching, yes.

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In Luke Chapter 3, three different groups asked John the Baptist what they should do to bear the fruit of repentance. John gives three answers: 1) Everyone should share clothes and food with the poor; 2) Tax collectors shouldn’t pocket extra money; and 3) Soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort money. Each answer John gives is related to money and possessions, but no one asked him about that! They only ask how to demonstrate the fruit of spiritual transformation. They don’t grasp John the Baptist’s perspective, that he could not talk about spirituality without talking about how to handle money and possessions.

Jesus puts some harsh words in God’s mouth in the “Parable of the Rich Fool.” In Luke 12:20, we hear: “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Alternatively, Jesus provides some great promises on both sides of that parable. In Luke 11:41: “…give alms and behold, everything will be clean for you.” And in Luke 12:33: “…give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven.”

When my wife Cathy and I were experiencing our conversion to the Lord in the early 1990s, we decided we were going to try to live out our Catholic faith to the full: in our attending Mass every Sunday, in our family and in our checkbook.

So, despite four young kids and no way of knowing if we could afford to send them to Catholic school or college, we started tithing. One thing it dramatically did was contribute to our growth in faith and trust in God. We truly believed in God’s promise that He never will be outdone in generosity. And now, 25 years later, we can only rejoice that we still are doing fine despite paying for Catholic schools, colleges and three daughters’ weddings! So what, that we are driving two cars that have 365,000 miles between them!

When we created our will back then, we decided to leave 10% of our assets to the Church. After I became President of The Catholic Foundation in 2012, we became aware of the concept to “treat the Church like one of your children.” We thought that made a lot of sense, so we changed our will to do just that … such that our four children and The Catholic Foundation will each receive 20% of our estate.

Today, we are not sure how our kids will be able to do what we did; with Denver’s crazy housing market, how will they be able to afford Catholic school for their kids, future colleges and, someday, weddings? It looks daunting for them. Shouldn’t we leave them 100% instead of just 80%? For us, it was an easy decision—better to give them a portion with God’s blessing than to think they’d be better off with it all. Besides, they are helping themselves have the best chance possible.

How? By doing their own tithing! I remember years ago, when the business manager at our parish called me to ensure that it was okay that our daughter had made a large contribution to the parish. Cathy and I were unaware she had done so. What had she done? She had tithed her high school graduation gift money. You can imagine how proud we felt.

A “planned gift” through a will or another avenue is the easiest gift to make because it only gets made when we can’t use it anymore – at least, not in this world. Maybe it can be better used by God and his Church. Listen to Revelation 14:13: “I heard a voice from Heaven say, ‘write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, said the Spirit, let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’ ”

Cathy and I want our works to accompany us, as we are sure you do, too. We have been saved by Jesus for eternal life – let us make sure our faith in that is manifested in our living and in our giving.

Would you prayerfully discern how God is calling you to steward the assets He has entrusted to you? We hope we and you hear these words someday from Jesus (Matthew 25:34): “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Deacon Steve Stemper is CEO & President of The Catholic Foundation. Please contact him at (303) 468-9885 if you would like a meeting to discuss how your planned giving can be used for God’s Kingdom.