Bishop-elect Rodriguez shows humility, gratitude at solemn vespers

At a solemn vespers service on the eve Bishop-elect Jorge Rodriguez’s episcopal ordination, the new auxiliary bishop of Denver was welcomed by the community he is to be consecrated to serve.

The vespers service was Nov. 3 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn and was packed with various laypeople, clergy and members of the local community. The episcopal insignia of Bishop-elect Rodriguez, including the staff, ring and miter, were blessed by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.

In his homily, Bishop-elect Rodriguez spoke of his vocation and his gratitude for his ordination to the episcopal office.

“How much I would have wanted to offer a holier man for the office. I feel totally embarrassed for such a display of love and appreciation; honestly, I don’t deserve it,” the new bishop told the congregation. “I don’t deserve such trust and love. But what make sit possible to stand in that state of embarrassed dignity that puts together both strings, embarrassment and dignity, is, as Pope Francis said, the beating of the Father’s heart. That makes it possible for me to be here.”

NORTHGLENN, CO - OCTOBER 3: Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blesses the pastoral staff, ring and miter during Solemn Vespers on the Eve of the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriguez at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church on November 3, 2016, in Northglenn, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blesses the pastoral staff, ring and miter during Solemn Vespers on the Eve of the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriguez at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church on Nov. 3. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Bishop-elect Rodriguez also emphasized the importance of mercy in his own ministry and expressed his desire to always keep it at the heart of his service as a bishop to the faithful of Denver.

“It is my wish and purpose to serve the ministry of mercy. I was appointed bishop by a pope who has made mercy his proverb. I was appointed in the year of mercy,” he explained to the congregation. “I think this to be a message from heaven to me.”

“I am nothing else than the fruit of [the Lord’s] mercy towards me, and cannot help but become a vessel of mercy for my brothers and sisters.”

As is tradition with solemn vespers on the eve of a new bishop’s ordination, ecumenical leaders and civic leaders were invited to extend their well wishes to the new bishop. Those in attendance included Father Ambrose Omayas of the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Denver, Metropolitan Alexandros of the Eastern Orthodox Church of America, Elder Thomas T. Priday of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Colorado State Representative JoAnn Windholz.

Please accept my fraternal greetings to you on your episcopal ordination as bishop of Azura and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver on this historic day,” Father Omayas told Bishop-elect Rodriguez. “May the presence of the Holy Spirit be with you and your high episcopal responsibilities as you serve the people of the Church in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”