Denver’s new auxiliary bishop beloved by local community

After a long wait, Denver is getting a new auxiliary bishop, one that the local community knows and loves very well.

Pope Francis announced Thursday the appointment of Father Jorge Rodriguez, pastor of Holy Cross parish in Thornton, as the next auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver. A press conference announcing his appointment was held Thursday morning at the Cardinal Stafford Library. Among those attending to show their support were Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, various clergy and seminarians, and members of the Holy Cross parish community.

Archbishop Aquila introduced Bishop-elect Rodriguez to standing applause, and even some tears of joy.

“It is a moment of great joy for the Church of northern Colorado,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It has been a long time waiting for a new auxiliary, and we are truly blessed with one of our own priests. It is with great joy that I welcome him, both as a friend and a brother.”

DENVER, CO - Pope Francis appointed Father Jorge Rodriguez was the next auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver Aug. 25, 2016. A press conference announcing the appointment was held at the Cardinal Stafford Library.

Pope Francis appointed Father Jorge Rodriguez the next auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver Aug. 25, 2016. A press conference announcing the appointment was held at the Cardinal Stafford Library. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

Of his new appointment, Bishop-elect Rodriguez told Denver Catholic, “In this moment, I feel overwhelmed. At the same time as I feel overwhelmed, I feel at peace.

Bishop-Elect Rodriguez is beloved by the Denver Catholic community, and especially the local Hispanic community. His work as the new auxiliary bishop is likely to fulfill a great need for the Hispanic Catholic community in Denver, which comprises 52% of all Catholics in the archdiocese.

“He will be a wonderful witness and presence for our Hispanics,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He certainly knows the Hispanic community, plus he knows many of the English speaking members of our community too.”

While serving as pastor of Holy Cross, Bishop-elect Rodriguez has worked to integrate the Hispanic community into the overarching Catholic community in Denver, he hopes to integrate the two even further as auxiliary bishop.

DENVER, CO - Pope Francis appointed Father Jorge Rodriguez was the next auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver Aug. 25, 2016. A press conference announcing the appointment was held at the Cardinal Stafford Library.

Archbishop Aquila warmly welcomed Bishop-elect Rodriguez as new auxiliary bishop for Denver, saying that “He will be a wonderful witness and presence for our Hispanics.” (Photo by Andrew Wright)

“Love can bring both communities together,” Bishop-elect Rodriguez said. “When I see both communities celebrating, having fun, and you see Hispanics dancing the square dance, and Anglos dancing to Mariachi music — that’s possible, let’s work on it.”

Several Holy Cross parishioners attended the press conference in show of support for the bishop-elect. The expressed their joy and gratitude at the announcement.

“The parishioners of Holy Cross know how prepared he is spiritually and intellectually,” said Holy Cross parishioner Maria Rodriguez. “We know his personality and his good sense of humor. He is very coherent with what he preaches.”

Holy Cross Deacon Mario Vielma said that Bishop-elect Rodriguez will make a great shepherd for the ever-growing Hispanic community in Denver.

DENVER, CO - Pope Francis appointed Father Jorge Rodriguez was the next auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver Aug. 25, 2016. A press conference announcing the appointment was held at the Cardinal Stafford Library.

Parishioners from Holy Cross, where Bishop-elect Rodriguez currently serves as pastor, attended the press conference in a show of support. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

“Due to the quickly growing Hispanic population, especially in Denver, God put his gaze on [Bishop-elect Rodriguez] to be a new shepherd of that community,” Deacon Vielma said. “I have learned so much from his wisdom, his teachings and the way he addresses the faithful, both in English and Spanish.”

A Mexican-born priest and theologian, Bishop-elect Rodriguez’s connection to Denver dates back to 1999, when then-Archbishop Charles Chaput invited him to leave his post as the dean of the Theology Department of the Pontifical Athenaeum Apostorum in Rome and teach theology at the newly-opened St. John Vianney Seminary.

In 2002, Bishop-elect Rodriguez returned to Rome to serve as associate pastor of Stella Maris parish, but returned to Denver in 2006 and served as vice-rector of St. John Vianney from 2007 to 2014. In 2014, he was assigned to be pastor of Holy Cross parish in Thornton, where he has served since.

COMING UP: WATCH: Press conference introducing Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriguez

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Below is a transcript of Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriquez’s comments during the Aug. 25 press conference announcing Bishop-Elect Rodriguez’s new appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Denver.

Archbishop Samuel J Aquila: Thank you very much. As all of you are aware, this morning, it was announced in Rome, noon their time, 4 a.m. our time. I got my first text message at 4:05 a.m. from Bishop Conley congratulating us on the announcement of Bishop-Elect Rodriguez. It is a moment of great joy for the Church of Northern Colorado. It has been a long time waiting for a new auxiliary, and we are truly blessed with one of our own priests. Most of you know Father Rodriguez or know of him; I have known him since 1999, when I was rector of the seminary, he came here to teach and served as vice rector with me and was extremely helpful in beginning St. John Vianney seminary.

It is with great joy that I welcome him, both as a friend and a brother, and now as a co-worker as a bishop — as auxiliary bishop here. And we are truly blessed with his Hispanic background — as most of you know, he was born in Mexico and speaks much better Spanish than I do and will be a tremendous grace and blessing for our Hispanic community, and the fact that we are over 50% Hispanic now within the archdiocese. Today is a day of great joy. His ordination will be on Nov. 4, and we look forward to that. So, without further adieu, it gives me great joy to present to you Bishop-Elect Rodriguez.

Bishop-Elect Jorge Rodriguez: Good morning everyone and thank you very much for being here. It’s meaningful, your presence, especially the seminarians; I heard that you delayed your camping trip just to be here. God bless you. We’re going to make it short, so you can go. (Laughter)

When your receive a phone call from the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington and they tell you the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has named you to be auxiliary bishop of Denver, thats a very humbling experience. What that means that the Holy Father consider me to fit for this important service to the people of God in the people of Colorado; on the other hand, I’m aware of my own personal limitations. Of course, I told them, I was telling the secretary, ‘I don’t know,’ and I remember all the jokes, no? That you have to say all the time first, “no, I don’t” and then immediately say, “yes, yes, yes!” (Laughter)

But sincerely, you feel overwhelmed; that’s a moment in which you feel overwhelmed. I’m grateful to the Holy Father for his trust in me. I’m grateful to he archbishop, as he said, was the one who invited me to come to Denver to teach theology, this is why I moved from the Diocese of Rome to the Archdiocese of Denver. And along this year in my personal ministry, I met this wonderful and faithful Catholic community we have here and lots of wonderful people on Colorado. I feel very honored to be able to live in this beautiful state and serve my brothers and sisters here in the archdiocese.

My Hispanic origin connects me particularly to the growing Hispanic community here in Denver and I’ve been able to celebrate, rejoice and to help in their needs. My only wish is to offer my ministry as auxiliary bishop — inspire, because I really find very inspiring the teaching and example of Pope Francis and under the example of the archbishop. I beg for you prayers, that’s what I really need now. I never — like today, I really feel the need of prayers now and everyday all the time throughout these years that the Lord will allow me to serve you in his name. And in everything, may Jesus Christ be praised.

[Bishop-Elect Rodriguez, en Español: Es una experiencia que te llena de humildad cuando de repente te llaman y te dicen que el Santo Padre te ha elegido para ser el obispo auxiliar de Denver. Por un lado, significa que el Papa tiene confianza en ti, en que lo puedes hacer y por otro lado, pues tú te conoces a ti mismo y sabes de tus limitaciones ¿verdad?

Así que le estoy muy agradecido al Santo Padre por este gesto de confianza hacia mí, inmerecido evidentemente, y hacia el Arzobispo pues el Arzobispo, como ustedes sabrán, es el que me invitó a venir aquí hace muchos años, cuando abrieron el seminario me invitó a enseñar teología.

Entonces me moví de la diócesis de Roma a la Arquidiócesis de Denver. Aquí es donde he conocido a la comunidad hispana, ustedes me conocen, he estado por todas partes celebrando Misa: En Ascension, en Queen of Peace, en Holy Cross, esa grandísima y maravillosa comunidad hispana que tenemos y es un honor para mí, con la guía del Arzobispo poder servirles en todo aquello que ustedes necesiten y así caminamos juntos como pueblo de Dios hacia Cristo haciendo la Iglesia más bella y más hermosa. Nada más quiero expresar mi gratitud al Santo Padre, mi gratitud al Arzobispo y pedirles a todos ustedes en verdad que recen por mí porque nunca como hoy he sentido la necesidad de la oración. Que recen por mí hoy y a lo largo de los años que el Señor en su bondad me permita estar aquí para servirles en su nombre y en todo lo que hagamos, que nuestro Señor Jesucristo sea siempre bendito y alabado.]

Kevin Jones, CNA: Father Rodriguez, a lot of Catholics no longer go to the Catholic Church. Either they don’t go to church at all, or they go non-Catholic churches. How do you think the Archdiocese of Denver can reach out and help get Catholics back to the sacramental life?

Bishop-Elect Rodriguez: Thank you very much for your question. The archbishop, since two years ago, has been promoting among the Catholic community the formation of disciple’s journey, we can call, and the Amazing Parish in order to revitalize parishes and bring back Catholics to our pews. If I can, in my limited experience, at Holy Cross, that’s wha we are doing. We are doing this formation of disciples, we are doing this Amazing Parish project, and there’s a lot of life. I think that under [archbishop’s] direction, because he’s the one who as been inviting us to enter into this — reactivate our own communities, people will come back. Especially because people fly away, but Jesus is the one who always attracts and appeals, and as much as we present the true Jesus, I think people will come back, because they really need him.