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.”
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.
“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.
“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.