A shepherd after Christ’s heart

On Aug. 25, I had the joy of announcing that Pope Francis had named Father Jorge Rodriguez as the next auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver. In this column, I would like to introduce the faithful to the bishop-elect in a deeper way, as he will help me shepherd you.

Bishop-elect Rodriguez and I first met in 1998. Archbishop Chaput asked me to meet with him as I was trying to put together the faculty for the new St. John Vianney Seminary, of which I was the rector. In the 18 years since that time, I have seen that he is a man of deep faith and prayer, and that his friendship with Christ is what sustains him through the challenges of life. Both his relationship with Jesus and his knowledge of the faith are precious gifts that he brings to us as a bishop.

St. John Vianney, who is the patron saint of parish priests, captured the essential nature of friendship with Jesus when he said, “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.” When he was asked at his introductory press conference about how the Church could address declining Mass attendance, Bishop-elect Rodriguez applied this same truth. He said that the Church must work to form more people as true disciples of Christ — men and women who are willing to drop everything to follow Christ.

During his time at the seminary, I noticed another quality that will serve Bishop-elect Rodriguez well in his new ministry – patience. Inevitably throughout the academic year, a seminarian would struggle to overcome a habit, hit a spiritual roadblock or wrestle with understanding one of the truths of the faith. This did not deter then Father Rodriguez. He patiently and kindly would meet them where they were at, challenge them, and help them grow intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. He knew how to form both the heart and the intellect of the men.

By all accounts, Bishop-elect Rodriguez has continued to generously and patiently teach the faith to the parishioners of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, and I know he will continue to do so as a bishop.

The final gift that Bishop-elect Rodriguez has that I’d like to share with you is also best expressed in a quote from St. John Vianney, who said, “The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.” As the archbishop, I visit many parishes and hear from the faithful about their concerns. I have seen that Bishop-elect Rodriguez already knows these concerns quite well because he is able to draw close to both the Spanish and English-speaking communities of our archdiocese. He is a priest who serves
his people, calling them to holiness.

Bishop-elect Rodriguez, as a native of Mexico, is an immigrant to the United States. He is fully acquainted
with the Mexican culture and Spanish is his first language. Our archdiocese is over 50% Hispanic and he is well-known among the Hispanic community as always willing to go the extra mile for the care of the faithful. He is a compassionate shepherd and will be so for those he serves throughout the archdiocese.

I am grateful to God the Father for the gift of an auxiliary bishop who will help me in my mission of teaching, sanctifying and leading the faithful of northern Colorado. As Jesus said, “The harvest is abundant but the
laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Lk 10:2). We have asked, and God the Father has given us Bishop-elect Rodriguez. Let us give thanks to God for his generosity and ask him to pour out his grace upon our bishop-
elect. Let us also continue to pray for vocations, constantly going to the door of “the master of the harvest”
and asking him to send laborers after his own heart.

COMING UP: Denver’s new auxiliary bishop beloved by local community

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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.