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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.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
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