DENVER. Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver first met the archdiocese’s newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez in Rome about 18 years ago.
The archbishop, then-Father Aquila, was the first rector of St. John Vianney Seminary and was looking for faculty. Then-Father Rodriguez agreed to come to Denver and teach at the new seminary, which opened in 1999.
“Neither you nor I knew God’s plan for our lives,” the archbishop said in his homily at Bishop Rodriguez’s Nov. 4 episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. “When you said yes to coming to Denver, it began a whole new adventure, and little did you know almost two decades later, you would become auxiliary bishop.”
The ordination Mass, which took place midday, was a multilingual liturgy — English, Spanish and Latin. Before it began, more than 200 priests, 10 bishops and one abbot processed into the cathedral basilica. Archbishop Aquila consecrated the new bishop. The co-consecrators were Cardinal Francis Stafford, a retired Vatican official, who was Denver’s archbishop from 1986 to 1996, and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who served as auxiliary bishop of Denver from 2001 to 2004.
Bishop Rodriguez, 61, was born in Merida, Mexico, and was ordained as a priest of the Legion of Christ Dec. 24, 1987. He was incardinated into the Denver Archdiocese in 2008. When Pope Francis named him an auxiliary bishop Aug. 25, he was pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton.
He also is a faculty member at St. John Vianney Seminary. He speaks Spanish, English and Italian, and reads French.
“It is truly humbling” to receive “that phone call about being appointed a bishop,” said Archbishop Aquila, who has been Denver’s shepherd since 2012. “(It’s) humbling because one knows one’s unworthiness before God and it is truly his grace and his grace alone that brings us to this point in our lives.”
He noted Bishop Rodriguez’s episcopal ordination was taking place on the feast day of St. Charles Borromeo, a cardinal-archbishop “known for his mercy to the poor . . . (as) one who reached out constantly to his people.”
The saint renewed the priesthood in his archdiocese, he said, and also guided the Council of Trent in the 19th century — called to, among other things, define Catholic teaching in the face of challenges of the Reformation.
Bishops “must have a deep confidence and trust in God’s presence,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He truly opens our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that we speak the words of God — not our opinion — but God’s word. . . . It is Christ’s Gospel we are called to proclaim . . . and now Bishop Rodriguez is called.”
“Jesus’ words are full of tenderness, are full of compassion — his deepest desire is to reveal the Father to the world,” he said. “We are called into the very life and love of the communion of the Trinity, to have a relationship with each person of the Trinity. That relationship, that intimacy, that encounter begins with Jesus. It is he who leads us to the Father and as a shepherd, you will be that image of the Father to the people you will serve.”
He told Bishop Rodriguez, “You are called to serve all, but you are a tremendous blessing to the Hispanic community in northern Colorado,” which is the area covered by the Denver Archdiocese. The archbishop said half of the archdiocese’s 123 parishes have Mass in Spanish and more than 50 percent of its people are of Hispanic background.
The archdiocese also is home to Vietnamese, African-Americans, Hmong, Native Americans “and so many others of different cultures.”
“The beauty of the church is that she is one in Christ no matter what the culture, no matter the nationality — it is Christ who binds us all together,” Archbishop Aquila said.