Rev. Peter Daly, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter recently wrote about the untimely death of a priest-friend, Rev. Henry Rodriguez of San Diego. As Daly described Rodriguez’ diverse ministry activities, the mentions of his involvement with the LGBT community stood out for me, reminding me of the many unsung priests across the nation who are showing the love of Christ to people who feel cut off from the Church. Daly wrote:
“Henry was always a pastor and a priest, but his ministry did not stop at the church door. He was a community organizer with the San Diego Organizing Project. He was a police and fire chaplain. He was a social activist. He was a counselor at the gay and lesbian community center. He was a hospice and hospital chaplain. He said masses in half a dozen parishes around the diocese, rich and poor. . . .
“For many years, Henry marched in his clerical collar with the San Diego police department in various community parades including the annual Gay Pride Parade, which got him into trouble with his former bishop. The diocese refused to assign him to a parish or pay his health insurance or pension contributions. Henry managed; cobbling together a ministry by helping in many parishes, and serving as a hospice chaplain. He also did counseling at the gay and lesbian community center. The new bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, brought Henry back into the diocesan fold and made him pastor of the parish where much of the gay community lives. Just a few weeks ago, after the mass shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Henry went with the bishop to a memorial for the victims. He was a bridge to many communities.”
Fr. Rodriguez’s story reminded me of the case of Rev. Warren Hall, the Newark, New Jersey priest who was suspended from ministry by Archbishop John Myers due to Hall’s outreach to the LGBT community. The similarity hit me since Myers has already submitted his letter of resignation, and so a new archbishop will be appointed in the near future. Bishop McElroy, who reinstated Rodriguez, was appointed by Pope Francis. Let’s pray that the pope appoints someone of a similar mind to Newark–someone who will welcome back Fr. Hall to active ministry and affirm his outreach to the LGBT community.