Up Front and Personal

Friends Celebrate 200 Years of Service

by Father Manuel Rodríguez Delgado

On Saturday, June 11, 2022, three other priests and I celebrated 50 years since our ordination. All four of us are Redemptorist Missionaries.

Three serve in the Parish of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, while I, Father Manuel Rodríguez Delgado, C.Ss.R., am presently serving in Rome on the Redemptorist Congregation’s General Secretariat of Formation.

I have also ministered in Puerto Rico, where I was born, and the Dominican Republic. I will be returning to the U.S. before the end of the year, joining my three close friends in the ministry of the dynamic intercultural reality of our Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Father James Gilmour, C.Ss.R., is the pastor of the Basilica Parish and has worked in Paraguay for 20 years. He was also one of the directors of the Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey. Father Francis Skelly, C.Ss.R., has worked with Hispanic communities in the United States throughout his priestly life. Father Norman Bennett, C.Ss.R., had worked in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

He was also a missionary in Dominica, a monk at the Trappist Monastery in Berryville, Virginia, and is the founder of the Chinese pastoral of the Basilica.

All four of us are equally fluent in Spanish and English. Father Bennett also speaks Cantonese. All four have been friends since our teen years. I have personally experienced that friendships beginning in adolescence are very significant as they help define who we are today. Our friendship reflects the Evangelical friendships we read about in the Gospels and the lives of many of our Catholic saints.

Reflecting on vocation, I have discovered that it is like the parable of the seed, which we read in Mark 4, 26-34. The seed deepens and grows, slowly but surely. Vocation is a mystery.

In my vocation journey, I first felt attracted to the priesthood. However, I soon realized that there are different stages and dimensions in the understanding and growth of a vocation.

As an early teen, I greatly admired the diocesan priests I knew from St. Michael’s Parish in Brooklyn. I wanted to be like them. When I entered the Redemptorist seminary, missionaries would come to the Seminary from all over the world and talk to us about their experiences. I then knew that I wanted to be a missionary.

While at the novitiate stage, a year especially dedicated to formation for Religious Life, I grew in the realization that yes, I was called to be a priest, a missionary, and also, as I deepened my understanding of the spirituality and charism of Religious Life, that I was also called to be a religious and especially, a religious priest in the Charism and Spirituality of the Redemptorist Congregation.

I realize today that, although these are three different dimensions, all are one and the same vocation. 

We four jubilarians do not celebrate our fidelity to God in 50 years of priesthood and 57 of Religious Life, but God’s fidelity to us. Throughout these 50 years and the living through different challenging yet blessing-filled experiences, the realization of God’s fidelity to us has been deepened and confirmed, communicating to us that we should never doubt the continuation of His fidelity until our very last breath of life!

I and my fellow jubilarians are extremely grateful for the support and encouragement of our families and that of the wonderful people to whom we have been privileged to serve.

We thank the Lord not for our fidelity to Him and the vocation we have received but for His fidelity to us, ever-present throughout our lives. The four of us affirm that we could not have been more blessed by our Redeemer and celebrate this jubilee with thanksgiving and joy.

Father Manuel Rodríguez Delgado, C.Ss.R., is the  Redemptorist Congregation´s General Secretariat of Formation in Rome.