Friends celebrate 200 years of service

by Father Manuel Rodríguez Delgado

On Saturday June 11, 2022, three other priests and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of our ordination. We are all four 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., currently serve in Rome at the General Secretariat of Formation of the Redemptorist Congregation.

I have also ministered in Puerto Rico, where I was born, and in the Dominican Republic. I will return to the United States before the end of the year, joining my three close friends in the dynamic cross-cultural reality ministry of our Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Father James Gilmour, C.Ss.R., is pastor of Basilica parish and has worked in Paraguay for 20 years. He was also one of the Hispanic ministry directors 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 to Dominica, a monk at the Trappist Monastery in Berryville, Virginia, and is the founder of the Basilica’s Chinese Pastoral.

All four of us are fluent in Spanish and English. Father Bennett also speaks Cantonese. All four have been friends since we were teenagers. I have personally experienced that friendships that begin in adolescence are very important because 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 discovered that it resembles 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 vocational journey, I first felt attracted by the priesthood. However, I soon realized that there are different stages and dimensions to understanding and growing a vocation.

In my early teens, 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 came to the Seminary from all over the world and told us about their experiences. I knew then that I wanted to be a missionary.

While in the novitiate, a year especially devoted to formation in religious life, I grew in the awareness that yes, I was called to be a priest, a missionary, and also, by deepening my understanding of the spirituality and the charism of Religious Life, I was also called to be a religious and above all a religious priest in the Charism and Spirituality of the Redemptorist Congregation.

I realize today that, although these are three different dimensions, they are all 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 towards us. Throughout these 50 years and life through different difficult but blessing-filled experiences, the realization of God’s faithfulness to us has been deepened and confirmed, communicating to us that we should never doubt His continued faithfulness. until our very last breath of life!

My Jubilee companions and I are extremely grateful for the support and encouragement from our families and the wonderful people 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, always 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 General Secretariat of Formation of the Redemptorist Congregation in Rome.

Barry F. Howard