February 9, 2001

Hispanic named Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver

By Valentina Garcia

Denver's Hispanic Catholics are rejoicing after it was announced (the week of January 22, 2001) week that Reverend Jose H. Gomez of Monterey, Mexico is joining them as Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Denver Auxiliary Bishop-Elect Jose Gomez accepts the greetings and gifts Hispanic Catholics brought to him during a recent trip to Denver, Colorado.

Currently 373,000 Catholics are registered in a geographical region that stretches from the Wyoming border to the southern tips of Pitkin County in the west and Jefferson along the Front Range.

The continuous growth of the Hispanic community prompted Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to put in a request to Pope John Paul II, for an Auxiliary Bishop, specifically asking for one that was Hispanic.

In addition to working side-by-side with Archbishop Chaput, Gomez' main mission will be to work closely with the growing Hispanic community, Chaput said. "This is a day a lot of people have prayed about for many years," Chaput expressed during a press conference.

The significance of Bishop-Elects' arrival to the Hispanic community was evident at a community gathering last Wednesday at El Centro Lupe del Ministerio Hispano in Denver or the Center for Hispanic Ministry.

Located on Pecos and 34th, it was standing room only in the center's cafeteria. Hispanic Catholicas as far away from Greeley, Ft. Lupton and Longmont came to welcome Bishop-Elect Gomez.

As he entered the room, Mariachi Alegre played the joyful sounds of de la tierra méxicana. People began to clap in unison, some cheering while others held signs with welcoming remarks.

Gomez spoke briefly to the crowd, telling them he comes to Denver to learn from the community and that together they would work toward achieving a unified faith. He also spoke about the importance of nurturing the family and nurturing one's faith, which would enable one to grow spiritually. "Dedication to family and work will make it possible for us to move forward," he said.

Sister Rosa Suazo's face lit up as the Bishop-elect began to speak. "I didn't have time to get excited when I found out yesterday, I was so busy calling all the ministries I could think of," Sister Suazo exclaimed.

Richard Pabon of Denver, greets Bishop-Elect Jose H. Gomez.

Claudia García of Denver couldn't hide her happiness from anyone, saying that having a Hispanic priest is going to give the growing community a much needed voice. She added that Bishop-Elect Gomez will be a benefit for all communities regardless of race.

"We are all connected now," García said. "All of the races are equal, we are united now."

Being equal and being united is a mission the Bishop-Elect will bring to Denver.

His background with the Opus Dei, an ecumenical organization similar to a diocese with a multi-faith belief, will be evident in his work.

The organization has an estimated 80,000 clergy and non-clergy members with a mission to "promote among Christians of all social classes a life in the middle of the world fully consistent with their faith and to contribute to the evangelization of every sphere and society."

The Bishop-Elect has said he wants to work toward a day when Hispanics in Northern Colorado become more understanding of other religions, cultures and beliefs. "This is an exciting time to work for he New Evangelization, and I hope and believe that my background as a priest for Opus Dei, working closely with lay people in the midst of society for more than 20 years has given me skills, which I want to put at the service of the Church in Colorado," Gomez said.

Bishop-Elect Gomez comes to the Archdiocese of Denver as the first Hispanic Auxiliary Bishop appointed and as the first Auxiliary Bishop since 1974, when Richard C. Hanifen was named by Pope John Paul to assist Archbishop James Casey.

Chaput was unable to comment on the details that go into choosing an auxiliary bishop, however he did say that Reverend Gomez was highly recommended.

"In my own contact with him over the past year on a project for the American bishops, I've been tremendously impressed by his intelligence, energy, balance, warmth and humor." Chaput said.

Besides being a highly respected priest for the past 22 years, Gomez is president of the National Association of Hispanic Priests and has been ministering to the Hispanic community at St. Bartholomew Parish in Katy, Texas since 1987.

In 1999 he was named Vicar of Opus Dei for the Texas Region. He joined the personal prelature of Opus Dei in 1969, but it wasn't until 1975 that Gomez began to consider the priesthood.

Padre Luis Guereña of Montebello summed up the night's essence, "I can't event explain in words how this community felt when we heard that you were coming, someone with the same culture." Guereña added, "The happiness that we feel is deep. Not even words can tell you how we feel."

An ordination Mass for Bishop-Elect Gomez is schedule for 1:30 pm. Monday, March 26, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Colfax Avenue and Logan Street in Denver.

Articles, photographs and commentary are reprinted with permission of "La Voz Hispana de Colorado" Denver, Colorado. Please Email comments to LaVoz@rmi.net

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