Jesuit Father Edmundo Rodriguez, former provincial of the New Orleans Province, died Oct. 28, 2017, in Opelousas, Louisiana. He was 82 years old, a Jesuit for 64 years and a priest for 51 years.
He was born in El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 18, 1953, to Edmundo Rodriguez and Ignacia Escajeda Rodriguez, who predeceased him. He is survived by his sisters, Sr. Elisa Rodriguez, Susana Marquez, Aurora Powell, Rebecca Ballon and Gloria Rodriguez and his brothers, Guillermo Rodriguez and Jaime Rodriguez.
After graduating from Bowie High School in El Paso, he entered the Society of Jesus on Aug. 14, 1953, at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 7, 1966, at Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Orleans and pronounced final vows in El Paso on New Year’s Day 1978.
He earned a B.A. in education and master’s degree in philosophy from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. He did graduate studies in Romance Languages at the University of Texas at Austin. He studied theology at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas, earning the S.T.L. (1967). Prior to his ordination, he taught for one year at Jesuit High in Tampa, FL (1960-61) and two years at Jesuit High in New Orleans.
After his ordination in 1966, he served at Our Lady’s Youth Center in El Paso in its ministry with the poor. He helped start a program to support local high school graduates enrolled in college. Finding that street children from Juarez were sleeping in the dumpster behind the Center and on the roof of the parish rectory, he began working with other religious leaders to find ways to get food and shelter for them. Daily, he walked the streets, visited people in the tenements and said Masses there.
When he was re-assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Antonio in 1968, this early experience influenced his approach to ministry: attentiveness to local needs, direct contact with people, and action to help meet those needs. He served at Our Lady of Guadalupe for 12 years (1968-80) as pastoral associate, administrator, pastor and Jesuit superior. He helped to establish PADRES (Padres Asociados para Derechos Religiosos Educationales y Sociales), the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), and C.O.P.S. (Communities Organized for Public Service).
In 1980, he moved to New Orleans as pastoral assistant to the provincial. In this role, he was instrumental in bringing men from the New Orleans Province to work in the Province of Paraguay.
He became provincial of the New Orleans Province in 1983. As provincial, he participated in the Society of Jesus’ General Congregation 33, which elected Peter-Hans Kolvenbach as superior general. Later, following his term as provincial, he was asked to accompany Fr. General Kolvenbach to El Salvador when the General traveled there following the murders of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter.
He served for three years as academic dean at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas, before becoming superior and director of the Jesuit Spirituality Center in Grand Coteau (1993-1999). While there, he also began working with the National Catholic Council on Hispanic Ministry, a leadership program for young Hispanic Catholic leaders from dioceses around the USA.
After a year at St. Rita Parish in Dallas, he was named pastor and Jesuit superior at Immaculate Conception Parish in Albuquerque, N.M. (2000-2008).
He then served as a retreat and spiritual director at Montserrat Retreat House in Lake Dallas, Texas (2009-2015). He provided direction in Spanish and, with his pastoral experience, provided understanding support to the local clergy.
He was missioned to the St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Pavilion in Grand Coteau in 2015. He continued helping with retreats and other endeavors until this past summer when a fall required him to move to a rehabilitation center.
In all he did, he was much beloved for his warmth, kindness, keen intelligence and sense of humor. He always had a joke, often corny, and frequently enlivened meetings with his guitar and humorous songs.