Spoken by Mike Clements at the end of the Mass for the 50th ordination anniversary of Juan Romero
Walter Breuggemann, the scripture scholar, points out that history makers are
sometimes passionate poets
sometimes prophetic theologians
more often though they are Moral Energizers
Father Juan Romero is a history maker, a moral energizer.
History makers understand the complexity of society and yet they can envision an alternate reality. Or as the patron saint of community organizing Saul Alinsky simply stated, "History makers," like Fr. Juan, "see the world as it is and see the world as it ought to be."
Let me share three examples of where I believe Fr. Juan is a history maker -- a moral energizer.
As a young priest, Fr. Juan saw the plight of California farm workers, here in CA and elsewhere. He walked shoulder to shoulder with Cesar Chavez. Unlike most of us, he joined over a thousand supporters and farm workers and was arrested and jailed in Fresno. My wife Enedina and I stood outside and shouted "Free Juan Romero, free the others."
And Fr. Juan gave Cesar refuge at the Romero family home in Lincoln Heights.
I recall visiting there on one occasion and was cautioned to speak quietly, Cesar Chavez was resting in a nearby bedroom.
But more important than this, Fr. Juan was a moral energizer. He encouraged, cajoled, sometimes shamed fellow priests and lay leaders to COME OFF THE SIDELINES and join their Protestant sisters and brothers in this struggle.
As a young priest, Fr. Juan saw a growing Spanish speaking population, yet little in the way of Hispanic Ministry. He also saw no Mexican American bishops.
Fr. Juan, along with other history makers -- other moral Energizers:
and certainly others - formed PADRES and became a top leader with PADRES.
First was Bishop Patricio Flores
and today a legion of Latino bishops stand on the shoulders of Fr. Juan and his brothers who organized PADRES.
History makers -- moral energizers.
Fr. Juan has almost always worked in working class parishes, like OLG in La Habra where I first met him. These parishes all had an underbelly of poverty.
As Fr. Juan told us in his homily, the Eucharist has always been central in his priesthood. While he embraced a sacramental ministry, he also embraced congregational community organizing. Poor schools, income inequality, substandard housing and other social justice issues were important as well.
He urged other priests, ministers and lay folk to come off the sidelines and engage not only in sacramental ministry but live out a prophetic ministry.
History maker, moral energizer.
The litany is much longer than my examples, but my time is limited.
Share your Fr. Juan stories at the reception.
I am proud to be here today to join you in honoring this history maker, this moral energizer on his 50th anniversary as a priest.
Viva Fr. Juan Romero!
Viva Fr. Juan Romero!
Viva Cristo Rey!