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Carlos Manuel Rodriguez: 1918-1963: Religious Educator

Inspired Many In Life And Death

Most of Rodriguez's small office-worker's salary went to finance his religious activities, especially after he began organizing student religious clubs like the Circulo del Liturgía and teaching catechism classes. Rodriguez believed that Puerto Rican Catholic faith was being weakened by the rapid urbanization and industrialization, and he worked tirelessly to start student groups at schools and colleges all over the island. As a result, it was a rare member of the next generation of Puerto Rico's Catholic leadership who had not had contact with Rodriguez personally and been inspired by him. "To me, Charlie was a lay person committed to his faith, who lived his life so convinced of what he believed, and who was a living testimony of what an authentic Christian should be," Mother Rosa María Estrema told the Orlando Sentinel in an interview quoted on the Puerto Rico Herald website.

In the late 1950s Rodriguez was hired to teach full time at the University of Puerto Rico's Catholic Center in San Juan. His message, which stressed that every Catholic had the capacity to do Christ's work and emphasized the importance of direct communication of the faith in terms that ordinary worshippers could comprehend, anticipated in some respects the reforms of church's Vatican II conclave of the 1960s. Before Rodriguez could attend or witness those events, however, his stomach problems worsened into colon cancer. After living and working calmly in the face of severe pain for a time, he died at age 44 on July 13, 1963. "The 13th will be a good day," he had said several days before (according to his biography on the Santaboricua website).

Soon some of Rodriguez's friends and students had formed a group with the aim of carrying forward his work. In 1981 the group's treasurer, chemistry professor Carmen Santana, revealed to other members that she had traveled to Boston to be treated for advanced lymphatic cancer—but that when she arrived, doctors found the cancer had mysteriously disappeared. Santana's husband, she recounted, had said a prayer to Rodriguez for her recovery, which was deemed a miracle Rodriguez had accomplished—one of the preconditions for Catholic sainthood. The group drew inspiration from the designation by Pope John Paul II of 1987 as the Year of the Laity, and in the early 1990s began campaigning in earnest for Rodriguez's beatification.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyCarlos Manuel Rodriguez: 1918-1963: Religious Educator Biography - Deeply Committed To Spirituality And Learning, Inspired Many In Life And Death, Beatified By Pope John Paul Ii