Tuesday, June 10, 2008

For Ordination Day, Cruz Looks to Cobre

A couple perceptive friends in the Cuban community noted that Bishop-elect Manuel Cruz's choice of ordination date is no accident: 8 September might mark the Birth of Mary on the general calendar, but for the island's own it's the feast of the Caridad de Cobre (Our Lady of Charity), Cuba's national patroness.

Named an auxiliary to Archbishop John Myers of Newark yesterday, Cruz -- who said at the traditional appointment-day press conference that he was grateful "to be known as a Cuban refugee" -- looked both back and forward as the news became public:
Born in Havana, Cruz immigrated to the United States with his parents at age 12, in 1966. After a year in Miami, his parents found work in Union City.

"My parents were grateful that they were able to find work in factories to help our family back in Cuba," he said yesterday. "The building where I grew up became a wonderful extended family. Trust me, this very day, going to Union City is for me to go home."

At the same time, he said, "Although I have spent more years in America than in my homeland, in my heart I am grateful to be a Cuban, and to be known as a Cuban refugee."...

People who have known Cruz said they were thrilled yesterday.

"For me as a practicing Catholic, it's a blessing to see someone like him appointed as bishop because I know he's the real thing," said Maria Zamora of Whippany, who was married by Cruz in 1989 and has followed him on hospital rounds. "I have personally witnessed him working with the sick and dying, and the poor of the hospital. I've gone room to room with him."

Among the most important roles he has played as hospital chaplain is as translator, Cruz said.

"It's so frightening to get bad news, confusing news, and still not understand the language," he said.

Describing himself as an advocate for immigrants, Cruz was prodded, at the press conference, on whether he will comment on political campaigns.

"With time," he responded. "I have a lot to learn."
Lest anyone's thinking that, apres Little Rock, donning the fillettata for press conferences is off the wane, the practice of cassocks for the cameras is a long-standing Newark tradition, as it allows newly-named auxiliaries to don the zucchetto for the first time.

And, correcting an earlier notice, Cruz's appointment makes seven Cuban-born clerics named bishops in the US, as opposed to the previously-stated figure of five. Of the seven, three have served in the exile community's main outpost in South Florida, three were named to the diaspora's second-largest hub in North Jersey and New York, and the other -- the late Bishop Enrique San Pedro SJ -- was an auxiliary of Galveston-Houston before leading Texas' border diocese of Brownsville.

PHOTO: AP/Mike Derer