April 15, 2012

Miami mourns its Cuban "Saint"

"A Holy Man, A 'Friend of God'" -- Miami Mourns Its Cuban "Saint"

Bishop Agustín Román -- the retired Miami auxiliary revered as the "godfather" of the Cuban exile community on these shores -- died Wednesday night at 83.

Expelled from the island at gunpoint alongside some 130 other clerics in the wake of the Castro Revolution, Román served as the exile's spiritual "beacon" in South Florida since the late 1960s, when he was charged with building the National Shrine to Cuba's patroness, the Caridad de Cobre. Named the US' first Cuban bishop in 1979, he continued to live in a one-room apartment at the Ermita -- built facing Cuba on Miami's Biscayne Bay -- following his 2003 retirement, and died there just before he was to teach an evening catechism class in a new facility on its grounds that bears his name.

Famed for an example of deep humility, tireless spirit and simple wisdom, the prelate (who never stopped perceiving himself as the "peasant" of his boyhood) made national headlines in 1987 after defusing an outbreak of riots in US prisons led by Cuban detainees. Having cared for many of the rioters' family members over the years of their confinement -- a witness that, so it's said, led the men to drop their weapons at the mere sight of him -- Román reportedly declined Hollywood overtures to buy the rights to the story for a film.

 Bishop Augustin Roman

Miami Herald

"He was a saint to me," said Silvia Gonzalez, 66, who went to school with Román in Cuba and had since kept in touch. "He devoted his entire life to God. He never even took a vacation."

Gonzalez last saw Román at a Mass during Holy Week.

"We've lost someone who was tremendous," Gonzalez said, her eyes filling up with tears. "But from Heaven, he'll be with me -- and all Cubans."

A humble, gentle man with an iron will and a steadfast moral compass, he was viewed by older Cuban exiles as a champion of freedom and faith
Posted by Jill Fallon at April 15, 2012 12:32 AM | Permalink