Being ordained a priest during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Deacon Francisco Rodríguez sees the global crisis as an opportunity to evangelize to “people thirsting for Good News that answers to their concrete sufferings.”

“COVID-19 has granted me a greater desire to go out and announce the Good News,” Deacon Rodríguez said. “Christ has conquered death. The Church is essential for man’s true need, which is not simply some vaccine to a virus, but the vaccine to the true virus, which is our sins.”

Deacon Rodríguez and seven other men will be ordained as new priests for the Archdiocese of Washington on June 20.

He noted that “COVID-19 allows the possibility to evangelize through Christ’s command, ‘Love one another as I have loved you, and they will know that you are my disciples.’”

A native of Newark, New Jersey, the 28-year-old future priest said he “grew up very close to the Church, especially since my family was – and still is – a missionary family.” His parents, Agustín and Margarita Rodríguez, were natives of Granada, Spain, who were sent to the United States by now-Saint Pope John Paul II to help in the New Evangelization as part of their association with the Neocatechumenal Way.

The New Evangelization – a term first coined by Pope St. Paul VI and later popularized by Pope St. John Paul II – is the call to the faithful to reach out to fallen away, lapsed and lukewarm Catholics and “re-propose” the Gospel to them, and also share the faith with others.

Founded in Spain in 1964, the Neocatechumenal Way – sometimes called The Way – is a Catholic movement dedicated to adult and family faith formation. An estimated 1.5 million Catholics belong to The Way in about 40,000 parish-based groups worldwide. The Neocatechumenal Way has also established more than 100 Redemptoris Mater diocesan mission seminaries around the world, including one in Hyattsville, Maryland, for the Archdiocese of Washington, where Deacon Rodríguez studied.

The example of his parents and his own affiliation with The Way has had a profound impact on Deacon Rodríguez’s faith.

“My parents and specifically my father I saw as someone who doesn't live for himself and this impressed me tremendously, he said. “The Neocatechumenal Way has been instrumental for my formation as a Christian.”

“I grew up doing morning prayer every Sunday with my entire family,” Deacon Rodríguez said. “This allowed us to have a relationship with God as a family. All this helped to create a real relationship with Him. This joy caused in me a desire for God.”

Deacon Rodríguez said he first felt the call to be a priest while attending World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany in 2005. At that time, “I decided that I preferred to get married and disregarded the call,” he said. However, “through the guidance of lay catechists and the good example of some priests I knew growing up, I felt called again in the World Youth Day of Australia” in Sydney in 2008.

Explaining how he ended up as a seminarian in the Archdiocese of Washington, Deacon Rodríguez said that to enter the Redemptoris Mater seminary, “there must be an openness to go to any one of these seminaries in the world. With a missionary spirit, I was open to go anywhere in the world… I accepted to be sent here.”

Outside of his seminary studies, Deacon Rodríguez enjoys playing soccer and playing the violin and guitar.

As he contemplates the priestly ministry before him, Deacon Rodríguez said he looks forward to sharing “what I have received, namely an experience of God’s love… Hopefully, with the grace of God, I can show this same love in serving others.”